Culturefest Performance: On the Question of Justice

The ACPA Convention has come and gone for 2015. This year, Culturefest’s theme was “A Demand for Justice” and a call was put out to perform a spoken word piece relating to the topic. The following is the piece delivered by James Engler to represent the Multiracial Network.

On the Question of Justice

James Engler


On the question of race

They ask me to write down my race

And I think

And think

Very seriously

And consider writing down the truth.

These lines echo in my mind

Ringing with the brilliance of the authors

Quique Aviles and Michelle Banks

Shared with me in the 8th grade:

The first time I looked at my race.

The truth.

The truth on the question of race.


The truth is, it’s complicated.

It’s complicated because I’m White

Because my grandparents were blue collar

So my dad could be white collar

And they worked hard to fulfill the

American Dream.

White means German, Swiss, French

Race tied to cultures and classes.

It means an older immigrant background.

It also means former slave owner.

White means I waited until 8th grade

To talk about race.


It’s complicated because I’m Latino

Because my grandparents ARE immigrants

And my mom worked hard

To get a different version of the same

American Dream.

Latino means Mexican and Panamanian

Being proud of ceviche and saying piñata right

But ashamed because I can’t roll my R’s.


Being White and Latino means

The question of race is my lived experience.

The question of race is hard!


On the question of justice

They ask me to write down my demands

And I think

And think

Very seriously

And consider writing down the truth.

The truth.

The truth on the demand for justice.


The truth is, it’s simple.

It’s my job and my field of higher ed.

“To create safe, supportive, and inclusive living-learning communities.”

“With liberty and justice for all.”

It’s simple because we all want justice.

No one here would say “We’re finished!”

Our demands haven’t been met

We’re not done.

We demand as part of our jobs

The journey and the destination

Social justice for all.


But I am more than my job

More than my field.

I’m a person.

I’m… complicated.


I’m racially under-represented

But I’m not a person of color.

What does that even mean?

When others hurt, I hurt, I mourn.

Those are my people!

My people who are followed

Harassed, ignored, targeted, beaten, jailed,

Lost down some pipeline that all too often leads Straight to death.


Those are also my people!

That is also me,

Who walks with privilege and confidence

With a voice at the table

To choose who we remember

And if we forget, well,

We didn’t mean to!

Those are my people, the judge, the jury

The victims

We built the pipelines and we were lost in


I live in the “both/and”.


When I demand justice,

Do I accidentally

Act the savior or

Unfairly play the victim? Both.

Am I privileged or underrepresented? Both.

Is it harder or easier for me? Both.

I always and never feel like I fit in.


But those are my people.

And because I am complicated

I can help on both sides, on all sides.

I can talk and listen as White to Whites

Help us see where we hurt others

See where we are blinded by power

See where we can stop, listen, and

Lift others up.

And because I’m complicated

I can talk and listen as Latino to Latinos

To heal from paints I feel

In different ways

To connect and support in

Solidarity, unity, familia.

To stand beside our brothers and sisters color

And demand justice together

And because I’m complicated

I will stand as a multiracial person

Rejecting a simplistic census on race

Creating spaces for those

Who don’t see where they fit

Homes outside the box.


The truth is, on the question of race,

I check all that apply and add

“Multiracial” with a smirk.


On the question of justice

I respond “of course” and

Do my job with care and concern


On the demand of justice, I say

“Count me in!” and I help with a smile

Alongside the communities

Where I belong.



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