Ethnic studies builds bridges not walls


Siobhan Eagen

Illustration by Siobhán Eagen

Pamela Estrada

The dust has settled, the strike is over and the demands have been compromised and for what will be 51 years—SF State has been the host of one of the first College of Ethnic Studies. As we ponder and possibly take it for granted, California is deciding whether ethnic studies will be a requirement for the Fall 2020-2021 school year.

This may simply pass our minds because we are constantly being told the history of this campus and for others it may mean just a little more but bear with me. Before it becomes a fleeting thought ready to banish just remember that the purpose of ethnic studies was and continues to be inclusion, access and representation of people of color within a narrative that for so long was very one sided.

As the decade takes a turn, it is now our time to care that the decision to make ethnic studies a requirement comes to pass in the state of California. It is our turn to stand against systematic discrimination by ensuring,as a whole, we are educated and aware of those around us.

“Awareness leads to seeking more knowledge about the histories that we haven’t been told, the histories that haven’t been shared,” said Race and Resistance profe AA Valdivia. “The acknowledgement that we are all human and we are all deserving of having our voices heard. The underrepresented people have not been heard thus why we have something called ethnic studies.” 

Representation is very important, something the Black Student Union, Third World Liberation Front, and all those involved in establishing SF State’s College of Ethnic Studies understood. It allows us to know and understand our roots and culture.

“It will be a small step towards understanding the diversity of people we have here in the state of California. It’s a small step but it shouldn’t be the final step,” said Valdivia.

The brilliance within the establishment of the College of Ethnic Studies lies in the requirement that each department must require their students to take a course in the other departments. We live in a world where we interact with many cultures —understanding where we all come from will allow for bridges to be built between us rather than walls.

“Not just students of color but also white students benefit tremendously, academically and socially from learning about different communities and shared struggles. It’s an important role in building an inclusive multicultural democracy,” said Jamal Dajani, a Race and Resistance professor at SF State. “Especially if this is our aspiration in the United States as a diverse community to learn about other communities and avoid the othering that we have been witnessing specially recently under the current administration and rise of white supremacy.”

It is evident that education of ethnic studies is important and students on campus make it clear that they think so too but now it’s time California knew it too.

 “What is really valuable about ethnic studies is that it looks at a broad spectrum of what is going on around the globe any given time and how that is influencing history and the modern era and I think that, that mind frame is really valuable and until we can make it so that all our courses are taught from that perspective I think that having ethnic studies courses be a requirement is a really valuable step,” said Maya Hacke-Sedillo a senior at SF State. “One narrative of history, economics, politics, art and literature is not enough. We don’t live in a vacuum where everyone is the same and it’s time to honor that as well as study it and celebrate it.”