I lived in ignorance for an elongated period of time. I assumed that I needed to fight to defend my cultura, to defend the beauty of that which I learned to embrace with fervor from a very young age. I was well-versed in the history of mi gente, in the plight of my people. I was well-versed in the political plight of the modern-day Chicano who fought for unity amongst the gente in order to gain posterity and a strong voice in a white man's world. I fought with fervor to defend that which I felt needed defending.
And then I realized...
Ignorance is bliss. I based my reasoning upon a flawed premise. One that then led me to flawed thinking. What was it that needed defending? What was it that I felt as if I needed to fight for? What was it that laid intrinsically inside of me that I felt I needed to defame the name of the white man and everyone else around me to prove the strength of the Chicano? "The Truth is like a lion." St. Augustine rightfully proclaimed, "You don't have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself." The proof of a man's strength, the worth of his character, and the quality of his convictions comes not through the defaming of others, tearing them down in order to build oneself up."Wise men are not always silent," it is said, "but they know when to be." Stand on your convictions, and only when necessary- speak.
Many people have mistaken the meekness and mildness of Christ to be a weakness. The Grecian citizen of the time found humility to be a non-virtuous quality. A man of few words was considered an unlearned fool. Take the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8, who the religious men of the day shoved in the midst of the crowd, half dressed and humiliated, accusingly screaming that she should be stoned. And yet we find Christ, the Son of Man, observingly standing on the Truth by saying nothing at all. He made no defense, He did not yell back, even as the Scripture attests in the Greek that they accusingly pointed their fingers in the face of the Son of God, screaming' "What do you say?"
He said nothing at all.
Instead, He let loose the lion, as St. Augustine so eloquently penned. He humbly knelt on the ground and began to write in the dirt. And as the religious men of the day became more accusatory and demanded an answer, He once more knelt down and continued writing. What a humiliating position for the Son of God to kneel in the dirt amidst a group of men He could have easily destroyed these men with His words. And instead...
He remained quiet.
He let the Truth speak for itself.
And as you read the end of the account, God, as always, was the victor. He silenced the crowd without ever saying a word. He lived what He knew to be true, never needing to defend it with words.
Which now brings me to a very real and modern day dilemma....
Our Chicano cultura, the beauty of our barrio, the beauty of our arte, the beauty of our starched Levi's and pristine Pendleton's, the beauty of the lowrider community, and of the smells and sounds of the neighborhood, in short, the beauty of what we have come to know as a normal way of life for many of us, has been popularized and exploited over the past few years. Of most recent, I find that our cultura has become commercialized. The classiness of the iconic cholo and the beauty of the iconic chola has become something that many have been able to replicate better than those who live it. They have become fans of lowriders and Teen Angel, of baby cuffs and starch. They have no idea of what lies behind this look, what it represents, or the respect we must pay to those that came before us. Our cultura has been marred by weak imitations that spend hours upon hours to perfect the look, to buy the right clothes, to say the right words, to drive the right car. And yet, it is emptiness. It is the blind fool crying in the darkness, proclaiming his claim to our cultura, defending his right to belong. Truth recognizes Truth, just as it also recognizes useless imitations. Make no mistake about it, your brown skin or claim to the neighborhood does not solidify you a place in this cultura. It is a right earned, never assumed. It is an inherited way of life passed down from one generation to the next. One in which the imitators will loudly defend, and all the while those who truly are a part will sit and watch the show.
This article was written for is a homegirl I know, one who is near and dear to my heart. She is an artist. One who has grown up in the neighborhood. Who knows and understands the plight of the barrio and therefore, has earned her right to be a part of it. A solid individual, one who I would stand with to defend her character. She is a quiet soul. One who needs not defend her position in life because she has earned it. Not by useless proclamations, not by defamations for all to hear, but by who she is as an individual. She walks the walk. Never needing to live up to the expectations of any man. She is my homegirl, through and through, a solid individual that I am honored to know and blessed to call my friend.
Remember this Amber Tilden...
"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion."