Presentation addresses difficulty in inclusion

Etta Brooks

Dr. Javier Avila, in his presentation “The Perfect Latino,” encourages the Latine community to embrace all of who they are, because with visibility comes representation. This seminar, hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on Sept. 30, is part of the Hispanic heritage month celebration.

According to Avila, though the Latine population in the US is large and diverse, they are still underrepresented. For example, the student population at Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania where Avila teaches is 21 percent Hispanic, yet only 1 percent of the faculty represent this population. 

The Latine community tends to prefer whiteness, something they learned not only in TV shows, magazines and books, but through their family, Avila said. 

However, whiteness is just one aspect of Latine identity. “Puerto Ricans are a mix of African, Caribbean, indigenous and Spanish and Spanish, mostly white,” Avila said. 

Avila encourages people of color to embrace all of who they are because, whether they try to be white or not, the world’s perspective of them will always reflect that inevitable aspect of being a person of color. Avila recognized this separation in his own life when he believed he looked like his favorite white characters, but then a host introduced him as “the Latino James Bond.”

In addition to the Latine community embracing their identity, Avila highlighted ways to change the system that creates and reaffirms this lack of representation in the first place. 

One way to address such underrepresentation is by providing a diverse curriculum where students can learn about the contributions of great figures including Afro-Latinos.

“Take that as a privilege rather than as ‘oh I don’t belong here,’” Avila said. “You should have been here a while ago, but now that it’s happening, realize that you are there to open a door so that so many come after you.” 

According to Avila, there is a false narrative embedded in the minority community that there is not enough space for them. He claims this philosophy is harmful because it tells minorities they can only be successful one at a time. 

Daisy Buenos, assistant director of student inclusion and diversity, shares how she hopes to take Avila’s message into practice:

“It has to happen in our day to day actions. Having events is very empowering and impactful, but also being available to students on a daily basis is having one on one mentoring and constantly being available to have those check-ins so that we can relay this message every day,” she said.


A poem by Dr. Avila

Title: The perfect Latina

The perfect Latina speaks English, with no accent, has never left home on Christmas Eve. Refers to Puerto Rican food as Spanish. Avoid gesticulation, reject drama. He doesn’t ever scream or lose his temper. His past is an erasure of history of legacies of heritage of what it takes to sacrifice a mother tongue. The look of his complexion has granted him the passport for smooth, assimilation. He passes. He behaves. And even though his mother named him, Jorge. He’s George, or Georgie, if you met him at the club. He yearns for the familiar taste of peanut butter, Jelly Wonder Bread. The sweet and salty perfect taste of a childhood away from any Island, well pressed clean shaven dapper dimpled tie, white shirt, white pocket square, a hot white chocolate mocha in his hand, he goes to work and follows every rule. When a friend asks him if he is Latino. He says, No, and I think you mean Latina X for at least that’s what I’ve heard, no irony escapes his lips when he says privilege is a myth. He bought the dream, he bought it long ago so long ago in fact that when he hears his co-workers speak ill of immigrants and aliens destroying the economy, stealing jobs from good folks infiltrating their neighborhoods and ruining towns and cities, with their presence. He thinks they couldn’t possibly be talking about him.