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  • gina garcia

Liberty and justice for who? And the role of HSIs in ensuring liberty and justice for all.

I often reflect on the founding of this nation in the late 18th century; a time when there were more enslaved Africans than free Africans; a time when the Constitution did not prohibit enslavement; a time when Native Americans were fighting to protect their land, their languages, their religions, and their ways of being; a time when Indigenous Peoples of the Americas were being murdered and forcibly relocated and removed. It makes me wonder who the settlers wanted liberty and justice for.

Now in the early 21st century, in a decade that seems like Octavia Butler was right when she wrote about what 2024 would look like in the United States, I continue to question who has liberty and justice in this country? In the weeks leading up to July 4, 2022, we witnessed 19 children and 2 schoolteachers murdered in a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas; we watched Congress refuse to pass stricter gun laws, including the banning of assault rifles which are typically used in mass shootings; we witnessed the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, restricting essential health care and bodily autonomy to women, people with uteruses, and birthing people; we saw 50 migrants left for dead in an abandoned 18-wheeler truck in Texas; we observed the Supreme Court limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate emissions; in 2022 we also witnessed the filing of over 240 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills and perpetual attacks on ethnic studies and critical race theory.

I’m left wondering, liberty and justice for who?


These things also make me question my role in society as an educator and scholar who writes about and talks about equity, justice, and liberation for college students. Does anything I write about or talk about even matter?

And yet I keep writing; I keep lecturing; I keep training; I remain hopeful. I speak loudly to the people who will listen; the people who have the power to create a better educational system for our college students and future leaders. I write fervently about how colleges and universities can become spaces of liberation; and I freedom dream about the role that Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) play in this country.

  • HSIs enroll 66% of all Latinx/Latine college students in the United States.

  • HSIs are in 30 states and Puerto Rico.

  • HSIs are contributing to economic and social mobility of students.

  • But are HSIs graduating the leaders of a more equitable and just future?

I believe HSIs have a duty to train future leaders who believe in liberty and justice for people of color, women & femmes, trans people, queer people, people with dis/abilities, immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and so many others who want to believe in this country, even though it doesn’t believe in them.

 

My dream is that HSIs will be intentional in training and preparing:

  • teachers and professors who value multilingualism; who teach about racism and the vast history of this country; who honor the diversity of the students in their classrooms.

  • scientists who believe that the natural and physical sciences can be used to advance a more just world; who want to create more equitable healthcare systems; who advocate for more just environmental systems.

  • engineers who create new technologies, structures, and systems that advance a more just society; who develop new systems that are accessible to minoritized people, not just those who can afford them; who fight for environmental justice.

  • social workers and mental health workers who have the skills and training to help and care for multilingual people, people of color, immigrants, formerly incarcerated people, LGBTQIA+ people, and neurodivergent people; who understand trauma and believe in holistic healing.

  • community leaders and social activists who understand the needs of the communities they come from and serve; who have a desire to give back to their own communities; who want to support and empower low-income communities and communities of color while honoring the community cultural wealth that exists in these communities.

  • police officers and law enforcement agents who won’t kill the people they pledge to protect and serve; who protect and serve all people equitably, regardless of race; who are trained to provide mental health care; who will detain a person accused of a crime, instead of shooting them 90 times; who will stop killing Black people while ironically handcuffing white people who allegedly commit the same crime; who will enter elementary schools without hesitation during an active shooter situation.

  • lawyers and judges who will make decisions that are fair and equitable for all people, especially Black people and men of color who are incarcerated at higher rates than any other groups that commit similar crimes; who will make decisions that will uphold human rights for people of color, women & femmes, LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities, and all others whose basic liberties are constantly attacked.

  • politicians who write bills and pass laws that will help the vast majority of people in the United States, not just those with power and money; politicians that do less harm and more good for minoritized people in this country.

I call on educators, decision-makers, and students at HSIs to freedom dream with me about the role that HSIs play in ensuring a more just and equitable future for people of color in the United States.

HSIs can and should advance liberty and justice for all!