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“Self Identification” from Bernardo Mazón

In Administration, Audience Development, Fellowship, Human Resources, Literary, Residency, Shakespeare Dramaturgy Residency, Uncategorized on May 16, 2017 at 5:33 PM

/var/folders/84/dy2qtnz13wddhtx39pw3vr1h0000gn/T/com.apple.iChat/Messages/Transfers/IMG_3700.JPG.jpegMy first sit-down with my supervisor, I tell her, “I want to make a lasting contribution here, what can I do” and she is like, “I know just the thing.” A few more discussions later, and I’m writing a thesis for a research project based on this company’s progression with the equity, diversity, & inclusion movement. I’m setting out to examine how successful the organization has been in terms of hiring and representation onstage/offstage. As I’m crafting this proposal and preparing to share it with jefes here, I step back for a moment and think about the problems I’ll face in collecting data.

Por ejemplo, incomplete records. Sometimes information is archived selectively; we can’t see the whole picture. There’s also tokenism. Quizás we CAN see the whole picture, but there’s no way of knowing if someone was hired based on their merit or for liberal bragging rights. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with the latter, as there is a difference between equity and equality, but the point is that sometimes a step forward is followed by several steps back. It’s common for situations like this to be followed by a long and dreary dryspell of hiring straight, able-bodied white men again—back to the old ways. The greatest obstacle, though, is the following:

Self-identification.

Which is self-explanatory. It’s not enough, no, it’s not right for us to determine a person’s ethnic or gender from their appearance. Furthermore, it’s not like you can do a google search on any given name and see what that person is, because identity is an intimate thing. It ought to be shared, but not necessarily put on display. Therefore, por lo tanto, it’d be unfair (not to mention, crazy wrong) for me to go through a company’s history of hiring and make inferences off their picture. “Are they masculine or are they feminine”, “Their skin is dark, so they’re black”, “Oh, this dude must be Latino, oops, Latinx”, “I can’t see if they’re unable to hear” etc.

Back to my story. Entonces, I have this lump in my throat knowing that my research project is destined for turbulence. When I present my idea to the jefes, I leave out my concerns for fear of sounding too complicated. I neglect my politics in hopes for approval.

Seguramente, the responses are essentially, “Great, except…”. They’re receptive but skeptical. They point out exactly the same ethical difficulties I’d experience, and I’m in quiet awe.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it otra vez: I feel like I’m finally in America. Y eso es porque “self-identification” was not something we knew of in my hometown. Mexican border politics tend to enforce nationalities onto people (and don’t get me started on the Arabic diaspora, for I don’t know enough, but I do feel). The culture I come from doesn’t invite you to decide what you are and how the world ought to see it—let alone celebrate it. And here they are, celebrating it like champions.

Joining the parade, 

Bernardo Mazón
FAIR Literary Resident
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
My pronouns: He/Him/His
American

 

P.S. As a chavalillo, I didn’t like story time at school, because most of the books they chose seemed far-away and unimportant to me. They’d either be about animalitos, fairy tales, or some condescending sh*t talking down to little kids. Every now and then, though, they’d pick books that were about people. And they had a multicultural selection. Pictures of people owning their origins. Those books, those were my favorite thing.

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