My homie Ofelia Cuevas sat spellbound before the CIA recruitment video that folks are still fussing about a week later. The video featured a black suited, code-switching, Latina with plenty of attitude—the kind of attitude Ofelia likes to inspire in her Ethnic Studies students at the University of California, Davis. The confident, thirtysomething woman in the video also wore pumps and big golden hoop earrings. Many a working-class homegirl wears the earrings as a way of embracing their inner Aztec warrior goddess in the parts of the Southwestern United States, like California, that used to be called Mexico. Ofelia and I grew up around fierce, young women who sported hoop earrings back in the 1980s, just before I decided to join war against a US-backed fascist military dictatorship in El Salvador.
She listened intently as the video’s violin music crescendoed to the moment when the intense, unnamed Latina delivered the fury of her message in incantatory tones:
I am a woman of color. I am a mom. I am a cisgender millennial who’s been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I am intersectional.
“At first,” Ofelia, a scholar of race and media, told me, “I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke. But as I kept watching, I thought, ‘Oh my God—it’s real.’” She added: “The fucking CIA is trying to be ‘woke.’”
Debates about intersectional empire are just beginning. I recently noticed this through a picture making the rounds on Twitter. It shows four Navy servicemen standing, in battle gear, before a helicopter with a rainbow flag draped on it. The tweet says, “History was made on Friday with the first ever all gay @USNavy helicopter crew.” I see the grey banality of the helicopters and can’t imagine it would’ve made any difference to the peasants bombed in El Salvador whether there were rainbow flags on them.