Beyond FRESHMAN YEAR: Racial Ambiguity, Educational Access, and Social Impact
“Respect does not come easy in the ivory tower,” she writes. “At the beginning of every semester students beg to hear of my pedigree, in detail. Where did you get your doctorate? … How many years have you taught university students? Why do you speak Spanish? Which one of your parents is Spanish? Are both of your parents Black? The questions go on and on. I wonder if other young professors are similarly accosted.
“Rather than let students put me into their own self-contrived boxes and categories, I tell them who, why, and what I am. … Both of my parents, I share, are of mixed race ancestry (African American, Native American [Creek], Irish, and Creole). I explain that in an effort to improve the status quo for his little family, my father joined the United States Air Force. This simple decision changed his and our lives forever. We spent ten years in Spain, where I was born, and traveled the world over.”
Santamaría refers to the incredibly diverse American school she attended back in Spain when she was nine: “Lots of the children had parents who did not look alike or come from the same town or country,” she explains. “We learned and grew together not paying much mind or attention to who spoke what, where, when, how or why. We were a sophisticated little universe unto ourselves.” Then she contrasts that with her tricky transition to public high school in Southern California: “I made friends easily among the [varied] groups of students. No one questioned my allegiance. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was working a public relations campaign as a means of survival.”
Many of Santamaría’s current students in the College of Education at CSUSM will go on to become teachers. She’s proud and aware of the impact she’s making. “By semester end,” she concludes, “most students have come to appreciate my comprehensive worldview and educationally inclusive attitude. … I know that my work is critical and imperative for the success of students of color in American schools from kindergarten through higher education.”
In future posts, look for more from http://www.edchange.org, the comprehensive site that features Santamaría’s insightful essay.