Roberto Mónico is a new assistant professor this fall in the Department of Critical Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Cal Poly Humboldt. He is one of many recently hired faculty and has been teaching for the past four years. This semester he’s teaching ES 105: Intro to U.S. Ethnic Studies and CRGS
390: Theories and Methods. Next spring he will be teaching ES 105 again and ES 308: Multi-Ethnic Resistance (U.S.).
Mónico was born and raised in Los Angeles and is the youngest of four in a Salvadoran family. He grew up as a teenager in West Hollywood during a time period of subcultures and heightened policing.
“I remember being pulled over twice in one day, two separate times four or five hours apart when I was growing up and then I internalized this— thinking that this is just the way it is,” Mónico said. “You don’t question it. You just think that this is how it is growing up in LA. When I finally went back to school, I went back to LA community college and then I transferred to UC Berkeley as an undergrad. I was a nontraditional student. I was in my thirties and then, it was very serendipitous, I met a lot of people
from communities that were hyper policed and that had spent long times in prison.”
Mónico has a doctorate in comparative enthnic studies from the University of Colorado Boulder with an emphasis in critical race theory and carceral studies. Mónico’s research specifically focuses on the criminalization of African Americans and people of Mexican descent from the LAPD during the 1950s-60s. He also looks at how the prison industrial complex affects Black and Brown communities as a
whole, not just the inmates but also their families.
“Liberty in the sense of trying to discover where one’s place was at the height of graffiti was taking off, hip hop had just exploded—- coupled with the heightened police,” Mónico said.
That is how Mónico described growing up in LA during a time period of high policing. Growing up
experiencing hyper policing and then going to college and meeting other people who had been hyper policed or had been formerly incarcerated led Mónico to researching this topic. It’s this expertise that will make him instrumental to the future Pelican Bay Project.
The Pelican Bay Project is a plan in which Cal Poly Humboldt will offer bachelor’s degrees to people incarcerated in Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California. The plan is for Mónico to work closely with this project. He will also be working with Project Rebound which offers higher education
to formerly incarcerated peoples.
“His research includes legal policy, law enforcement history, and the prison industrial complex, so he’s really really dedicated to supporting people who have endured hyper policing and the prison industrial complex,” said Professor Ramona Bell, chair of the CRGS department. “He’s worked with the Underground Scholars Initiative, California Prison Focus, the Prison Activist Resource Center. So we’re really looking forward to his expertise.”
Mónico would like his students to know that one of the things his classroom is about is community building and expressing thought. He is going to have students answer questions with the hope that they build off of each other’s answers. Mónico wants students to do as much as they can to speak up.
“What’s important is once you leave my classroom after 16 weeks, I want you to be a critical thinker,” Mónico said. “Not only with ethnic studies but just how you view the world.”