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By Dee Crescitelli, Juan Gerardo, Kyndall Brown, Silvia Llamas-Flores, & Carlos LópezLeiva 


The coronavirus pandemic stands to bring a major surge of mail-in and absentee voting in the upcoming general election. Now more than ever, a system that is designed to keep voters safe is critical and fundamental to our democracy. Unfortunately, recent events have raised questions about voting rights, particularly for people of color. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated voter suppression and highlighted the systemic racism and inequities that have historically affected people of color.  In this blog, we address some of the many factors that disproportionately disenfranchise different groups. Understanding voting as a fundamental democratic right, we present this information to promote critical conversations on the structures constraining this right, but at the same time, we also encourage our audience to VOTE! With this in mind, in this blog, we start by briefly contextualizing voting laws in the U.S. to provide context to the rest of the blog. We then highlight some of the differences in voting laws across different states and the ramifications these laws have on different groups. We then move on to discuss the role that COVID-19 has played in exacerbating voter suppression and how mail-in-voting has become a voting right issue. To end, we provide examples of several lessons that can be used in the classroom to discuss issues centered around voting and COVID-19. 

1. Disenfranchising Voting in US Context 

According to the Oxford dictionary, disenfranchisement is the state of being deprived of a right or privilege, especially the right to vote. Throughout the history of the U.S., there are many groups of people who have been disenfranchised. Originally, the only people who were allowed to vote were white male property owners. The 15th amendment to the constitution gave formerly enslaved African-American men the right to vote. The 20th amendment gave women the right to vote. Even after the passage of the 15th and 20th amendments, many states enacted policies that restricted the voting rights of African-Americans. A large focus of the Civil Rights movement was securing the right to vote. The 1965 Voting Rights Act provided nationwide protections for voting rights. The law prohibits every state and local government from imposing any voting law that results in discrimination against racial or language minorities. Other general provisions specifically outlaw literacy tests and similar devices that were historically used to disenfranchise racial minorities. In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has begun to reverse many of the gains of the Voting Rights Act. 

Links to Articles About Disenfranchisement

Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act

New York Times coverage of the Supreme Court invalidating key portions of the Voting Rights Act

Study: New Voting Laws Continue Disenfranchisement, Put Elections Administrators in Difficult Positions

Article from 8/25/20 detailing the impact that Shelby v. Holder is having - mainly about laws that give outsized (and often unwanted power) to non-election officials in determining who gets to vote. For example, in states that have enacted very specific voter-ID laws, the Department of Motor Vehicle personnel get to determine who can get an ID, and therefore who gets to vote. Staffing patterns at DMVs and differing hours of operation due to COVID-19 precautions further exacerbate this issue-- creating barriers for historically disenfranchised groups.

Democrats Need to Step Up Their Efforts to Beat Voter Suppression

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Latinidad in the US, Latinx, Latina/o, or Hispanic?: Geographies of Oppression, Race, Gender, and Language

Latinidad in the US, Latinx, Latina/o, or Hispanic?: Geographies of Oppression, Race, Gender, and Language.

By Carlos LópezLeiva, Silvia Llamas-Flores, Kyndall Brown 

The goal of this blog is to promote conversations rather than imposing solutions on group naming and identities. Here, we describe the relevance of naming an identity and a brief historical account of naming the Latina/o community in the U.S. We then contrast different perspectives or claims—linguistic and social justice oriented—that acknowledge this controversy. Finally, we ask for your opinion. Please, let us know what you think.

Many of us grew up using popular phrases that often became life paradigms. “La unión hace la fuerza” and “El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz” are commonly cited in daily Spanish speech. The funny thing is that these quotes come from very different places. “La unión hace la fuerza” comes from Neerlandes, “Eendracht maakt macht; which means, “Unity makes strength.” This phrase still comes from Latin, "concordia res parvae crescunt" (the little things bloom in harmony). The second quote means, "Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace." It comes from Benito Juarez, 26th Mexican president of Zapotec origin. He fought for equal Mexican indigenous nation's rights and sovereignty. With these backgrounds, there is no doubt that our life’s paradigms come from very diverse peoples, places, politics, languages, and ideals.

We think that the re-visiting of how we use the terms, Latina/o and Hispanic in the U.S. is an important action to take, because these are meant to identify a group of people in the U.S. Actually, the U.S. hosts the third largest group of Latinx, Latinas/os, or Hispanics in the world. This group includes a wide range of languages, races, ethnic groups, cultures, and origins; however, this population shares similar historical, geographical, and political experiences. We might never reach consensus on a term to identify this group clearly, but we can at least engage in a dialogue to learn about how these terms or names matter to this community in the U.S.

Given current sociopolitical circumstances and health threats, TODOS—more than ever—extends a call for Unity. Unity can be cultivated through spaces of communication where different perspectives are presented and discussed with the goal of strengthening who we are and how we understand ourselves as a community in the U.S.

The relevance of naming identities

As educators aware of how our own and the students’ identities play a major role in our interactions and work together, and that mathematical identities refer to how one sees and believes who oneself is and can do, a view that affects how one participates in mathematics (e.g., “good at math”) (Aguirre, Mayfield-Ingram, & Martin, 2013). As teachers, we should recognize “the range of identities beyond mathematics that students spend their time and energy developing or that others may assign to them. Acknowledging these identities can lead to a richer, more meaningful understanding of children and their lives” (p. 19). 

Ours and students’ multiple identities range based on the interactions and contexts in which we participate. Sosa-Provencio (2016) argues that Mexicana/o students deal with identities at the intersection(s) of race, class, gender, language, and residency status. As educators, we must challenge places of marginality (Aguirre et al., 2013). We must also learn about, acknowledge, and nourish the intersectional identities of the students with who we work. 

When we self-identify, we often make use of language to name those identities according to a context. In the case of Hispanic, Latina/o, Latin@, Latinae, and/or Latinx people in the U.S., the changes in these names or words have been linked to linguistic and political perspectives. To describe these changes, Bakhtin’s (1981) idea of a “word being half ours and someone else’s” is useful, since it helps us understand that words change based on interactions and meaning-making goals:

“As a living, socio-ideological concrete thing, language, for the individual consciousness, lies on the borderline between oneself and the other. The word in language is half someone else's. It becomes ‘one's own’ only when the speaker populates it with his own intention, his own accent, when he appropriates the word, adapting it to his own semantic and expressive intention. Prior to this moment of appropriation, the word does not exist in a neutral and impersonal language (it is not, after all, out of a dictionary that the speaker gets his words!), but rather it exists in other people's mouths, in other people's contexts, serving other people's intentions: it is from there that one must take the word and make it one's own.... Language is not a neutral medium that passes freely and easily into the private property of the speaker's intentions; it is populated—overpopulated —with the intentions of others. Expropriating it, forcing it to submit to one's own intentions and accents, is a difficult and complicated process.” (pp. 293-294)

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