Tag Archives: Black Women in Higher Education

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,