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Linda Chavez: 1947—: Civil Rights Advocate, Columnist, Commentator

Deemed "not Minority Enough"

A major factor in Chavez's decision to attend the University of Colorado was a young Jewish man named Christopher Gersten, whom she'd begun dating shortly after high school. Also an ardent supporter of the civil rights movement, Gersten persuaded her to join him as a student in Boulder. The couple were married in a Jewish synagogue in 1967. Although Chavez has said she still considers herself a Catholic, reports persist that she converted to Judaism before her marriage to Gersten. Chavez and Gersten, who heads the Institute for Religious Values, live on a nine-acre farm in Loudon County, Virginia, not far from the nation's capital. They have three children—David, Pablo, and Rudy—and two grandchildren.

Chavez developed further misgivings about affirmative action in 1970 when she applied for a Ford Foundation graduate fellowship for Mexican-American students. She was flown to New York to be vetted by an evaluation panel but later recalled that the interview went badly almost from the start. In introducing herself to the interviewers, Chavez told how she'd grown up in a working class family, worked her way through college, and helped launch an affirmative action program for Hispanic students at Boulder. After she'd concluded her remarks, one of the interviewers commented on how well she spoke English. In an interview posted at the SUPA website, she recalled "He seemed surprised, despite the fact I was about to begin graduate work in English literature! One of the other interviewers then began speaking to me in Spanish, which I don't speak. But the worst part was their reaction to my Graduate Record Exam scores, which they seemed to believe were too high to qualify me as a bona fide minority worthy of their help."

Although she failed in her bid to win the Ford Foundation fellowship, Chavez went ahead with her plans to pursue a graduate degree in English literature, enrolling at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Once again, she became involved in a program to tutor affirmative action students from the Hispanic community. Assigned to teach a course on Chicano literature, Chavez initially resisted, protesting the lack of available published material. When she was pressured to go ahead with the course, she put together the most appropriate reading list she could but then met resistance from students, many of whom refused to read the assigned books and otherwise disrupted her classes. The situation hit a low point when her home was vandalized by a handful of students she had failed in the course. In 1972 she and her husband, who had also abandoned a short-lived career as a teacher, moved to Washington, D.C.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyLinda Chavez: 1947—: Civil Rights Advocate, Columnist, Commentator Biography - Difficult Childhood Lead To Early Action, Deemed "not Minority Enough", Experienced Political Transformation, Advanced Conservative Causes