Open Letter: Anti-Racist Scholars Support Ethnic Studies at State and Local Levels

Greetings Davis Joint Unified School District Leadership:

We write as University of California, Davis, anti-racist scholars who support Ethnic Studies at the State and local levels.

While Ethnic Studies shares some pedagogy and methodology with Jewish Studies, Women’s/Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Whiteness Studies, Ethnic Studies since its inception in 1968 has focused on the experiences and histories of the following core racial ethnic groups of color: Native American, Asian American, African American, and Latinx communities. Ethnic Studies Courses, with their anti-racist curriculum and their critical and intersectional approaches, have been shown to be effective at teaching students about systems of power and oppression, an important topic that extends beyond issues of racism and impacts all aspects of our lives. For students of color whose histories and experiences are often invisibilized or marginalized in mainstream curricula, Ethnic Studies provides an important opportunity for developing greater knowledge as well as self-esteem.  In addition, Ethnic Studies courses facilitate and promote the cultivation of critical thinking and problem solving, civic and cultural awareness, collaboration, adaptability, and resilience through a curriculum that is centered on the perspectives of historically marginalized groups. The pedagogy embodied in Ethnic Studies is one that necessitates culturally responsive teaching and encourages students to seek pathways for their communities to break from systems of oppression and inequity. This is more urgent than ever given the climate of racism and xenophobia stoked by the Trump administration.

Given the importance and potential of Ethnic Studies to enrich the K-12 curriculum, we are deeply concerned with the anti-Ethnic Studies statements that a few UC Davis faculty have recently published in the press and have communicated to the State Department of Education. These statements are inaccurate, ignore the value of gold-standard research methods and approaches in the social sciences and are arguably racist. We are strongly disappointed that a few UCD faculty circulated anti-Ethnic Studies views in the local community and that the local “high performing” school district has resisted recognizing the four core racialized ethnic groups, defined historically and legally, in their DJUSD Ethnic Studies Task Force. It has derailed real efforts to implement a robust K-12 Ethnic Studies curriculum in the local schools.

As University of California, Davis, anti-racist scholars who support Ethnic Studies at the State and local levels we wholeheartedly support: first, the presence of Ethnic Studies curriculum in schools is a civil right; and second, Ethnic Studies is intrinsically anti-racist as it addresses systems of oppression, and employs critical and intersectional approaches; and third, Ethnic Studies must be taught at DJUSD.

Truthfully,

UC Davis Anti-Racist Faculty

CC: Provost; Vice Chancellor; and Chancellor

 

Signatures

Raquel E. Aldana, Professor of Law, UC Davis

Natalia Caporale, Assistant Professor of Teaching, UC Davis

Natalia Deeb-Sossa, Professor in Chicana/o Studies, UC Davis

Christian Baldini, Associate Professor of Music, UC Davis

Dawn Sumner, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Chair of the Faculty Advisory Board for the Feminist Research Institute, UC Davis

Charles Walker, Professor of History, UC Davis

Alissa Kendall, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Carole Hom, Academic Coordinator, UC Davis

Karen Zito, Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology & Behavior, UC Davis

Elva Diaz, Professor of Pharmacology, Chair of the Neuroscience Graduate Program

Colleen Sweeney, Professor & Vice Chair of Biochemistry & Molecular Medicine, UC Davis School of Medicine

Bruce D. Haynes, Professor of Sociology, UC Davis

Yvette  G. Flores, Professor Chicana/o Studies, UC Davis

Eleonora Grandi, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, UC Davis

Gregory Downs, Professor of History, UC Davis

Sunaina Maira, Professor, Asian American Studies, UC Davis

Kimberly D. Nettles-Barcelón, Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies   and Faculty Director of the Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives in the   Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities (CAMPSSAH)

Karen Bales, Professor of Psychology; Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior

Archana Venkatesan, Professor, Religious Studies and Comparative Literature, UC Davis

Julie Bossuyt, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Chair of Molecular Cellular & Integrative Physiology Graduate Group

Margaret Laurena Kemp, Associate Professor, Theatre and Dance, UC Davis

Juan Diego Diaz, Assistant Professor of Music, UC Davis

Stacy D. Fahrenthold, Assistant Professor of History, UC Davis

Beenash Jafri, Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies

Jonathan K London. Associate Professor, Department of Human Ecology, UC Davis

Seth L. Sanders, Professor of Religious Studies, UC Davis

Lynna Dhanani, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies, UC Davis

Ofelia Ortiz Cuevas, Assistant Professor Chicana/o Studies, Director of Beyond the Barriers, UC Davis Initiative

Baki Tezcan, Professor of History

Kalindi Vora, Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies and Director of the Feminist Research Institute

Jann Murray-García, MD, MPH – Associate Health Sciences Clinical Professor, Betty Irene    Moore School of Nursing, and Director of Social Justice and Immersive Learning in the Office of Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at UC Davis Health

Kimberlee Shauman, Professor of Sociology, UC Davis

Denneal Jamison-McClung, Director, Biotechnology Program, UC Davis

Aldrin V. Gomes, Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, UC Davis

Anne E. Todgham, Associate Professor of Animal Science, UC Davis

José Juan Pérez Meléndez, Assistant Professor of History, UC Davis

Marian E. Schlotterbeck, Associate Professor of History, UC Davis

Lorena V. Márquez, Assistant Professor, Department of Chicana/o Studies, UC Davis

Linda F. Bisson, Professor Emeritus, Department of Viticulture and Enology, UC Davis

Mariel Vázquez, Professor of Mathematics and of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Director of the Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives on Science

Theanne Griffith, Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology & Membrane Biology, UC Davis

Jeanette B. Ruiz, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Department of Communication, UC Davis

Fernanda Valdovinos, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, UC Davis

Mary Lou de Leon Siantz, Professor Emerita of Nursing, UC Davis Health

Titus Brown, Associate Professor, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

Gina Dokko, Professor, UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Justin Leroy, Assistant Professor of History, UC Davis

Darnel Degand, Assistant Professor, School of Education

Cecilia M. Tsu, Associate Professor of History, UC Davis

Annaliese Franz, Professor, Department of Chemistry, UC Davis

Shennan Hutton, Continuing Lecturer in Classics, UC Davis

Elizabeth Montaño, Associate Professor of Teaching, UC Davis School of Education

Danny C. Martinez, Associate Professor, UC Davis School of Education

Sally McKee, Professor, Dept of History, UC Davis

Michael Saler, Professor of History, UC Davis

Michael Rios, Professor, Department of Human Ecology

Michal Kurlaender, Professor, School of Education, UC Davis

Corrie Decker, Associate Professor, History, UC Davis

Ian Campbell, Associate Professor, History, UC Davis

Omnia El Shakry, Professor, History, UC Davis

Jonathan A. Eisen, Professor, Dept. of Evolution and Ecology, Dept. of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, UC Davis

Kyaw Tha Paw U, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Dept. of Land, Air and Water Resources, UC Davis

Benjamin D. Weber, Assistant Professor of African American and African Studies, UC Davis


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24 Comments

      1. Alan Miller

        Is ‘white’ a color or is it a lack of color?

        “clear” is a lack of color.

        Beware Clear People   😐

        (also known as “People of the Translucent Persuasion”)

      2. Bill Marshall

        As I recall, there is a dichotomy between “light”, and “color”… to put it in black and white terms…

        ‘white’ is the full spectrum, as to light…

        ‘black’ is the full specturm, as to color/pigment…

    1. Alan Miller

      Two pretty “catty” responses, in meow humble opinion…

      Another catty response, from my cat, is a long bloody scratch down the arm.  DG’s response seems on that level.

      To answer DG’s question in the literal, yes I use Google.

      To respond more specifically, no I did not use Google to look up “Whiteness Studies”.

      So let me tell you, since it was not obvious to you (I could ask, “don’t you ever think about what people are really saying?”):

      In every, and I mean EVERY, time that I see the word “Whiteness” used, it is used as a put down, as an insult, as a derision of, so-called white people.  Show me an example of “whiteness” used in a complimentary fashion, or even neutral.

      Therefore it is a pejorative – and by the Vanguard’s own rules, cannot be permitted.

      Tell me I am wrong (I’m sure you will) . . .

      1. Bill Marshall

        Well, here is part of the required curriculum for getting a degree in “whiteness studies”… (cite requires a subscription, so I don’t offer)…

        Undergrad:

        Wonder Bread 10 [some brown along the edges, but easily trimmed off… (food science)]

        Dover Cliffs 20 (geology)

        Upper division:

        Anglo-Saxons 105 (history)

        All Whites are Inherently Racist 147 (comparative lit)

        All Whites Should be Taxed @ 95%, and all Money Given to Those who Aren’t  171 (econ)

        Currently, there are no courses @ the graduate/post-graduate level… but they are working on it…

  1. Don Shor

    I don’t know what views they are describing as they write this letter, because we aren’t given any reference to the specific “statements that a few UC Davis faculty have recently published in the press and have communicated to the State Department of Education.”

    As we read these letters on behalf of a particular version of ethnic studies, I feel that we’re seeing one particular side of an ongoing turf war on this topic. The same thing is described in Eric Gelber’s recent review of AB 1460 regarding ethnic studies in CSU, as well as in the discussion around Governor Newsom’s veto of an ethnic studies bill last year. 

    The CSU Chancellor’s proposal

    approved by the CSU Board of Trustees and the Academic Senate of CSU (ASCSU), that would have re-designated ethnic studies as “social justice” studies and given students a wider list of options, including courses related to Jewish issues, women’s rights, LGBTQ people, and Muslims, among others. In response, proponents of AB 1460 argued that the proposal would water down the ethnic studies requirement.

    The core issue seems to be which ethnic groups will be included, and which will be excluded, from mandated ethnic studies programs. In effect, it’s a fight about who controls the message and what that message should be.

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      The core issue seems to be which ethnic groups will be included, and which will be excluded, from mandated ethnic studies programs. In effect, it’s a fight about who controls the message and what that message should be.

      True story, that… wouldn’t surprise me at all if ‘religions’ and/or ‘spirituality’ are brought into the mix… we’ll see…

      Borders on Ron G’s 9:20 post as well… some ‘semites’ are considered white, but as many are Jewish, Moslem, Christian, Druze, there could well be some ‘fuzziness’… we’ll see…

  2. Ron Oertel

    we are deeply concerned with the anti-Ethnic Studies statements that a few UC Davis faculty have recently published in the press and have communicated to the State Department of Education. 

    Are there links to those?

  3. Ron Oertel

    I remember (not so long-ago) when the term “melting pot” was in vogue.

    Now, it’s focusing on “diversity” – which seems to emphasize differences, rather than similarities.

    Not sure which of those is “better”, or if both concepts are just made-up political constructs. (I’m thinking that this third view is the most accurate one.)

    1. David Greenwald

      Notice that diversity doesn’t actually appear in the letter.

      Now the term of art: anti-racism.

      “Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably.”

    2. Eric Gelber

      The melting pot metaphor emphasized assimilation and conforming to the dominant “American” culture. It meant giving up one’s cultural values, language, uniqueness in order to fit in. The concept of diversity, or cultural pluralism, respects cultural differences. It views society as a whole, being made up of people with diverse values and traditions.

      1. Ron Oertel

        What is the dominant “American” culture, anyway?

        Hot dogs, apple pie, capitalism?

        And, who is the committee which decides whether or not one “fits in”? Is this spelled-out somewhere in the bylaws?

        1. Ron Oertel

          Not sure that those (I assume you mean U.S. history courses) are focused on culture, nor do they ignore the negative parts of U.S. history.

          “Culture” (as Eric defined it) might include languages left behind in European countries.  Or, tea at 4:00.  Or, reverence for royalty.  Or Octoberfest and lederhosen.

          Or, the impacts of the potato famine, or Roman history/culture.

          Or for that matter, Japanese Imperialism (which “clashed” with so-called American values/interests), Spanish conquest, the impacts of Missions in California, etc.

          Seems to me that China is now adopting “Western” culture, in the form of capitalism.

          Some still claim that Jewish people are part of the “successful” culture in this country (e.g., Hollywood). Some people say that Jewish people are predominantly “white”, anyway.

          Some might note that Asians are pretty-well integrated into the “culture”, and that Hispanics increasingly are as well. Some might say that there’s always been the latter influence, in California.

          (Probably my 5th comment.)

           

          1. David Greenwald

            We were still taught Western Civ in HS in the 80s, possibly College in the early 90s.

  4. Ron Oertel

    Now the term of art: anti-racism.

    Yeah.

    Reminds me of George W’s pronouncement (under a different context), “you’re either with us, or again’t us”.  (Something like that.  Thought you might appreciate the “old West” pronunciation.)

    I wonder what’s coming next, regarding this (and other, related terminologies).  Is there some kind of an approval committee?  (Probably no white people allowed on there, regardless. Otherwise, we might not even be using the term “white”, anymore.)

    Oh, well – better keep up, otherwise at your own social risk for failing to do so.

    “Science”.

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