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AB1460: A Fight for Ethnic Studies

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by Ivan Salinas

In the spring of 2017, CSU Chancellor Timothy White distributed Executive Order 1100 across the 23 CSU campuses for comments and consultation, this was the beginning of the CSU system’s latest attack on Ethnic Studies. The executive order would remove the Cross-Cultural Competency GE Requirement where students had to take six units, two classes, that discussed race, gender, and/or class in order to graduate. Many of the classes offered in Ethnic Studies departments would fulfill this requirement.

Students and faculty began to demonstrate throughout the 23 campuses in response to the chancellor’s decision as many considered this to be detrimental to the Ethnic Studies departments which included four historically defined racialized core groups: Chicana/o Studies, Africana Studies, American Indian Studies, and Asian American Studies.

One of the first major demonstrations at CSUN occurred in Fall of 2017, when several students organized a week of action, walking out in the middle of class and boycotting purchases from campus stores. I was starting my sophomore year at CSUN, and although I was taking many general education courses in the Chicana/o Studies department, many of the professors had not brought up the issue in class. This issue became more visible once the students began organizing outside of classroom halls. It was the first time I joined a protesting march. 

Stevie Ruiz, an Assistant Professor of Chicano/a Studies at CSUN has been on the frontline of the struggle to undo what Chancellor White and his administration had done to Ethnic Studies departments. “We were trying to undo the harm that was done by the executive orders and we were invited by [Pan-African Studies Professor] Melinah Abdullah from CSULA as she had seen the attention we were getting,” said Ruiz “Our faculty voted against the executive order three times. But CSU Chancellor insisted on the implementation and [CSUN president] Dianne Harrison implemented it.”

In December of 2018, CSUN faculty senate voted 44 to 20 against the implementation of Chancellor White’s  executive orders and a 32 to 26 vote of no confidence in President Dianne Harrison.  I was outside of the Oviatt library joining professor Stevie Ruiz and student protesters who were denied entry to the senate faculty meeting. At the time I was working as assistant culture editor at The Sundial, although I was not assigned to write a story, I was there for support. By then I firmly believed the CSU administration was enforcing a system that would only hurt ethnic studies faculty. This was also the time I began to be more involved in MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan), where I learned more of the history of student activism. In fact, CSUN students were arrested in the 1960s for demanding ethnic studies colleges to be implemented in the university. 50 years later, a new generation of students were reminding the administration of the struggles people of color have had to endure to receive a higher education. However, these demands were not enough to ensure that the executive orders would not affect the future of ethnic studies.  

Ruiz explained that student and faculty coalitions found a new strategy, switching gears to save ethnic studies from disappearing on the curriculum through legislation. Dr. Shirley Weber introduced Assembly Bill 1460, a California Law that would require all students attending a CSU to take one class on Ethnic Studies in either Chicana/o Studies, Africana Studies, American Indian Studies, or Asian American Studies before they graduate. Dr. Weber, a California State Representative,was a Pan-African Studies Professor at San Diego State for over 30 years and understood the importances of education on historically racialized communities.

“This is her work. She was elected in San Diego as a voice of the marginalized, including the marginalized faculty in the CSU’s,” said Ruiz.“She’s not jumping into a conversation, but rather someone who’s done the work about this. Weber has shown us how to be diligent in how to advocate for policy. I hope that we can get stuff done. The real change is going to be at the local level.”

AB 1460, which passed and was written into law on August 17 corrects the watered down CSU Cross-Cultural Competency GE Requirement where students could take classes that discussed race outside of the Ethnic Studies. Now Students graduating in the 2024-25 academic take a minimum of three units within the four core Ethnic Studies departments in order to graduate. On top of this the law also requires all campuses to provide Ethnic Studies courses by fall 2021 and the Ethnic Studies Council and Academic Senate of the California State University must approve the core competencies guidelines before the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.

Throughout the summer of 2020 I became more involved as a student organizer to lobby for AB1460. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to adapt to social distancing organizing.  As a result, we created virtual phone banking sessions and made flyers and infographics to encourage entire communities of California to call district senators and vote in favor of the bill. Once AB1460 passed in the assembly, we then encouraged as many people as possible to call Governor Gavin Newsom’s office to sign AB1460 as soon as it was on his desk. We gained the support of many activists and organizations outside of education platforms to share our infographics on their platforms given that this was an issue that would affect future students of color that would enroll in a CSU. On August 17th, Gavin Newsom signed the bill and AB1460 became part of California law. 

But the CSU Board of Trustees are causing new issues. Ruiz explained they are rushing the process of implementation through an abrupt memo sent by CSU Executive Vice Chancellor Loren Blanchard saying that the full requirement of the law must be effective beginning in fall 2021. 

“We were told in early September we needed to produce the core-competency by Oct. 1st. We have been rushed to meet at all 23 campuses and produce a set of guidelines on how to implement ethnic studies all within less than one month,” said Ruiz. “He’s trying to rush the process so we’re just playing catch-upThis man has demonstrated a record to be anti-ethnic studies. He has not made the issue of a proper racial education a priority. We have been asking if we halt all implementation until we get our new chancellor, so this can be implemented as stated by the law.”

The California Faculty Association released a statement where their Political Action and Legislation Chair Steven Fillings explained in an email that “There is nothing in the law that would require the drastically accelerated timeline proposed by the memo.  There is nothing in the law that would require that ethnic studies courses meeting the learning outcomes requirements be offered in Fall 2021. There is nothing in the law that would require an immediate revision to EO 1100.”

I am currently in my final semester to complete my bachelor’s degree. One of the courses I am taking is Chicana/o Studies 261, Race, Racism, & The Sciences with prof. Stevie Ruiz. His class addresses how people of color have been subject to scientific experimentation and deemed as “inferior” due to our race and even refused us our rights of citizenship. However, the class also offers different ways that we can engage with this information in order to fix these systemic issues.

This moment in United State history, has proven that all residents in America need Ethnic Studies to understand the disparities affecting communities of color such as policing and environmental issues affecting all four communities, especially when the president continues to spread racist rhetoric and the push for a “patriotic” curriculum.

“The Trump administration has belittled the stance of race with a colorblind ideology widely endorsed by left and right-winged groups. They have taken a blind side to talk about racial inequity. We don’t know how his policies are going to shape ethnic studies in the future,” said Ruiz.

Mom Guilt: Going to College

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by Daniella Flores

Moms feel guilty if they focus on anything else other than their children. As I’m finishing my CSU applications, I received good news. My partner and I were expecting our third child. I had acceptance letters from different Universities, yet I asked myself, do I hold off a year or so to focus on my newborn child? Or should I continue to work towards my bachelor’s degree? Does that make me selfish if I choose to take classes? Moms worry that they won’t be able to balance time with school and family time. In my case, I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough time with my newborn child.

As I began my first year at the University of Cal State Northridge, three days later my baby boy was born. The question that moms ask themselves are, how can I balance motherhood and be a student?  Will I feel guilty focusing on class lectures and homework instead of being with my baby?  In the article, “Motherly” the text says, “the lie that if you are a mother you shouldn’t be doing anything else and that if you are that your children are somehow not getting everything they need from you”. This a complete lie that a lot of moms can’t see. Society and Culture add mom guilt for spending time on yourself. You can go to school and still be a good mom. You can spend time with your children and then work on your research paper.  

How do I balance my time with online lectures, doing homework, studying, postpartum, and a newborn? I don’t. There’s no such thing as balancing school and being a parent. But we try our best. I continue to go to school, be a good mother to my children, spend sleepless nights and spend my days multitasking with breastfeeding and doing homework. This doesn’t make us moms less of a mom. In fact, it should make us stronger mentally and physically. Because how cool is it that we choose to work on something that we like while we get to take care of little humans. In the article “Quartz at Work”, the author Lauren Groff was asked a question, “how you manage work and family?’ The author replied with saying ‘until I see a male writer get asked this question, I’m going to respectfully decline to answer”.  For the majority part (compared to men) women get shamed for returning to work or returning to school after having a baby or spending time with girlfriends and night outs. Yet, you hardly hear someone shaming a dad saying he’s working too many hours. Mom guilt has stopped many moms to pursue with their academic plans or careers or simply staying sane. 

I’m not saying to ignore your children and focus on school. What I’m saying is prioritize your children, but work towards what you want to accomplish. According to the article “Motherly”, “it’s okay to be a mother and a student. It’s okay to have playtime and homework time. It’s okay to work hard at being a mother and work hard at being in school”. School is hard as it is, let’s not stress over “mom guilt”. I say prioritize your children because at the end of the day everything we do, including our academic plans and career, is for our children. 

“What to the [African American] is the Fourth of July?”

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by Katarina Machmer, Special to El Popo News Online from Germany

Ms. Machmer was an exchange student from Germany who wrote for El Popo News Online.

What does the 4th of July mean for black people in the U.S.? Frederick Douglass, a former slave, abolitionist and author, asked this question in a speech he held in 1852.

On the national holiday, the U.S. celebrates the values trumpeted in the constitution – freedom, justice, and equality for all. In reality, however, the country was founded on something else. It was founded on the back of slaves whose labor let capitalism thrive and established the nation as we know it today. While they were exploited and plundered, white Americans proudly declared to live in the “land of the free and the brave.” For African Americans, the promises made in the constitution of the United States never came true. Nonetheless, they are still celebrated each and every year on July 4th

So, what does this holiday mean for African Americans in 2020? What does it mean for other minorities in the U.S. who are also facing discrimination, exclusion, and injustices? What does it mean amid waves of demonstrations flooding the country and the whole world, with protestors fighting for the justice African Americans have never experienced but always especially deserved?

The death of the black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer has made people all over the globe go on the streets and demand an end to systemic racism. In Germany, where I live, media have even debated about whether the situation in the U.S., which served as a catalyst for all the activism worldwide, would end in a civil war-like scenario. America currently appears to be a volcano – one that has finally erupted after a period of subliminal simmering. Looking at it from the outside, the tumultuous sixties seem to be back, and with them the rebellion against racial oppression. In addition, the country fights another war. It fights against the coronavirus, which – here we go again – disproportionally affects African Americans. Black people are at a much higher risk to catch the virus than white Americans are, for example because they work jobs which can’t be done from home. The economic situation of African Americans, however, is only one of many examples that can be traced back to the results of plunder and oppression at the hands of white people.

That said, the 4th of July 2020 again reveals a hypocritical democracy, one that isn’t accessible to every U.S. citizen. The holiday means to live in a country infested with racism. In addition to the issues the coronavirus causes African Americans are continuously targeted and killed by the police. Police brutality has always been disproportionally exercised towards African Americans. Now, the demonstrations finally shed light on this injustice. But while many are in solidarity with the protestors, there are still a lot of people who do not see the systemic racism that African Americans are exposed to, or they entirely ignore it. Many even deliberately fight this problem’s recognition, advocating for racist campaigns hash tagged #Whitelivesmatter. Even posts like #Alllivesmatter are problematic in the context of the demonstrations. Yes, all lives matter, but Black Lives Matter protests are happening because it’s black people who are being targeted.

In 2020, the 4th of July is celebrated in a country whose president planned to hold his rally in the city of Tulsa where mobs massacred several hundred black people in 1921. The rally should take place shortly after George Floyd’s death. It should even take place on the black community’s actual, but unofficial and unfortunately widely unknown holiday: Juneteenth, the day to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. This day has not become a national holiday so far.

It must be acknowledged, though, that while the place selected for the Trump rally in June had the capacity to host 19000 people, only 6200 came. So maybe there is hope. America won’t suddenly, maybe not even eventually, live up to its ideals. The country still has a long way to go in this respect – and it will only have a chance to arrive if it reckons with its past, as the African American journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in his call for reparations black people should receive. But there is hope for an America which tries harder. The demonstrations have led politicians to think about and enact police reforms, although it is a slow process. The activism and the solidarity shown around the world are amazingly powerful. However, in Oakland, while there were still Black Lives Matter protestors in the streets, the 23-year old Latino Eric Salgado was shot for driving an allegedly stolen car. Most probably, the situation would have turned out differently would he have been white.

What is celebrated on July 4th is nothing but an image, because America is still far from providing justice and equality for all. But the country, and the world, is in a turmoil, and this is likely to bring about further significant changes.

In the 1960s, Joan Baez, covering Bob Dylan’s protest song “Blowin’ in the Wind”, sang:

“How many years must some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
And how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

In the same decade, a period which in many respects closely resembles our modern times, Sam Cooke sang “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Let’s hope he is finally right. 

CSUN Department of Chicana/o Studies Statement In Solidarity with Black Lives Matter!

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There are times that voices need to rise to articulate what is already certain. 

We the faculty and staff of the Department of Chicana/o Studies at California State University, Northridge emphatically restate and reaffirm our support and uncompromising solidarity for and with our Black sisters and brothers. Our department owes much to the bold Black students who faced extreme violence and repression while leading a movement that resulted in the establishment of the Educational Opportunity Program and the founding of the Africana Studies and Chicano/a Studies Departments on our campus. For too long we have seen and personally experienced the white supremacist criminalization of Black and Brown bodies, the predatory nature of the criminal legal system, the bestial nature of policing, and the impunity of police murders. We acknowledge and value the brave stance and mobilization of Black Lives Matter! against repression, suppression, and police murder. We acknowledge that Black Lives Matter! draws specific attention to the plight of Black men and women to live, walk, and breathe free of the threat of violence and murder at the hands of police and we stand in unity with the movement. We See You! We Hear You! We Walk With You! 

`— In Solidarity,  The Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at California State University, Northridge.

My COVID-19 Experience

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by Hector Guardado

Hector Guardado

When I see the Los Angeles County numbers for the coronavirus, I cannot help it but think that I am part of the statistics.

On March 25th,2020, after class was over on Zoom, I started to feel tired and a bit cold that evening. When my body started aching, I took my temperature, and it was at 102 degrees at 10 p.m.

The next eleven days would be the worst, I have felt in my life. Everyday from March 25 until April 5, I was unable to get off my bed. My body ached, my temperature stayed at 102 degrees, my head hurt. I developed a serious cough and any movement I did would make me run out of breath.

My wife said, “this is the worst I have ever seen you.” I also lost the sense of taste and smell. I was ready to give up on life, it felt like it would never end. I did not know what day it was; all I did was sleep to avoid all the pain my body felt.

On April 1, after having my fever for eight days, my lips were turning pale, and my wife was worried that my oxygen level in my body was getting too low, so she took me to the emergency room at Kaiser in Panorama City. My wife even said, “I was worried that you would stop breathing overnight and die on me and I wouldn’t know what to do.” While at Kaiser, my wife was not allowed to go in with me, so she waited in the car while they checked me out. There, they took my temperature, my oxygen level, and asked me a few questions. After those questions, they made me spit into a cup, which turned out to be the coronavirus test. After a couple of hours, the doctor sent me home. I was told I was young enough to fight any symptoms at home.

After two days, on April 3, Kaiser called and told me that I have tested positive for the coronavirus and should quarantine for 14 days, along with everyone that live with me. I was also told to tell everyone that I came in contact with from the 14 days back from my first symptoms. I was told that they might have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Now that I feel a lot better, I realized that trying to get tested for the coronavirus was not as easy as the Mayor or Governor made it seem during the beginning of the pandemic. I had called the doctor multiple times before my testing, and all they said is that I had an infection. Lucky for me, my wife was alert and took me to the emergency room to finally get tested. I am also lucky to have family members drop off food, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper while my family and I were quarantined. To this day, I still have not receive any special medicine or any treatment for the coronavirus, but I finally found out what was truly wrong with me, and now I’m part of the statistics.

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