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Max Miloslavsky

Professor Frances Negron-Muntaner

Introduction to Ethnic Studies

23 October 2017

Midterm

Part 1: Prompt 1

The emergence of ethnic studies in academia started with the 1968 strike at San Francisco

state. In order to better understand what lead to the strike we have to go back even further and

look at the text of the time. During the second world war, Many of the jobs that men held were

eventually taken over by women because most men were drafted to fight in the war. After the

war, both men of color and white were now looking for jobs. Of those jobs the majority were

given to white men. The unemployment rate was at 30%, which only exacerbated racial tensions

in society. This tension eventually built up and created the civil rights movement and one of the

outcomes of the civil rights movement was the movement to create ethnic studies programs, the

first of which were at San Francisco State. The fight was not an easy one, most demonstrations

were met with violence and retaliation. One of the reasons this fight was not simple was because

the problem was ingrained in the power structure. One example of the power structure was the

inner city tracking system which began determining the faith of students academic future from

the third grade. This created a cycle where students of color would more often than not end up in

the lower tier of the system.

The first wave of ethnic studies began at San Francisco State in 1969. During this period

of time, even though the outcome was an ethnic studies department in San Francisco State, it

didnt make a huge impact across the US in terms of academia. The second wave of ethnic
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studies was during the 1990s and that is when a majority of colleges adopted an ethnic studies

program into their curriculum. This newly emerging development of ethnic studies in the world

of academia is in part due to the rainbow coalition. The reason for calling this coalition

rainbow was in part due to fact it combined people of many races including people of Asian,

Black, Native American, and Latino origin. At this point in history immigration to the US had

increasing allowing these groups to have more power. This coalition wanted proper

representation in the academic community and for their cultures to be taught in schools to be

included alongside eurocentric studies.

The banning of ethnic studies in Arizona was trying to eliminate the outreach to the

Mexican-American community. Lawmakers in Arizona intended to just shut down the Mexican-

American studies program at Tucson Unified School District but making it a state law forbid the

teaching of ethnic studies at all Arizona public schools. The importance of the ethnic studies

program kept students interested in school because they were able to learn about the experiences

and culture of their ancestors. When the case of constitutionality of banning ethnic studies was

seen by a court "Both enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus," federal

Judge A. Wallace Tashima said in the ruling (Julie Depenbrock).

The history of the fight for ethnic studies as well as current events like the intent to ban

ethnic studies in schools speaks a lot to the culture we live in. If we even think more globally and

think about the prejudized minorities in the world we can see that even though it may seem that

the world has made progress in righting the wrongs to those that were once persecuted for their

ethnicity there is still a long way to go. Higher education is known in society as the great

equalizer in theory allowing people from less affluent families (socioeconomic and racial groups)

get ahead which is not entirely true but the addition of ethnic studies can help bridge this gap by
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exposing these injustices and creating a space for people to discuss the geopolitical, social, and

economic issues affected by them.

Part 2: Prompt 2

As seen by my response to the history of Ethnic Studies it was not an easy process. One

important example that exemplifies this was the fight for ethnic studies in Columbia. Columbias

ethnic studies program came about during the second wave of ethnic studies. It was pretty

informative to hear Professor Marcel Ageros experience about this want for change on the

Columbia Campus and the resistance from the administration.

Having an Ethnic Studies program in NYC seems pretty obvious but people also have to

keep in mind that Columbia is a private institution that led of those of Anglo backgrounds which

explains why CUNY had a Puerto Rican Studies program decades before Columbia (Negrn-

Muntaner 9/12). In order for the administration to listen to the demands of the students in its

student body, the students had to create a coalition of non-white students who wanted an

education outside of the Eurocentric one they were getting. Even with this coalition there

message wasnt being heard, the students resorted to their final plan, Hunger Strike. Eventually

the demand for an Ethnic Studies Program was met but by this point many of the students

involved had faced a significant drop in their grades and physical health.

For a long time in Columbia history, The Core, was known for being a Columbia specific

program to emphasize the importance of the humanities in its student body. The Core, as we

know it today, combines Global Core, Contemporary Civilization, Literature, Music, and Art

Humanities. The addition of Global Core to the Core Curriculum is fairly recently and came

about from critics that the curriculum was focused on European Ideology and thoughts and

neglected those of other cultures. Even with the addition of this requirement the majority of the
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courses we take our focused on the history of the white and that in itself is a form of white

supremacy.

Even today, after the Global Core has been a part of the Core for many years it is still

seen as a less important subject then the rest of the Core classes both by the students and

administration. One example of this was when I had my Engineering Transfer Students meeting

and we were told that we have to pick either Literature Humanities, or Contemporary

Civilization or the Global Core. Most of the students were planning to go the route of global core

to as they would say take the easy way out and our advisor instead of rebutting that

misconception his only response was You should think about taking either Contemporary

Civilizations or Literature Humanities because those are the classes that put Columbia on the

map and make Columbia great. This shows you the mentality of the administration to change

and the viewing as the addition global core as just busy work. I, as a student, choose to follow

global core not because I thought that one track is easier than the other, I choose it because I

believe people should be able to think not just locally but globally and to be able to empathize

and sympathize with people who are not like them which is especially important in this newly

globalized world which I do not feel was an achievable goal by the old core.

Both examples show how the university is unable to empathize with the idea that they

are not the only people affected by the decisions taken by them. Yes, the school itself has over

the years diversified itself and its curriculum but forgets that it itself takes up the space that was

originally residential. When considering the expansion of the school, Columbia fails to consider

the residential community that happens to be primarily minorities the same way as shown by

history it has failed to take into consideration the desire of students to learn about the history and

ethnic studies of group marginalized in the US and abroad. The best example of this is the
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expansion of Columbia into a part of Harlem, that it calls Manhattanville. Columbia is set to

acquire this land through eminent domain which is the right of a government or its agent to

expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation. The controversy is

should Columbias expansion qualify? Does it benefit the residential area for which it would be

placed? Does it even benefit NYC as a whole?

The main argument against the expansion of the Columbia Campus is that Harlem is

historically linked to history of Black America and that expanding will allow for the

disappearance of the historic importance while gentrifying the area for the use of upper class

citizens who mostly happen to be of Anglo descent. The university argues that it need more

space to compete with the other Ivy League schools who have more than double the space of

Columbia. The way the article portrays Columbias dilemma makes it seem that Columbia is

doing this without any consideration for anyone when in fact it does benefit the students of

Columbia.

Ultimately I do believe Columbia can make a case that expanding will add to the

community and will provide a public good but the government should not be able to use eminent

domain to accomplish that goal. The main reason I believe Columbia shouldnt be allowed to use

eminent domain is because Columbia is a private institution where a majority of the students are

not from NYC, if the need for more education in NYC is needed eminent domain should be used

in order to expand or build a CUNY which would guarantee enrollment from NYC residents.

Part 2: Prompt 3

Both Fanon and DuBois take us on a journey to try to summarize the experience of the

black person in society. The difference in their narratives comes from the perspective they

looked at society from. Fanon saw the world through the eyes of a second class citizen while
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even though the color of DuBois skin was the same he was able to see the world through what

he calls a double veil. The concept of the double veil that DuBois sees through is in reference to

how DuBois is black but he is part of a minority within the upper class giving him the ability to

view both perspectives. While I feel Fanons ideal were more based on the differentiation of the

two ethnicities, how white supremacy affected the black people, and what black people should

do to confront the issue.

Fanon himself is a psychiatrist so he is able to analyze the behavior of people. From his

work I felt that the most powerful statement was there are too many idiots in this world

(Fanon, 1). In the context of the piece, he is not associating knowledge with book smarts but

rather the ability to empathize with others. All people are different but for the most part all

people have the same goal in life, to be prosperous. It seems like such a simple concept, but still

to this day people cant seem to wrap their head around it. Fanon also discusses the theme of

voluntary ethnic separation which again leads back to this idea of building empathy and

sympathy for each others experiences within the racial groups. These ideas are built by having

dialogues with each other and it can not be done if this voluntary isolationism exist in the

society. Another reason for this endless cycle of white supremacy is best summarized by Mans

tragedy, Nietzsche said, is that he was once a child. (Fanon 4) A persons beliefs about the

structure of society is developed in youth. While a child, the child himself can not analyze

behaviors and has to therefore take the word of their parents when they describe how the world

works. This only adds to constant cycle that is the economic and social inferiority of the black

man. The idea of reality, has to be understood as that of one's own observation to the objective

world subjectively and that is also the same methodology that needs to be considered when

studying ethnic studies as well as any other social science.


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DuBois unlike felt was able to experience both the black community as well as the upper

class (mainly white) community. The common themes associated with DuBois piece include his

interpretation of the color line/veil/double consciousness. As noted by Fanon, after emancipation

there was voluntary isolationist attitude between former freed slaves and their former white

superiors. This phenomena is what DuBois called the color line. Most people during that time

period were either on one side or the other. DuBois coming from an Aristocratic family was able

to see the world through both perspectives and he was able to switch based on the circumstances

which he called the veil . This confusing paradoxical logic of DuBois being able to empathize

with the people of both world also made him feel that he actually belonged to none. a world

which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation

of the other world(DuBois 2). This idea of the inability to combine two identities together into

one person is seen today as well. When people immigrate to the US they feel they have to give

up a part of their former culture to avoid being in a state of perverse doubleness, not being able

to fully understand either group.

Like Fanon, he sees that race is used to stratify people into categories Based on how

human they think you are. Unlike Fanon, who believes that the black people of this nation

should rise up and show their humanity to that white who show doubt that black people have

any, DuBois believes that the Top Tenth are the people who should fight for the right of all

black people in the country. Even from this statement it is seen that DuBois has a disconnect

with the majority of the black community, that is severely impoverish and uneducated not

because there isnt a desire to be better but because of the social system.

This is where I feel the best approach is to include all of the black community and the

issues that face by fighting for all interlocked issues that coincide with race. One of which
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Kimberle Crenshaw describes in Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and

Violence Against Women of Color. Being exclusive based on the knowledge of a particular sect

of your ethnic group weakens the platform because there are less people fighting for the issue.

DuBois idea would in practice only be able to fight for the rights and issues of Aristocratic

black people in the country whereas they wont be able to fight for those who need to gain the

most in order to create a better equal society not just one where aristocrats have rights.

In conclusion, Both Fanon and DuBois do see a difference between black and white but

they put the different ethnic groups in a bigger umbrella, human. This difference needs to be

understood and accepted for the greater good of the American Republic. Part of this acceptance

will be the freedom for black people to work, think, love and aspire to be better. They hope that

the past and present will not deter the future but help build it.

Crenshaw, Kimberle. Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and

Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review, vol. 43, no. 6, 1991, p. 1241.,

doi:10.2307/1229039.

Depenbrock, Julie. Federal Judge Finds Racism Behind Arizona Law Banning Ethnic

Studies. NPR, NPR, 22 Aug. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/08/22/545402866/federal-

judge-finds-racism-behind-arizona-law-banning-ethnic-studies.

DuBois, et al. The souls of black folk. Restless Books, 2017.

Fanon, Frantz. Black skin, white mask. Grove Press, 1967.

Hu-Dehart, Evelyn. Ethnic Studies in Higher Education (Perspectives in Education).

Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education, doi:10.4135/9781452218533.n269.


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Pilkington, Ed. Harlem takes on university in battle of town versus gown. The

Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 20 Nov. 2007,

www.theguardian.com/world/2007/nov/20/highereducation.architecture.