Jose Casas

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1) Please explain what you do for living.

I am a playwright, and I’m also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Drama at the University of Michigan.

2) How important in your identity is being Latino?

It’s pretty much everything, to tell you the truth. Everything I face in my life, whether it’s my scholarship or my art, is based on my identity. And in doing so, my responsibility, or what I feel is my obligation is to tell the stories of my community. And so, latinidad just permeates through everything that I do. I just think that’s important, especially in these days, to not only recognize our identities but to promote it.

3) Is there something that you particularly value of your nationality or being Latino?

For me, I value that comunidad is such an important part of being Latino. And the way we look at the world is really beautiful, and I love our traditions, and our history. And I also love that our culture is steeped in this idea of activism as well. I usually refer to myself as Latino or Chicano. And so for me something that’s especially important is fighting, in terms of my writing—I’m fighting for justice as well, based on our culture, and our voices to be heard.

4) Have you been treated differently because of being Latino (in the workplace, in public settings…etc.)? If so, can you describe a situation?

Just like a lot of people of color, especially African American men, I think Latinos, and particularly Latino men, when it comes to police and law enforcement such as immigration, I’ve always had—not always—but, I’ve had some very bad experiences with that. And this idea of being stereotyped and profiled has not been a good thing. And I think that’s an issue that I fight to try to fix, or at least address with my art. Even in academic settings, I fight to find spaces for true diversity, equity, and inclusion which is made more difficult because of the entrenched institutional racism. As a Latino, being treated differently, and not with as much respect in a bunch of different ways, and just trying to overcome that and do what I can. But yeah, I definitely as a Latino faculty feel different and underserved. And in theatre as well, because if you look at the demographics of what plays are getting produced, the discrepancy at the larger levels—at like Broadway and regional theatres—the discrepancy between white writers and female writers and writers of color is over 60 percent. So, in every aspect of my life, inequity I think is very apparent. So yeah, being Latino in some ways makes it harder and makes us have to work twice as hard, if not more.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

I just think in terms of being Latino, like I said, it’s always a reminder that we have to work harder to try to get our seat at the table. And I think being Latino also means working as a community to uplift all of us, because many of us, whether it’s in work or academic, feel like we’re the only ones in the room. And so, for me, in terms of being Latino it’s also very much about fighting for representation and equity. That’s something we always unfortunately have to live with.