Brining people to the table: An interview with Sarah


When thinking about the need for more representation in politics, it is important to acknowledge the people working to make politics more inclusive. While I believe there are not enough people of color, women, [fill in the blank with your choice of underrepresented identity], it’s important to note that people of all identities have always been involved in political struggles. People of all identities have advocated on behalf of themselves and others as well. In a country where most people publicly acknowledged for their political influence and achievements are older, white, heterosexual men I want to acknowledge the work of Sarah Audelo.

I met Sarah at a Women in Politics panel at Georgetown’s OWN IT Conference. Sarah was talking about her role as a Policy Director at Generation Progress.  In this role, she primarily focuses on policy that is “youth led and focused”, helping to incorporate the voices and work of millennials like herself into policy making. I was lucky enough to have her agree to an interview, and have written down some of her responses to my questions:

How and when did you become involved in politics?

I really got involved during undergrad. Mostly, I focused on global HIV and AIDS activism, and pushing back against the abstinence-only position of the US government when it comes to foreign aid and AIDS prevention. I started getting engaged in high school though, a family member of mine had HIV, so I had been aware of it, but I took more of an activist role than a one involved in politics.

How do you bring your identities into your politics?

As a mixed-race, fourth generation Latina, I try to be as cognizant of who’s at the table when decisions are being made. I try to think about who I’m working with and for to come up with policy solutions. I think it’s important to ask: How are you involving the communities affected? How are you communicating with them and others involved in the process?

What communities do you find are often “not at the table”?

Young people are not at a lot of decision-making tables. This includes low-income youth of color, young people who don’t go through “traditional” college pathways, people that go back to school, people that have to work to support themselves, queer youth, queer youth of color. Many people don’t get the chance to come to the table, but when we do, I think many of us bring all parts of ourselves.

How can we work to bring more voices to the table?

When working on policy we need to be more conscious of who we talk about, but don’t involve. The truth is, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu! There needs to be a conscious attempt to help build pipelines. Larger conversations in all political spaces are necessary, but at a more individual level, it’s important to look around when talking about issues and see who’s missing? We need to welcome people into these spaces, provide them jobs. It’s important to challenge the spaces that already exist, but targeted outreach needs to be done. Sometimes, that means up-ing the salaries at non-profits and government organizations so that people can live off of their wages. We need to think differently about hiring, how we’re paying people and how we’re recruiting them.

I know you currently focus on policy, but have you considered running for office?

I’m glad you asked, because I think it’s very important to ask people to run. But I don’t think that is my strength, forte or interest. I wouldn’t minding working for and with people to help them run for office, but I’m not interested in running.

With More Latina Women Enrolling in College, What Barriers Do They Still Face?

Repost from my article published in Feminspire:

As the rate at which Latinas enroll in college increases, it becomes increasingly important to address the barriers that exist for Latinas who are able to access college educations. As a Latina who has had the privilege of talking to other Latinas about their experiences at their respective colleges and universities, I acknowledge that our experiences are incredibly varied and that not all Latinas experience these barriers. But needless to say, many of my Latina hermanas have shared similar stories, making these barriers relevant and important to discuss.

According to an American Association of University Women report, Latinas do indeed aspire to graduate from high school and complete post-secondary educations, but various factors play in to their ability to do so. Factors that affect high school graduation, college choice, matriculation, retention and college graduation are primarily cultural. Due to the fact that the dominant culture in most degree granting, post-secondary institutions is White (approximately 60% of students, according to a report by the Institute of Education Sciences), deep cultural differences may pose added challenges for Latinas who are learning to navigate an academic environment that may be more natural to their Caucasian counterparts.

When Latinas attend college, they are usually thrown into a dominant culture which is unlike their own- often times, the majority of professors, faculty members and students will not be Latino/as. Latino families prioritize culture as a factor in the evaluation of self-identification and worth. When away at college, Latinas are often faced with the challenge of negotiating their cultural identity against a more dominant, White, American culture. These decisions can be as serious as deciding whether to change an area of study because no Latin America Regional Concentration classes are taught by Latinos, or deciding whether to join a Latina sorority to show solidarity with your Latina sister vs. a traditional one for a more “normal” Greek experience. This process of cultural renegotiation may pit a Latina’s connectedness to her family against her desire to be independent and pursue her personal educational and career goals.

The very Latino emphasis on familismo (familism), a concept that emphasizes the importance of family ties, loyalty and interconnectedness, is crucial when discussing Latina success and failure. Familial support, and the social capital that is derived from the larger social networks that familismo encourages, may help Latinas get in to college and navigate it successfully. On the other hand, culturally, Latino distrust of those outside of the family may lead to family members discouraging Latinas from leaving home for college, or if Latinas do leave, they may face feelings of guilt for having done so. Familismo may also pose challenges for Latinas during the college selection process, during which their selection of school and career interests may be subject to discussion and determination by family members, including extended family members.

Even Latinas with the most supportive families may face issues adjusting to campus cultures in which there is little Latino representation. The National Center for Education Statistics reported in 2011 that the ethnic and racial breakdowns of full-time college faculty are as follows: 79 percent White and 4 percent Hispanic. The numbers for full-time professors were 84 percent White and 3 percent Hispanic. The disparity between the ethnicities of faculty and professors may lead to a cultural disconnect between Latino students and professors that would prevent students and teachers from connecting or effectively communicating across their cultural paradigms.

In addition, lack of representation and immersion in a new culture pose additional challenges for some. In areas where Latino populations are minimal, Latinas might be faced with stereotyping and the contingencies that come with them. This includes dealing with slight microaggressions having to do with racial stereotypes that insinuate that all Latinas are feisty, sexy, like being called “mami”, speak like Sofia Vergara, and of course, are all “curvy latinas”. While some of these stereotypes may be true on an individual level, they can still be racial microaggressions that make Latinas hyperconscious of their status as women of color, and their ability to either play in to those stereotypes or prove them wrong.

Latinas face unique circumstances and issues when they decide to go to college, and especially when they move away from home. At a time when Latinas are enrolling more and more in colleges and universities, it is important to address the conflicts that they may encounter. At a time when blatant racism is outlawed (albeit still an issue), but cultural stereotypes, racial and sexist microaggressions ensue, it is important to start a conversation about the additional barriers Latinas are facing and overcoming every day in order to create a more inclusive educational environment.

I am NOT just a “Feisty Latina”: Microaggressions in everyday life

I would like to start off by stating that when I am vocal about racism, sexism, and other problematic language; I am NOT to be dismissed as just another “feisty Latina”.

As a Latina feminist, living and going to college in DC, I live in a place predominantly surrounded by liberal individuals who understand the dangers and evils of prejudice. This complicates the way in which power dynamics are viewed, discussed and how their role in my life, and the life of the individuals with whom I interact, is interpreted. In a predominantly white, higher-to-upper middle class, social-justice-oriented institution, it is sometimes hard for me to explain my experience of the subtle, insidious effects of sexist and/or racially-charged microaggressions.

The word “microaggression” (Click Here to Learn More About Microaggressions) was coined by Chester M. Pierce in the 1970s, and several psychologists have since worked with the term. More recently, Derald Wing Sue defined microaggressions as: “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people.” Microaggressions are usually said without negative intentions, by people who have the privilege of not being aware of how or why their words are hurtful. Peggy McIntosh expanded the conception of privilege- the exploration of how groups can either be systemically advantaged or disadvantaged from gendered discussions to racial discussions. In her working paper, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’(1989), McIntosh acknowledges her own discovery of her privilege when she writes: “As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.” A particular sore spot is the mentioning of white privilege (see “White Privilege the Invisible Backpack” for more information) and extensions of it, which come in the form of offhanded, offensive language. Microaggressions are usually casually brought up, with no intention of being insulting- they are, however, offensive, even if they are unintentionally so.

As McIntosh mentions, it is hard for people to recognize their own privilege. This leads to people perpetuating racism or sexism in ever-so-insidious ways, even if they do not intend on being offensive. The fact that microaggressions are not intentionally offensive makes it hard for those who are less privileged, or who are triggered or insulted by them to explain how or why they feel their identities being belittled, challenged or otherwise insulted. At this point in history, it is increasingly rare for people to say blatantly racist, sexist or homophobic slurs without natural social sanctions serving as consequences for those statements. However, the mainstreaming and generally privileged nature of “whiteness” in American society still allows for the perpetuation of racial and/or sexist stigma through the use of microaggressions- most of which come from the oversimplification of or the same ignorance of the complex nature and connection of race and identity in communities of color, that fuel racism.Personally, as a Latina, my experience of being a minority is new, and has been limited due to the fact that I was brought up in Miami, FL. In Miami, I was surrounded, mostly, by Hispanic people like myself. At the time, I did not recognize the privileges that came from being a member of the demographic that was a local majority.

In an environment in which I am new to being a minority, and some people are not used to minorities, or Latinas, it is difficult for me to pinpoint and express the ways in which I’ve been affected by microaggressions. Recently however, a friend who actively tries to understand me and my culture offhandedly called me a“feisty Latina”. I laughed at this, because I am proud of my reputation of speaking up for what I value, and I am proud of my heritage. I was not directly hurt by the statement- but it did make me more conscious (and self-conscious) of my identity contingencies. Identity contingencies, as described by Claude Steele in his book Whistling Vivaldi, are “the things you have to deal with in a situation because you have a given social identity”. Steele argues that identity contingencies affect us when they are compounded by stereotype threats, which are instances in which you are aware of a stereotype about one of your identities and refrain from doing things that would affirm those stereotypes. This played out, in my personal life, later that night.

Alex, his friend John and I went out for a late-night dessert was when I discovered just how insidious the effects of microaggressions can be. At the shop, my friend Alex and I were looking at books together while John was browsing in a nearby section. Then, some man came up to us, looked at me from head-to-toe, pointed at me, and told Alex he had a “hot friend” (me). The way the stranger looked at me, with a perverted look in his eyes, and then didn’t acknowledge me infuriated me. I could not believe how he could simultaneously pour over my body so intently and act as if I don’t exist; it felt like objectification at its most revolting. I wanted to coolly tell him that it was not acceptable to be disrespectful. I wanted to yell at him that he was being a misogynistic ass. I wanted to say something- but I didn’t. The first thought that raced through my mind was to make sure I wasn’t overreacting or just being feisty. That identity contingency, which I usually ignore, rendered me unable to respond to this strange man’s disrespectful behavior. THAT is the threat that microaggressions pose- they are so subtle that they go unnoticed, but ultimately lead to self-policing behaviors. Racism is not as overt as it once was, but it is pervasive. Racism has become so ingrained in our society that although we may know there is more genetic difference between people of the same “race” or “ethnicity” than between people of different “races” or “ethnicities” we still divide people along those arbitrary lines. We still assume that the “feisty Latina” and “angry black woman” stereotypes have some validity. Racism looks differently now, it is systemic, ingrained in our thought and is usually a result of self-policing which results from the fear of validating negative stigma about one’s own race/ethnicity.

What I learned from it all:

I was NOT being a feisty Latina. I was being a human, who was angered by racist and sexist language.




Sue, Derald Wing; Capodilupo, Christina M.; Torino, Gina C.; Bucceri, Jennifer M.; Holder, Aisha M. B.; Nadal, Kevin L.; Esquilin, Marta. Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice. American Psychologist, v62 n4 p271-286 May-Jun 2007.

McIntosh, Peggy, ‘White privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’,Peace and Freedom (July/August 1989), 9-10; repr. in Independent School, 49 (1990), 31-35.

Steele, Claude. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. Print.

AmericanU presents: RJ in Immigrant Communities

Found at:

From left to right: Natalie Camastra, Cathy Schneider, Dilcia Molina, Regina Monge (me!)

On April 3rd, as part of the Community Action and Social Justice Coalition‘s “Rush Week” Activities, American University’s AU Students for Choice (follow them on twitter at @aus4c) and AU American Dream co-hosted a panel on Reproductive Justice in Immigrant Communities.

I had the pleasure of moderating the panel, which included panelists Natalie Camastra and Dilcia Molina and a translator, Kathy Schneider.

Natalie D. Camastra:

  • She serves as a Policy Analyst at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, where she focuses prominently on federal legislation and strategies to advance reproductive health and justice for immigrant Latinas, their families, and communities.
  • Outside of work, she volunteers with Fem*Ex, where she facilitates a women’s empowerment and sexual health course at YouthBuild in Columbia Heights.

Dilcia Molina:

  • She is a project coordinator at La Clinica Del Pueblo, a non-profit health center that serves the Latino and immigrant populations of the Washington, DC metro area.
  • She also does research on Latino/a immigrants who engage in commercial sex work in metropolitan Washington
  • Additionally, she devotes time to helping other immigrants who are seeking legal residence in the U.S. by referring them to pro bono attorneys.

The discussion commenced with a contextualization of the intersection of reproductive justice and immigrant communities and policies that have disproportionately impacted female immigrants. The following topics were discussed:

  • Page Act- The first of many laws aimed at limiting the immigration of “undesirable” immigrants (this law primary excluded women of Asian descent).
  • Sterilization- The forced sterilization of Latina women, which was introduced in the 1930s and occurred into the late 1970s. Women of color, predominantly low-income, latina women, were coerced and intimidated into being sterilized because they were considered “undesirable”. (Click here for an article on the forced sterilization of women)
  • Anchor babies- “Anchor babies” are pejorative terms for the children of immigrant women, the discussion surrounding anchor babies is usually anti-immigrant, and grounded in erroneous arguments.
  • The need for a path to citizenship.
  • The Affordable Care Act’s exclusion of immigrant families and the added barriers it introduces to immigrant women seeking reproductive health care (for more info, click here).

After Natalie Camastra set a foundation upon which to discuss the work currently being done, Dilcia gave personal testimony about her activism advocating for immigrant women and their rights to reproductive health care. Dilcia began by explaining her personal connection to this cause. Dilcia immigrated legally, seeking asylum in the United States because of threats to her life that resulted from openly identifying as lesbian and her activist work within/for the LGBT community. Upon moving to the United States, Dilcia joked that she vowed to never get involved with activism again, because of where it got her, between chuckles however, she explained that it didn’t take long before she got involved in it again. After having lived in the United States a little over three months, Dilcia discovered a lump in one of her breasts. She knew she had to see a doctor. Due to the fact that there were no accommodations for people like Dilcia who did not yet have any proficiency in English at he medical centers near her and the fact that she could not get federal assistance to pay for her treatment since her immigration status was being processed, possibilities of being screened and treated were dismal. In most cases, especially in the cases of illegal immigrants, the only services available are emergency room visits- which do not service the reproductive health needs of women immigrants. Upon trying to navigate the health care system herself, Dilcia concluded that systemic barriers impeded the access of immigrant women like herself, to basic health care and even more so to reproductive health services. Dilcia, an activist and champion for equality, was thus drawn to the kind of work she still does- promoting reproductive justice in immigrant communities.

Dilcia currently works as a Project Manager at La Clinica del Pueblo, a Women’s Comprehensive Health center which services immigrant women. The center not only provides basic women’s health medical procedures for little-to-know cost to the women, it also hosts meetings for Latina Immigrants to discuss their relationship/ sexual health needs through their Entre Amigas program, and even has an empowerment-focused program for the children of immigrant women called “¡Empodérate! Youth Center. In addition to her work at La Clinica del Pueblo, Dilcia also refers women who need it, to lawyers who work on pro bono immigration and domestic violence cases.

Natalie Camastras and Dilcia Molina both drew attention, through our panel discussion, to the disparate barriers that immigrant women face when trying to seek out reproductive health care services. If you would like to read more about the above mentioned issues, here are some articles you might find interesting and informative:

If you’re interested in books on the topic:

If you’d like to follow the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s blog:

20 Days of ACA: Understanding the health care needs of Latin@s

Living in DC, politics is difficult to escape from- more recently, talk about the Affordable Care Act has been on the rise! The following blog post, from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health explains how the Affordable Care Act will effect latin@s. Check it out!

Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz

Throughout 20 Days of ACA , we have discusses how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or health reform will address inequities in health care and health faced by people of color and other underserved communities. We have talked about improving the health care workforce , increasing access to preventive care, and Community Transformation Grants to address chronic diseases in communities marginalized by the health care system.

Today, we will discuss another effort headed up by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): improving data collection on undeserved communities so as to better understand and address health disparities.

Why is improved data collection important?

Health data collected from federal agencies, department and offices is used to inform national, state and local health initiatives. Without detailed demographic information, health initiatives may overlook the health care challenges of specific underserved populations. This particularly true for LGBTQ Latin@s, whose intersectional identities and…

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Raquel Reichard

Question 1: Do you consider yourself a sextivist? Why or why not?

I don’t self-identify as a “sextivist;” but, according to your description of the term, I guess I can be considered one. I am a Latina feminist, and I focus my personal, professional and scholarly work around feminist issues that fall under “sextivism.”


Question 2: What sextivist issue does your work address? (Feel free to mention any and every type of sextivism you participate in, or whatever way you brand it for example: abortion issues, LGBQT awareness, feminism etc.)

As a Latina feminist, I focus much of my work on the intersection of gender, race and class, which sometimes involves reproductive rights and LGBTQ issues. All of which, however, I believe falls under “feminism,” because my feminism is intersectional.


Question 3: How are you involved with that/those issue/s?

Both professionally and scholarly. I have four jobs and three of them are in the social justice fields, one — Everyday Feminism — deals with these specific issues regularly. My background is in media, so I do communications work — social media, PR, graphic design, etc. for all. As an MA student, I study the intersection of gender, race and new media, and feminist theory and critical race theory are very much a part of that.


Question 4: How did you become involved with this type of work?

When I was a journalism undergrad, I was appalled by what I was learning about the role of women in journalism history. From that grew an interest in women’s rights outside of journalism, and I quickly formed my feminist identity. I also then focused my journalistic and media work almost exclusively on feminist issues from then on.


Question 5: What groups, clubs, organizations etc. do you work on these issues with? (Please specify organizations, in DC, with which you are involved)

I live in NYC and did my undergrad in Florida, so I haven’t done much in the DC Metro Area. However, I did social media work for Stop Street Harassment, which is based in the Metro area. Though I no longer volunteer at the nonprofit, I still maintain a professional relationship with its founder and co-host various tweet chats with the organization (there will be one at the end of this month on street harassment and race).


Question 6: What forms of everyday activism do you suggest that people incorporate into their lives?

I think that depends on the person and what they’re physically and economically able to do. Thus, everyday activism will look different for everyone.


Question 7: How do you incorporate sextivism into your life? Do you participate as part of your career? Do you intend to? Do you participate in addition to your other responsibilities?

I’m a journalist and social media strategist who — for the most part — centers stories on intersectional feminist issues and provides social media services exclusively for feminist, social justice and/or women-owned organizations/businesses.


Question 8: What takeaways will you want my reader to walk a away with? Feel free to write about your personal brand of sextivism or why you care or why others should:

Though I identify as a Latina feminist, I think the work — not the label — is the most important. However, having a label can be really empowering for some. I think you mentioned something important in your question, which is one’s “personal” form of sextivism, etc. Make sure your work is true to who you are. It’s OK if the issues you care about aren’t mainstream. You can tackle just about any social ill from a feminist perspective.


Wanna hear more from Raquel Reichard?

In observation of  International Anti-Street Harassment Week (the week of March 30 to April 5, 2014) she will be co-hosting a Stop Street Harassment tweet chat on street harassment and race on March 30 with Holly Kearl, Zerlina Maxwell, Nuala Cabral and Patricia Valoy.

Follow her blog:

Follow her on Twitter: @RaquelReichard

Airing “Dirty Laundry:” A Latina Woman’s Fight Against Eating Disorder Stigma

Interesting take on the intersection of eating disorders and ethnic background. This post hits close to home, and it makes me happy to know that some light is being shed on this dark reality.

Raquel Reichard


Originally published in Feminspire:

Trigger warning for eating disorder, mental health and suicide

While most of my friends were running to third base or performing the steps to Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time choreography, an 8-year-old me was staring at myself in the mirror, noting all the parts of my body that needed to be erased.

By middle school I realized that those parts that I hated so much could disappear if I just stopped eating. So I did.

I started purging in high school and continued throughout my first two years of college.

I didn’t realize I was suffering from an eating disorder — or “worse,” a mental illness – until I sought professional help.

I was 19 years old, and after a decade of suicidal ideation, I had finally decided to take my own life.

My story is one historically told by white, middle to…

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