My Cousin Felica Rose Chavez is a Racist

As we’ve entered the holiday season, I want to THANK all who continue to follow my work. I read an article this morning about a young athlete who has amassed 3.3 million followers on Instagram. He throws down fancy dunks and makes millions off endorsement deals.

My loyal followers number in the 1,000s. I can’t dunk any more, but write to challenge people to think critically. I ask questions or post comments that generally make people feel uncomfortable and force them to look at themselves and our world in different ways.

I appreciate all of you for doing the hard work to build better relations and improve the methods we use to communicate with each other. Have a wonderful season of cheer and happiness.

Let’s Talk About Racism

My cousin, Felicia Rose Chavez, is a writer. She’s my cousin-in-law to be exact, and sadly, she’s become a racist. This is an overused label today. Seems everyone is called racist, and likely, all of us are guilty in some ways.

Felicia Rose Chavez: my racist cousin
Felicia Rose Chavez: my racist cousin [source]

As a political scientist working with younger students, I pointed out grouping people by race is an act of racism itself. Similarly, if we group people by income, whether low or medium or high, we are “classists.” The point is we error when we group people in any fashion.

Human beings are individually unique. We’re like snowflakes or leaves or blades of grass. There are different types of leaves, but nobody believes ALL maple leafs are the same.

Grouping a bunch of light-skinned people with roots from Europe as White is highly imprecise. Similarly, labeling all those with dark skin and African heritage as Black leads to many misgeneralizations.

Blaming White people for 1619 or slavery is extremely inaccurate. About 1% of Americans held slaves. Black tribal chiefs in Africa sold members into slavery for political reasons or profit. There were Black slave owners in the USA.

We don’t blame a six-year-old Japanese girl for the attacks on Pearl Harbor or the murder of over 20 million Chinese. We don’t blame a six-year-old German boy for the atrocities committed by Hitler and his forces. Why would we blame six-year-old White children for the evils of slavery?

And, I remind critics that my grandfather, Robert A Lower, at 18 years of age, earned the Congressional Medal of Honor as a union soldier leading the charge at the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. How can anyone claim he is racist?

Robert A Lower earned the Congressional Medal of Honor as a Union soldier
Robert A Lower earned the Congressional Medal of Honor as a Union soldier

However, Felicia Rose Chavez unfortunately is a racist. She published a book this year, “The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom.”

I was surprised to see her work featured prominently on social media yesterday — not positively. Haymarket Books noted, “We’ve got radical books for everyone on your list.”

Haymarket Books: We've got radical books for everyone on your list.
Haymarket Books: We’ve got radical books for everyone on your list.

I love my cousin. She’s bright, talented, compassionate and gifted. I love her husband, Idris Goodwin as well. Both are fixated on furthering a WOKE agenda. From my point of view, they’re deep, deep asleep and going backwards.

One of my last conversations with Idris focused on the importance of words. I was criticizing him in a friendly manner for labeling an individual on his professional website as a “black man.” Most won’t catch the error. Any writer should immediately.

Used this way, the adjective “black” is a Proper Noun, not a color. We capitalize Proper Nouns, such as American, Chinese, European, etc. We capitalize African American … however, many today still use lower case for “black” or “white” or “brown.” This is diminutive. Human beings are not colors.

Reviewing Idris’ website today, I see he received a prestigious award. Very proud of him! He writes, “Passionate about cultivating new audiences in the arts, Idris is The Director of The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, the first Black man to hold the position in its 100 year history.

Idris Goodwin: Director of The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, the first Black man to hold the position in its 100 year history.
Idris Goodwin: Director of The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, the first Black man to hold the position in its 100 year history. [source]

Which is it? The first black man or the first Black man. Words matter. Idris laughed at me at the time. Shortly after pointing this out, the AP changed their style guidelines, along with the Black journalist professional writers association. If race matters, then how we write about race matters. Idris got my point. Congratulations !!!

My wife is of Mexican American heritage. I recruited her brother and Felicia to assist me in a Clean Indoor Air campaign. Teaming up with people from all backgrounds, we successfully passed legislation to end cigarette smoking indoor and in public areas.

Had worked with Felicia when she was in high school at the Albuquerque Academy. I was interested in encouraging young women, particularly females of Latina background, to engage confidently and competently in politics.

Guess I’m partially responsible for her actions today! However, I’m unclear where and when her hatred for America developed. Felicia lived a charmed and privileged life. I wrote an online review of her book [Amazon deleted 4.25.22].

Felicia is a cousin-in-law ... worked with her socially and politically when she was a high school student at one of the finest private schools in the nation, Albuquerque Academy. She lived a privileged life surrounded by wonderful and loving parents, loyal friends, and vibrant social networks. She comes from the luckiest and most blessed 1% of America.

After a successful high school tenure, she earned a scholarship to Wellesley College. First time she had ever been away from home, and for those who understand Hispanic culture, young Felicia leaving her mother was intensely challenging. By the end of the first semester, she had collapsed. She fled the campus and has never been the same.

She's been filled with hatred since that time. She's incredibly bright, talented and gifted, but denounces the very culture that gave her the keys to a world of opportunity that few ... White, Black or Brown ... can access. Sad when we work so hard to love and spoil our children yet see them turn around and eat their family.

Added new Amazon review 4.26.22 [source]

Felicia Chavez is my cousin-in-law. Worked with her politically during my PhD program in political science at the University of New Mexico. Could say I was first to introduce her to activism. Felicia comes from a healthy, happy middle class lifestyle; was fortunate to attend Albuquerque Academy, an expensive and awesome private high school. Few have been so fortunate. 

Felicia's work is extremely disappointing. Believe she met my mother, who taught first grade all her career. My mom worked primarily in a Black-dominated elementary school. She taught ALL children how to read and write. Hours and hours she dedicated. Felicia claims her book is a call to "create healthy, sustainable, and empowering classroom communities." My mother's classrooms -- all classrooms I observed in the '60s, '70s -- were healthy, sustainable and empowering. 

More importantly, I cannot count the number of poor, Black students my mother brought home to live with us. She provided constant tutoring, taught them how to groom, bathe, get proper nutrition. She stayed up late at night pounding on her sewing machine to make these needy children clothes. We were lower middle class but she found the money to fill her car each Monday with breakfast and lunch supplies for hungry kids.

Not sure what made Felicia so angry and self-righteous. Her family and community gave her blessings and opportunities few in America receive -- of any color. Felicia's claim she is "decolonizing" the classroom is an affront to educators across this great nation. Sad when our children eat their families.  

My initial review upset many in the Chavez and Goodwin family. Other cousins skewered me on social media and blamed my wife. I stood before the group to defend my opinions. Many challenged me. None were able to articulate a convincing or reasoned counter argument.

Unfortunately, Felicia refused to discuss the issue with me. Her insecurity leads her to hide behind others. She cancels, rather than communicates. This seems to be the disease of the WOKE generation.

Felicia Chavez is less concerned about objectivity than about pushing her own misguided agenda

Felicia Chavez does not hesitate to play the victim every chance she gets in this book. She acts like every person she's ever known in life turned against her, and the cards have always been stacked against her. While projecting this, she clearly twists situations and facts to fuel her own narrative. For example, at one point she says that it was concluded in 2012 that 90% of the professors in America are White and that this indicated that white people are dominating and controlling the classroom. 2 main issues with this: she cites a non-authoritative source (the "90%" was just something a person had said at one point) and the data as of 2021 shows that only 69% of professors are white (far less than the percentage of the population in the U.S. that is white, which is 76%). She published the book in 2021, so why would she use the outdated, non-authoritative source? Perhaps because that number fits with her narrative FAR better than the truth. She seems to do this with just about every event and data point in the book. She just wants to push her agenda and doesn't seem to be concerned with what's right.

Understanding Systemic Racism

I grew up surrounded in Black culture. My mother taught first grade at a predominantly Black school in our small community. She was heroic. She passed in 2015, but I’m certain Felicia’s book would have saddened her. There was no racism in her classroom — although there were students of many races.

My mom teaching children to read, Trouble With Money. This classic Berenstain Bears story is a perfect way to teach children about the importance of being responsible with money!
My mom teaching children to read, “Trouble With Money.” This classic Berenstain Bears story is a perfect way to teach children about the importance of being responsible with money!

The biggest threat to her students was poverty. Most students in her classes were poor. Unlike children living in wealthier areas, these children had few books in their home. Most came to school each day without eating breakfast. Many went to bed hungry at night.

Many were not properly groomed or wore old, torn clothes. Many also had poor personal hygiene habits. They might be in need of a bath or simply to have their teeth brushed. White, Black, Native American, Mexican American … her students were mixed in color but similar in poverty.

My mom didn’t need Felicia’s How To on anti-racism. My mother WAS anti-racism. Her fight was against poverty. Color of skin doesn’t hold a child back. Poverty strips human beings of their dignity.

My mom didn’t write a book. She wrote grants to the federal government to get assistance for her hungry students. She launched both Head Start and Follow Through in our state. She used books like the classic Berenstain Bears story to teach kids the importance of being responsible with money.

My mom started on her mission to reach and teach her students by filling her car each Monday morning — with groceries. Both my parents were teachers and we didn’t have a lot of money. However, my mom found a way to stretch our family budget for five into twenty-five.

Cereals, milk, juice, bread to fill empty stomachs. Many weeks she would bring a student home to live with us. She would sit on the couch in our living room after dinner to tutor a struggling child. She was amazing! After watching her so many years, I can teach any child to read.

Read and read and read. However, her energy wasn’t narrowly focused on academics. She taught her Black boys and girls how to comb their nappy hair. She worked with our family dentist and taught them how to properly brush their teeth. She taught the importance of bathing daily and thoroughly.

At night, long after I went to bed, she would pound on her sewing machine to mend or make clothes for her needy students. She didn’t call our nation racist. She erased lines of racial inequality through love, compassion and education. And, she taught discipline.

My mom had “the look.” Didn’t need to say much. She simply turned toward the misbehaving child — or one of her own children — tilted her head, and fixed her stare, “What did I tell you to do?” I never witnessed anyone backtalk her. I certainly didn’t.

White, Black, Brown or Native, there was no privilege of race or status or family or wealth around my mom. All were equal — all could be equally successful. And in her class, all her students discovered their potential.

My mom was strict. She also was love. She taught her children and students to “be better.” Both my parents demanded excellence in every pursuit. Many adults believe this way. However, my mom was there side-by-side to catch us if we tripped, “Good try. You can do it. Do it again!” Over and over and over … always praising … until we reached the goal.

Many teachers, parents, coaches and business managers fail in this process. Let me give an example. Imagine you’re back in 6th grade, about 12 years of age. An adult has tasked you to shovel snow off the driveway.

The common method is to hand you a shovel and walk away. Not my mom. She would give you a shovel and say, “Show me how strong you are.” You push about two feet into the snow and stop. “Excellent. Nice job. That’s a lot of snow. You’re very strong. Can you do it again?”

At each step, she would take the time to praise the small accomplishment. Many managers focus solely on completing the entire task. If one doesn’t do it, wrong! Failure and negativity. There’s a lot of risk to the individual and little reward.

Each effort was a victory around my mom. If she assigned a student to read a sentence in front of the class, each word was a victory. “The cat …” Excellent! “The cat is brown …” Very good. Keep going. “The cat is brown with a bbbbb …” Sound it out. You know this word. “The cat is brown with a bbbuuussshhy tail.” Fantastic. Way to go!!! Didn’t I tell you that you are very smart? Big smiles from all her students!

There were no racial lines, no social identity stereotypes, no walls or barriers to success. She lifted ALL boats in her classroom. She valued each student as a unique human being with a world of potential in front of them.

There was racism in her world. When she gave birth to me, my father was on college scholarship in Mississippi. Black athletes could not be on the team. They had never witnessed direct racism. The policy traumatized them and they left Mississippi as soon as they graduated.

I grew up in the angry ’60s filled with racial strife and unrest. My parents walked in their community in support of Dr. King. Racism was not tolerated in any fashion around our family.

My confused cousin believes she wrote something WOKE and new. My mom taught an anti-racism curriculum all her career — a campaign against poverty.

Today, the wealthy have convinced privileged elites in America to battle over color of skin, social identity and our heritage. We divide and fight, while they have become the richest people in human history. My mom knew the real challenge in the ’60s. Sadly, my gifted cousin and her adorable husband were not in her class.

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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”

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