It’s remarkable how power dynamics go completely unnoticed in “normal” circumstances. When I work with the Padres Creando Sueños (PCS, the team of Westside parents leading the tutoring/literacy programs), I often forget how dramatically my presence as a cultural outsider affects our team interactions.
Last month, however, I hosted a Skype call between some of the PCS parents and the directors of Familias Unidas, a parent-training program in the Bay Area. The Familias Unidas directors are both Mexican immigrants themselves, and so the conversation was entirely between fluent Spanish-speaking parties of Mexican descent. In that setting, the PCS parents spoke up dramatically, explained their needs and desires articulately, and communicated their enthusiasm for supporting their children with more fervor than I’ve seen to date.
A big factor in this dynamic shift was that the cultural and linguistic barriers were drastically reduced. While I am a confident Spanish-speaker, I’m not fluent in any sense of the word. What’s more, I’m not Latino. I am a White male of French & German descent. I will always be at least one step removed from full understanding with these parents. So when the PCS parents were given the opportunity to present themselves as leaders in a conversation in which they felt more understand and more truly equal, they showed their true colors as community leaders.
Our goal on the Westside must be this: that the “normal” circumstances that create an imbalance of power based on culture and language become abnormal. On the Westside as it is in Heaven.