San Antonio is a very easy and appropriate place to examine the differences between interpersonal racism and anti-Blackness alongside ongoing class disparity and violence. I say this because, in a city which is nearly 65% Latine, a lot of the people who now proclaim their Chicana, Latinx, Mexican, "insert here" identity with pride have aspired and become comfortable in wealthier, traditionally white spaces to the detriment of the rest of us. It is not a new observation or frustration for me, but has become a mirror for me to examine myself against to ensure I stay true to a city which has given me everything.
This is something I internally struggle with: if "upward mobility" exists, is it a "bad" thing for the generation of children told school was our ticket to do everything "right" to aspire for seats at tables within "elite" spaces and then become part of its inner mechanisms?
I struggle being in historically "powerful," previously unattainable spaces and feeling like a sell out. I have felt myself caring less lately, and instead replacing fire with resignation. I've been known for caring a lot, sometimes too much. I worry is it because I'm finally somewhat financially comfortable for the first time in my life? This reality is largely because I have been in a relationship with someone who has lived a true middle class life and has helped provide a different lifestyle for me. Sure, I guess I've worked hard to get here, but it would be disingenuous to disregard the societal realities at play in my own life.
All of this is to say when I see brown people who may have a similar background to mine in spaces where they continually disregard the kind of people they were or might have been, I feel a sense of woe. As someone who very much felt, thought and fought my way through identity reclamation in 2013, when unabashedly claiming a personal identity outside "Hispanic" felt radical, it has become particularly infuriating to see people in power across various industries and spaces use these "empowering" identities as a faux shield for the ways they betray their own, and maybe even themselves. To be fair, we will never know each other's lives to the degree we can confidently fully understand someone's actions. However, when given any sense of power, what someone does with it says a lot about who they are.
I began "activism" very much centered in systemic racism and in the dedication to "undoing" it as much as possible. (There is a discussion for another day on my beliefs of the realities which do and do not exist for this kind of work, especially as someone who now works within a big system machine.) A few years ago I entered a conversation online with someone who said my analysis from a racial lens was infantile. Of course I was offended as I thought the concepts I had self-studied and then taught to others were complex. Prior to Trump, conversations about white supremacy were met by most with incredulity. "Racism? Ha! We have a Black president. I'm not discriminated against and I'm not a victim!" were often expressed when I tried to have these conversations. In this particular interaction, the person explained that without a class analysis, race was just another thing to point to when we felt the world wasn't fair. While his lack of understanding of the pervasive violence of racism wasn't correct, I have never forgotten this moment as one of the first times I considered class. While I admittedly am not well-educated on theory surrounding class analysis, I still have my own observations and hope to expand my thinking.
To this, San Antonio is an apt example of how pervasive class differences exist and continue violence against our communities. Maybe my job working in constituent services for a council member helped me better experience real-life examples of San Antonio's caste system outside of my personal experience within it. While I tend to assist more Black and brown folks than white as example of ongoing systemic racism, there are many brown people here who work and sit alongside white elites, often furthering historical and ongoing harm. Many will say they worked hard to be in these "powerful" spaces, and I do not doubt this. But I also wonder, did they work to get there with the idea of bringing their community with them to fight or to remove themselves from it? Often it feels like the latter.
Admittedly, as one person who now navigates some of these spaces within politics, it must be a constant and inherent choice to truly center our people and fight through smoke, mirrors and the comfort which exists there. Many things proposed by big industry, "the old guard," and typically powerful people sound good and can convince us to even feel like good is being accomplished. The word "equity" has become the new "progressive" in that it means next-to-nothing in reality. Trickle down politics, like economics, is a farce served by the upper class on a beautiful plate.
As said before, identity politics will not save us, and especially not in a city like San Antonio where power is distributed in a caste system of the historically disenfranchised and those who still benefit, aspire, and uplift the city's history which built it as such. San Antonians are ready again to flip this hierarchy on its head as seen by last year's municipal elections, ongoing mutual aid efforts, and our rich culture of care and community that cannot be co-opted authentically no matter how much some may try.
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