We Can Write Our History by Ourselves

A lot of history, as currently written, is “wrong, racist, colonized, violent, and destructive.”


A Nourishing Conversation with Jaime Sanchez Jr.
(pronounced hi-mey)

I met Jaime Sanchez Jr. in 2012 when I was a staff member at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics (IOP). I always remember Jaime’s enthusiastic personality and laughter. Jaime often spoke his mind and told stories of his experiences, all of which deeply enriched my own understanding of the world – I suspect you will feel the same way after reading this story.

Jaime was a co-founder the IOP’s Leaders of Color program and was a member of IOP’s Student Advisory Council. Jaime and I spoke via video call on a Thursday in January, 2017. He is based in Washington, D.C.



S:
 We haven’t talked in a while! Tell me what you are doing now.

J: Yeah, after graduating from college [in 2015], I started my job here in D.C. as a research analyst with SEIU, the Service Employees International Union. We represent over 2 million workers in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Among them, we represent about 500,000 home care workers in a variety of states. They majority of them are women and people of color. It is a very marginalized workforce. They are some of the most undervalued and underpaid workers in America, but they do really important work of caring for the elderly and disabled. There is a huge wage disparity, and it is a matter of social and racial justice.

“It is a very marginalized workforce. They are some of the most undervalued and underpaid workers in America…There is a huge wage disparity, and it is a matter of social and racial justice.”

S: I definitely want to hear more about that, but let’s backup for a bit and hear your story from the beginning. What are the experiences in your life that have shaped the way you understand the world now? What’s your story?

J: Yeah, there are a lot of things that happened in my life that helped me to realize how messed up the world is.

I was born and raised in Fresno, California. Fresno is a quasi-agricultural-urban area in the middle of California. It has a very large population of immigrants and Mexican-Americans. My parents were born in Mexico, and they moved to the United States right before I was born. I did not come from a wealthy family; in fact, I grew up very poor. I think that helped me to build up a lot of immunity to some of the things that have gone on in the world, and it also helped me to build up a lot of empathy and to be able to see eye-to-eye with the people that my union represents. At SEIU, we represent janitors, home care workers, people who make minimum wage, or sometimes less. Being able to relate to the financial struggles of the people I now represent is really important to the work that I do.

“There are a lot of things that happened in my life that helped me to realize how messed up the world is.”

So, I grew up in Fresno. Fresno is segregated; Fresno is a poor city overall. I grew up on Food Stamps, and I went to Head Start. The only reason I went to college and have a job is because I went to Head Start. I basically owe my life to welfare. I was on Medi-Cal, which is the Medicaid in California; I grew up on free lunches at school, on Food Stamps, on all sorts of federal programs and public assistance programs, which are the only reason that I was alive. In Fresno, I saw a lot of other people who also needed these programs. We need these programs because our country is full of jobs that don’t pay a living wage. I didn’t know until now, as an adult working in the labor movement and the progressive movement, that we fight for these programs day in and day out. As a kid, I didn’t realize how jeopardized they were, but I am glad I had access to them because I owe a lot to them.

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Jaime looks dapper in his suit at his aunt’s wedding in 1998. Photo courtesy of Jaime Sanchez Jr.

At the time the public assistance programs didn’t seem very significant to me, but I now realize that if I didn’t have access to these programs, I could have been homeless and I could have gone hungry.

S: Did the other kids in your school in Fresno come from similar families or were you conscious of your situation early on?

J: My situation was not unique or rare in Fresno. A lot of the other kids I went to school with were in the same boat. They were the children of immigrants; they were Mexicans, African-Americans, and poor whites. The nice thing about growing up in Fresno, in my neighborhood, was that it didn’t matter what race you were, you were poor. It’s not nice, I guess, [laughs] but at least there was some sort of solidarity.

That is unique to where I grew up. In other cities, kids are not only divided by race, but also by class. My neighborhood was racially diverse, but socioeconomically, almost everyone was disadvantaged. It wasn’t until college that I learned different things about race and class. For example, I learned about the stereotype of Asians being more affluent than other races, because the Asians I grew up with in Fresno were poor, much like the Mexican immigrants. Everybody was poor.

“That is unique to where I grew up. In other cities, kids are not only divided by race, but also by class…I grew up with a very different perspective of races. In Fresno, you get to see people in a different light because everybody is struggling.”

I grew up with a very different perspective of races. In Fresno, you get to see people in a different light because everybody is struggling. Early on, I was able to learn that poor people weren’t just Black and Brown; they were also white and Asian. Poverty could affect everyone, and it depends on the region and it depends on the problems. In Fresno, it is just a part of life.

It wasn’t until college that I realized that my low-income background was a clear part of my identity, because it was not the norm, especially at a private, white institution like University of Chicago. There weren’t a lot of us, and it was very clear.

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Jaime graduates from his Head Start program in Fresno, California. Photo courtesy of Jaime Sanchez Jr.

I am the oldest of four boys, and my parents worked pretty thankless jobs. My mom, for some time, was a farm worker. My dad worked in construction, and he was a butcher. They did a lot of different things, but never made much money. If they weren’t home, they were working; if they were home, they were sleeping. For 10 years, I got to raise my brothers. I didn’t have an easy childhood, because I had a lot of responsibilities as the first-born son of immigrants, but I am grateful for that. I didn’t grow up spoiled; I didn’t grow up with a sense of entitlement. In fact, I think I was prematurely responsible for a lot of things. If I hadn’t had those responsibilities, I don’t know if I would have applied myself as much. I attribute a lot of my current success to being forced into responsibilities.

“It wasn’t until college that I realized that my low-income background is a clear part of my identity, because it was not the norm, especially at a private, white institution like University of Chicago.”

In high school, I was someone who really liked school, really liked studying, really liked my education.

S: Do you think that was an innate love for learning or were you somehow inspired to love school?

J: I think it was a matter of an intrinsic passion that I had for my education. My mom, every now and then, would mention that education was really important. But she never pounded me to do homework; it was pretty hands-off. I also think it was luck that I got exposed to really great teachers as a kid.

When I was in the 4th grade, I was put into an advanced class. It was kind of by chance. At that time, I was still getting tested for English as a Second Language competency. The way I remember it was that my third-grade teacher thought I was smart, even though I was still learning English, so they put my name in the hat for this special gifted program. From there, I learned about the magnet technology middle school. Without being in that class, I wouldn’t have applied to that middle school and wouldn’t have cared where I went to high school.

Throughout the way, I had really good teachers who were invested in me. If I had not been in those very specific circumstances, I don’t know where I would be today. I don’t think it was a “I lifted myself up from my own bootstraps” story – that’s not the whole story, because there were people who had been there to help me succeed. I was very blessed to have people on my side helping me enjoy my education and take advantage of it. That’s a lot of what I attribute my success to in my life.

I was prepared, but without the opportunities, I wouldn’t be anywhere.

“I was very blessed to have people on my side helping me enjoy my education and take advantage of it.”

S: You said you realized a lot of things about race and class in college. What aspects of UChicago made you think about race and class?

J: When I was in high school I got accepted to UChicago through the QuestBridge Scholarship. I couldn’t have gone to the University of Chicago if it weren’t free. I had a full ride scholarship, and I would have been crazy to not accept it. Without knowing too much about the university and without knowing anything about Chicago, I moved away from home for the first time on a leap of faith.

S: Was it easy or hard to make that decision, to take that leap of faith?

J: It was pretty easy to move from Fresno. There weren’t a lot of opportunities there. If I stayed, I would stay with my family and see how it panned out; I would go to Fresno State. Or, I could take this great opportunity to get a world-class education at UChicago – I mean, the debate was almost non-existent for me. My mom, though, she did not want me to move. She was nervous; she didn’t know what could happen. But for me, it was easy to make the choice to move.

The QuestBridge scholars are the first to be admitted to the University. Once I was there, I realized, from the very beginning, that there were only 32 of us in the QuestBridge program, out of the whole class [of ~1500 students]. Once I started, I realized that community was so important to me. Being with people that understood my socioeconomic status, the struggles of being a first-generation college student, of being a person of color who didn’t grow up with money, didn’t grow up with parents who went to college – that understanding, empathy, and community building was really important. I was really different from a lot of the middle-class students at UChicago. Even though a lot of them weren’t rich, they didn’t understand what poverty felt like. They didn’t understand what being hungry felt like. QuestBridge was a really important community of people who became some of my best friends.

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Jaime (middle) poses with his parents during his graduation ceremony in June 2015 at the University of Chicago. Photo courtesy of Jaime Sanchez Jr.

College was hard, because I had to think about things that other students didn’t have to. Dealing with financial aid, worrying about whether I had money to eat, whether I had money to visit my parents during the holidays – things that if you had money or if you could take out a loan, you didn’t have to think about. You would have a clear understanding of where the money comes from. But being dependent on a scholarship, you have a lot of questions about the daily bread. That was hard, for sure.

“Once I started, I realized that community was so important to me.”

The University, at the time, was only 5% Latino.

S: That was not even that long ago, and it is not much better now.

J: Yeah, even right now, it is still under 10%. To the extent that they smudge the numbers and include international students from Latin America – it is still not a reassuring number. I can’t say that I met a lot of people who looked like me outside of the QuestBridge group or my Latino student groups. It was interesting to see how much I depended on people of color, my friends of color, more than I ever would have imagined.

If you had asked me in high school, “how do you identify,” I would have said I was Mexican. But when I got to the University, I had to think about my identity in a different way – I am Latino. You are forced into solidarity, because there weren’t a lot of Mexican-Americans so you gotta take your people where you can get them. Identifying as a person of color allows you to build coalition with African-Americans, South Asians, and other groups, because we were outnumbered to fight against inequality on campus. To fight back, you have to stick together.

“You are forced into solidarity, because there weren’t a lot of Mexican-Americans so you gotta take your people where you can get them…To fight back, you have to stick together.”

At my work now, we think about these questions of racial justice and coalition building – things that I got to practice as a student, due in part to the issues of structural racism at the university. What a great experience and great practice it was!

And just in time for the Trump world that we live in.

The Obama coalition was strong, but there is no telling what an anti-Trump fueled coalition of different racial groups can do, because people are always more unified reacting to something rather than doing something proactive. If there isn’t an anti-immigration law or a deportation action, people aren’t as energized. If there isn’t an attack on the living conditions of working people, it is harder to get people to come to the table, to a protest, to an action, to be active in the issues that are important to them.

“People are always more unified reacting to something rather than doing something proactive.”

S: Thanks for that reflection, it’s really important to consider.

Going back to UChicago, what experiences do you remember the most in coalition building to fight against what the University administration did?

J: It wasn’t so much what the administration did, but rather what the administration failed to do.

Most of the incidents that we tried to mobilize against were almost always spurred by Greek life. In my first year in college, I remember that there was a racial incident in a fraternity. They hosted a themed party – “Conquistadors and Aztec Hoes.” [sic] [*Editor’s note: the event encouraged people to bring “an unlimited need to conquer, spread disease and enslave natives.”]

That was my first year in college, and that was my introduction to Greek life and to racial justice activism.

I got pulled into it because I was on the OMSA (Office of Multicultural Student Affairs) advisory board. I sat in on meetings and heard the usual, “we are going to build a dialogue,” “we are going to have discussions to foster understanding.” At the time, as a first year in college, I thought, “oh that sounds really great, so people can understand our perspectives.”

Years pass, more incidents occur.

When I was a fourth-year, there was a “cholo” incident – somebody dressed up as a cholo for Halloween. Slowly but surely, that acted as a catalyst to mobilize for all the things that had been happening leading up to that. Every year, there were incidents from fraternities on racially discriminating people on campus. So, we used that opportunity to launch a whole racial justice campaign at the university. The response was the same: “we want to have a dialogue; we want to have a community discussion.” But we realized that we have been here before, and nothing happened. For the first time in my life, I helped to organize a meeting of stakeholders, and we said, “this is bullshit, and we need to do something about it.”

We organized a protest. We organized a meeting with administrators, and I was at the table to ask for things. We got media attention. We got an article in the Huffington Post, along with a bunch of other sites. It was a huge deal.

All along, we created a narrative saying that this isn’t just a problem with the fraternities. This is a problem with fraternities spurred by a university that accepts these actions, spurred by a university that doesn’t invest in diverse faculty, spurred by a university that has some of the smallest percentages of students of color compared to peer institutions at the ivy leagues. It is a problem rooted in all these issues, all these issues that add up to a climate that is toxic for people of color.

“This isn’t just a problem with the fraternities. This is a problem with fraternities spurred by a university that accepts these actions, spurred by a university that doesn’t invest in diverse faculty, spurred by a university that has some of the smallest percentages of students of color compared to peer institutions.”

That was such a great learning experience for me. I got to learn how to build a campaign, how to create a narrative. We drafted a petition that had hundreds and hundreds of signatures; we got a faculty support letter from the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. At that time, it was unprecedented. We set the stage for the actions that took place after.

Recently, there was an undocumented student movement at UChicago – a faculty letter and a petition. A lot of that was spurred by the work we did in 2014. After the campaign in 2014, the University created the diversity committee that set up an accountability process and forced the University to release a Campus Climate Survey. If we hadn’t organized meetings, released petitions, received faculty support and media attention, nothing would have happened. That was definitely the most gratifying thing I ever did outside of my academic work, because we changed the structure; we changed the system.

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Jaime graduates from the University of Chicago in June, 2015. Photo courtesy of Jaime Sanchez Jr.

S: That is definitely a powerful snowball effect, and I am glad to hear you were part of it.

You have been at your current job ever since you graduated from UChicago, right?

J: Yes. I have been at SEIU for about a year and half now.

S: Was labor organizing something you knew you wanted to do when you were graduating?

J: No. Actually, the only reason I am here was that I applied to jobs that involved research. I am a healthcare research analyst for the Union. I had zero experience in the labor movement. I didn’t know anything about unions besides that they represented workers and got contracts. When I got to SEIU, I realized that SEIU is not only one of the most progressive organizations in the country, but also it is at the vanguard of what a labor union can do. It is really exciting because I get to do nerdy research work, [laughs] but also get exposed to parts of our society that I had no idea about.

SEIU does a great job of representing its workers, because it recognizes that labor rights don’t live in a bubble. Once you leave your job, you go back to your community, go back to your family, to your children. The issues that impact people’s lives are issues that our union cares about: issues that impact people of color, issues concerning healthcare, issues surrounding immigration. SEIU is so incredibly involved in the immigration sphere nationally because a lot of our members are immigrants or have mixed status families. The work we do on immigration isn’t directly tied to labor contracts, but it does impact our families. The work we do on racial justice and Black Lives Matter doesn’t change someone’s health insurance benefits, but it does impact our African-American members who live and work in Black communities – communities that are usually over-policed, communities where people are harassed and their lives are in jeopardy. We care about these issues, because our members are impacted by them.

I would never have thought that I would be working on all these different issues in my healthcare research job. The intersectionality of the union is mind-blowing, because it makes everything we do so much more meaningful. We don’t just focus on Medicaid reform; we also do work on racial justice, immigrant justice, environmental justice, LGBTQ justice, and economic justice. The work we do, in many cases, helps Black and Brown people and poor people to have easier lives. That is a matter of social justice.

Many of our home care workers, the people that take care of the elderly and the disabled, are immigrants. They are worried about being stripped away from their families, because their parents are being deported or their spouses are in immigration detention centers – that doesn’t help them do their jobs and care for the elderly and the disabled.

I love working here, because I am never removed from the issues that I care about in my personal life: to work for people who have scarce resources, who trust you to represent them, to do right by them, to change our society so that it works for them – that is a huge deal for me.

“The intersectionality of the union is mind-blowing, because it makes everything we do so much more meaningful…The work we do, in many cases, helps Black and Brown people and poor people to have easier lives. That is a matter of social justice.”

S: That sounds really holistic and great. I think part of the problem with organizations that only focus on “health” work is that they tend to have a narrow definition of what health is. But health isn’t just your visits to the doctor. You are not healthy if you are constantly worried about your family member being deported. You are not healthy if you don’t have the freedom to be your full self.

J: Right.

S: I love the holistic approach.

Do you think your experiences at the UChicago Institute of Politics (IOP) shaped your current perspectives?

J: The IOP was great because I got a lot of experience running programs. But I also got to see how things get institutionalized under the guise of “freedom of expression” or “difference of opinion.” A lot of times, it is really not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of right and wrong. But when it comes to politics, people don’t see that; they think it’s a matter of opinion. I am glad I got to see that early on through the IOP. I got to be in a place where I was exposed to peers of mine who were very political. These are the kinds of people that we now fight against at this progressive labor organization. We work to convince people in politics to reconsider policy and understand that people are dying because of their “political opinion.” That doesn’t seem like an opinion to me. That’s you standing against the rights of someone or don’t see the needs of someone because of your privilege.

I learned that I don’t want to work in government right after I graduate. Maybe at some point in my life, I would love to be a public servant, an elected official to represent my community. But being a career politician, a bureaucrat, a crony, a political tool – that is not something that I want to do. I have a lot more to learn; I have a lot more to do. I have do understand the world better before trying to be in politics.

“A lot of times, it is really not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of right and wrong.”

This work I am doing now is transforming the way I see things. Now I am much more conscious of the crimes against working people, the utterly disgusting nature of wealth inequality in this country. A CEO can make 1,000 times more than the average hourly wage of their employees. I wouldn’t have been as aware of these issues if I didn’t work on them on a daily basis. I know that in 10, 20 years, I will learn so much more. It will make me a better convener and a better leader.

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Jaime (second from right) and his parents pose with David Axelrod (left), founder and director of the UChicago Institute of Politics and former senior advisor to President Barack Obama. Photo courtesy of Jaime Sanchez Jr.

S: That’s really great. I am looking forward to the day you run for office though!

[laughs]

S: I think we need people in politics who think that way and who are humble enough to know that they need to learn more.

In your work, is there anything that you have seen people do “with good intentions” that you really just want them to stop?

J: One thing I have noticed is also something I have been guilty of before. I identify as a straight, cis-gender male. Being 6 foot 5 and being a very imposing person, it’s taken time for me to understand the complicated and complex fear of the LGBTQ community. I have seen a lot of people, with “good intentions” who say, “oh, I love gay people” or “I have friends who are gay.” I might have said that before, because one of my best friends from high school is gay.

But that is a microaggression. That is like saying “hey, I am not a racist, my best friend is Black.” People might have good intentions in saying “look at me, I am very tolerant.” But sometimes, to just be a quiet, supportive ally, and to point out discrimination when appropriate is enough. Not having to prove your allyship is a very humble and appropriate thing to do.

S: Yeah, I hear you. The other day I saw on Instagram a photo that said “How can someone be racist if they have friends who are Black? The same way serial killers can have friends who are alive.”

[laughter]

J: I learned about this over time. Whether it is white people being allies to people of color, men being allies to women, straight people being allies to LGBTQ folks – allyship is important – but we don’t have to be high and mighty about it. It should be where everyone is. It is not a special thing. It is a natural thing that everyone should be doing without deserving a trophy.

For example, Justin Trudeau is so obnoxious about being a feminist. Everybody is giving him a trophy for being a feminist, when everybody should be a feminist. Not just say it, but do something about it.

People may have good intentions, but sometimes our allyship become all about us.

“Not having to prove your allyship is a very humble and appropriate thing to do.”

S: My next question for you is what are the things you know to be true. What are the beliefs you hold to the core of your being?

J: Woo. That’s tricky.

I would say, I know to be true that people will always take the easy route if there is one, especially in politics.

Some people might say, voters are stupid. I don’t agree with that part. I don’t think voters are stupid. I think our country has a culture of political laziness. I am guilty of it, so I know it is true. I have friends and family who are politically lazy. People don’t vote for a candidate because they know the positions that the candidate has on the issues. People vote for a candidate generally because they recognize the name, or because someone told them to vote this way. Perhaps people vote for candidates along racial lines. I could be more inclined to vote for someone with a Spanish last name, not guaranteed, but it could sway me. If there is an easy way to make a decision, people are inclined to take it.

When it came to the [2016 U.S. Presidential] election, we saw the same thing. Hillary Clinton gave a lot of nuanced, detailed solutions to our problems, but she didn’t run a campaign based on change. She ran on a continuation of the Obama administration. Donald Trump said, I am going to change everything and it will be great; I am going to take a complicated thing, like Obamacare, and I am just going to repeal it.

“I think our country has a culture of political laziness.”

That is an easy way out of the crisis. People want change not because it will improve our conditions and not because it will work, but because it is a way out. It is a shortcut. It is not a solution.

Because people will always choose an easy way out, we need to understand, as a party, as a progressive movement, that our way needs to be the easiest way AND the right way. We need to be better communicators and appeal to people’s emotions and people’s inclination to have an easy way out. Our platforms don’t always have to be complex. We need to say, it makes perfect sense to do this because it is easy, and if we did this, everything will be great.

For example, we know that comprehensive immigration reform would change everything for the better. But we don’t frame it that way. We say “it is a complicated, bipartisan issue.” The Republicans don’t say that. They don’t say “it’s a complicated, bipartisan issue;” they say it is the “American way.”

We need to do that. We need to appeal to people’s emotions. And after that, we can work on revising our cultural problem of lack of political engagement and political education. That part is hard.

S: That was really insightful. Sometimes I am guilty of dismissing people as being lazy or uneducated. But I know that I am in a position of relative privilege – I have had access to higher education; I have easy access to information.

What you offered is a really good action plan for what we must do next.

J: In the community where I grew up, a lot of people I know are Democrats but also politically lazy. Some people rely on me to give them political advice, but they don’t do the homework. Just because they vote for the person I want, it doesn’t mean that they understand the issues or the policy.

We have a culture where people don’t care about politics. The truth is, a lot of people aren’t in a position to care – they work two jobs; they rarely sleep; they have to put their kids through school. They don’t have time to learn about the issues. Why shouldn’t we take it upon ourselves to translate the political process to people who really don’t have access? It is really a position of privilege, and we need to do a better job to share that.

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Jaime participates in the Women’s March on Washington D.C. on January 21, 2017. Photo courtesy of Jaime Sanchez Jr.

S: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My next question is what are the most important things you have unlearned.

J: Do you mean a bad habit that I don’t do anymore?

S: You can talk about that if you want, I had something different in mind when I wrote that question. I was thinking about the things we learn in school and in life that are actually wrong, for example, the way we frame history and explain the legacy of slavery. We tend to learn in public schools that “after the Civil War, slavery ended, yay for everyone” rather than learning about the actual racial legacy of slavery.

Is there something you have learned in school, through media, or any other sources that you now realize is untrue?

J: Gotcha. I really like this question.

Part of what I wrote for my thesis in undergrad was basically a complaint of what was taught about the concept of racial solidarity, not only in public schools but even in nuanced academic work. What you learn in school is that people are a cohesive group – for example, the Latinos in the U.S. are a cohesive group.

But that is a lie that we have all tricked ourselves into believing.

The fact that I am Latino, identify as such, have Latino friends, and come from a Latino family does not mean that I have the same political beliefs as another Latino from somewhere else. Just because I am Latino, it does not mean that I have the exact same political agenda as all Latinos.

The idea that we have categories of people that are politically united is totally false. I am not saying forget the label, in fact, I think the label is really important for forming solidarity. But one of the biggest things I had to unlearn was that you cannot assume racial solidarity even within your own race, because that is an imaginary category. I do think that Latinos should be a category that should be organized and cohesive and have an agenda. If we had that, Donald Trump would not have been president. If we had that, George Bush would not have been president. If we had solidarity and an agenda-setting body and a coalition, we would be in such a great place. But there is no Voice. We don’t have a Cesar Chavez anymore, and even at that, he was not the figure that we now imagine him to be today. He was a Mexican-American hero, and now we imagine him as a Latino hero, but he was not the leader of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans, at least not in the ways we now say he was.

“The idea that we have categories of people that are politically united is totally false.”

We need someone to say, “hey, you guys are not united, realize that you are different, but come up with a solution to work together. Meet each other where you are at.” Instead, we just assume we are together, but when shit hits the fan, we are left with dust and we say “wait, what happened with the Latino vote?” But the truth is that we were never united, because we were never on the same page.

I had to unlearn this imaginary, romanticized idea that racial solidarity within your own group is natural and inevitable. It is not. It does not exist right now.

“I had to unlearn this imaginary, romanticized idea that racial solidarity within your own group is natural and inevitable. It is not. It does not exist right now.”

S: Do you think Donald Trump has encouraged racial solidarity among groups when he, for example, insulted Mexicans?

J: Yes. Of course. However, reactionary solidarity is temporary, always. That should never be the foundation of a social movement, because once the problem is gone, you either need to actively seek out new problems or your movement will die. That happens all the time. Once the immediate threat is gone, people go back to their lives and say we are finished, we did it, our work here is done. When you want a lasting movement, when you want a coalition, when you want a building block that lasts beyond one election cycle, you have to keep in mind that it is not about creating a reaction to a threat, but creating a culture of progress and being proactive to prevent a problem and not reacting to it once it is there.

If Hillary Clinton had been elected, her coalition would have been dead on day one of her presidency. Why? Because her campaign wasn’t about “everybody let’s do something” it was “I am not Donald Trump. Donald Trump is bad,” which is not only a bad campaign angle, but also the worse way to build a movement. Once your threat is gone, nobody cares anymore.

“When you want a lasting movement, when you want a coalition, when you want a building block that lasts beyond one election cycle, you have to keep in mind that it is not about creating a reaction to a threat, but creating a culture of progress.”

S: Yeah, and I think we saw that in a lot of young people – young, liberal people – who were really dissatisfied with her campaign and who voted for her but didn’t actively turn out their friends; young people who said “well, guess I have to vote for Hillary, because I don’t have another choice,” which is a terrible attitude going into the voting booth and you cannot build a coalition of people with that attitude.

J: And if you do build a coalition, it is not going to last. It will crumple. You need a vision. You need a positive goal, something that is worthwhile, that is going to last. A reactionary coalition, while powerful, for sure, is always going to be temporary. The disappointing thing about racial politics in America is that a lot of it is reactionary. We need to be better about thinking long-term.

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Jaime (front, green hat) poses with his colleagues from the Service Employees International Union in Las Vegas. The group was knocking on doors to support Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election campaign. Photo courtesy of Jaime Sanchez Jr.

S: What do you want to learn next?

J: That is a good question.

I actually have a very straight forward answer. I would like to learn how to be an actual historian. Eventually I want to get my PhD so I can learn more about our country. I want to learn how to write history in order to rewrite history, because a lot of history is wrong, racist, colonized, violent, and destructive. I want to really take ownership of the history of a country that I was born and raised in. We can write our history by ourselves and do not need anyone else to write it for us.

“I want to learn how to write history in order to rewrite history, because a lot of history is wrong, racist, colonized, violent, and destructive…We can write our history by ourselves and do not need anyone else to write it for us.”

So, look out for my books in the future!

S: Just like I look forward to the day you run for office, I also look forward to the day when your books are required reading in public schools!