So, You’re Like… An Ethnic Studies Major… Right?

18 Jul

No! Actually, I’m a History and English double major… and last time I checked Ethnic Studies isn’t an offered Major or Minor at our school. Not to mention the last time I double-checked, “African-American Women Pre-1960” is a part of… (wait for it… wait for it…) yup!, you guessed it… HISTORY!  So you could only imagine my state of bewilderment each time I’m posed with the question(s) “Why do you take all of those race classes?” and “So, You’re Like… An Ethnic Studies Major, Right?” (need I remind you that that doesn’t exist here?).  And when I let you in on a little secret (you know, that I actually specialize in European History and only took three of those ‘Ethnic Studies’ classes to satisfy a major requirement…) then you might really understand the what-the-fuck-eyebrow-raise that consumes my face and prevents me from breaking it down so it can consistently and forever be broke. (Love Jones anyone?)

Quite frankly, there are several reasons as to why classes like “African-American Men/Women in History/Literature/Art/Theater” are necessary. Black (along with women’s, Latinos, Asian-American, and Native American) voices, experiences, and cultures are omitted, excluded, and marginalized from various realms of academia.  There are survey American History courses that by-pass the Civil Rights Movement and Honors History Students who don’t know that Japanese Internment Camps ever happened.  And those are just two present day issues.

But, in order to avoid this turning into a heated lesson about historiography, I’ll leave you with this fun-fact and some final thoughts. After a strike in 1968, the Black Student Union at San Francisco State drafted a political statement, “The Justification for African-American Studies.”  Because African-American and other non-white contributors to U.S. history were not being covered in various disciplines, an interdisciplinary subject had to be created in order to produce the power in numbers necessary for institutional change to occur. Political Theory had to be combined with Literature, Art and Economics in order to get W.E.B. DuBois in a Sociology classroom, Zore Neale Hurston in an English Seminar, and Joshua Johnson in an Art History lecture.

So, instead of asking me if I’m “totallllyy, like an Ethnic Studies Major,” a better question to ask is how can one take a class on U.S. History (you know, because the Americaconsist of more than the 48 continental states) without talking about Native American culture. Or, better yet, why don’t you ask your professor why Black Feminists aren’t covered in their Women & Gender Studies 101 lecture or why you’ve encountered three Arthur Miller plays, three of Tennessee Williams’ and two of Samuel Beckett’s in your theater class and August Wilson and Lorraine Hansberry barely got a shoutout.

Peace, Love, and PWIs,



4 Responses to “So, You’re Like… An Ethnic Studies Major… Right?”

  1. emalexander July 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    I don’t know if it is more infuriating when people at my institution ask why there is a need for a Black Studies department (because yes, that question is still being asked), or they laugh at my Black Studies major because “its not a real major”. Of course, for some, learning about what an ancient Greek philosopher wrote about thousands of years ago is more relevant to society than the history and effects of a diaspora that happened within the last 500 years.

    • bgatpwi August 29, 2012 at 6:32 am #

      LOL Good point about the ancient Greek philosophers being outdated… I’ve actually never even thought about it that way. And it’s so disrespectful that people have Ph.D.’s in Black Studies and Latino/a Studies, Women’s Studies (I could go on) and people think that they’re illegitimate! It’s so hard to answer those ignorant comments (ie: Why is there a Black Studies class?) without getting angry and irrational. But thanks for the comment… I really appreciate it!

  2. theblackpearlprogram August 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    I feel your pain! Ugh, its so annoying. As a African/African-American minor myself I’m always annoyed when people think its okay to ask “why are you reading those black books for?” Do your thing girly, history rocks!

    • bgatpwi August 29, 2012 at 6:35 am #

      Thanks a lot! I love what I study… it’s just so frustrating to be put in a box! African/African-American studies are necessary because academia has suppressed our contributions to History, Art, English, Music (etc). But thanks for the comment… I really appreciate it! (it gave me a little kick in the butt to keep writing)

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