Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Citizenship and Latinx Invisibility by Ediberto Roman
The Netflix series, Amend, is a powerful, informative, star-studded affair educating us on so many important facets of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. During Black History Month, this sophisticated series, one that I would and have recommended it to my immigration students, is sorely needed during times when various members of our society are fighting for their rights, and others are attempting to reclaim their historical privileged rights, i.e., MAGA and the January 6th riots.
I also appreciated Amend's diverse cast, with Hollywood A-listers, and scholars like Sherrilyn Ifill, who was amazing! But once again, a significant ethnic and racial minority group at the center of today's debates concerning "who we are" as Americans are almost invisible in the series. In a week when purportedly a comprehensive immigration bill is going to be proposed to Congress, there are just too few Latina and Latino in the series. Yes, Amend has a couple Latinx actors, and a Latina Historian, Kelly Lytle Hernandez, who was fantastic! But is that enough? When challenging legal issues are raised in the series, more often than not, a White man is teaching us the law--Urgh!!!
Much like your law schools and their respective faculties, where Latinas and Latinos are clients in your clinics, and you may actually have a smattering Latinx students in your classes, but do your schools have Latina and Latino representation in leadership roles? Deans? Tenured faculty? Tenure-track faculty? How many members of the largest ethnic and racial minority group in the land are represented in your sacred towers of equality and justice (in case you wonder, sarcasm intended in my usual subtle way)?
In some respects, Amend reminds me of the recent controversy at U. PENN Law, where faculty member, Amy Wax, was condemned for making racist anti-immigrant anti-Latinx comments.
Thankfully, I was pleased to read U. Penn's condemnation of Wax's ignorant views, and I was thrilled when Penn's leadership proudly proclaimed Penn's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
In light of its condemnation, I looked up U. Penn's law faculty directory and despite of its embrace of diversity and inclusion, I could find not one tenured or tenure-track Latinx faculty member on its faculty page( I note Professor Fernandez is listed as a lecturer---for argument's sake, one should evidently feel grateful to find a handful Latinx tenured or tenure-track faculty (which I bet they don't have) on a faculty list of nearly 70 . As I have done in the past, I invite Penn Law to correct my mistaken impression concerning their Latinx diversity. I also, by the way, offer Professor Wax an open invite to debate me on the superiority of Whites and/or White immigrants.
As I finish my rant here, let me remind Netflix, Will Smith, and all good liberal law professors out there-- next time you applaud the virtues of citizenship and inclusion, try to remember Latinx communities (as well as Asian, Arab, Muslim, and other too-often-invisible groups within our society) at your next faculty meeting, and perhaps even your next appointment search (I will hold my breath).