Race is an important aspect of society. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
Race is not an attribute that stands idly by only making itself known by the color of our skin. I was unaware of this before I took a race and ethnic studies course last semester. I am a pretty socially conscious person to begin with. I oppose racism and have never had any bias towards any group of people, but that doesn’t mean I am at the level of social awareness I should should be when it comes to race and understanding ethnicity.
Ethnic studies are incredibly underrated. Not only is it absolutely fascinating to learn about other cultures, but it is exigent to living in the real world. The United States education system messed up by not making it part of core curriculum in grade school, but that is another topic entirely. Nonetheless it is hard for me to understand why algebra is considered more important than learning about all the different types of people in our country. Why the hell is it more important to understand long division than other cultures that we will encounter every day? Although ethnic studies courses are more or less a collection of sociological opinions, examining opinions is gaining knowledge of others. Social awareness has taken a back seat in education. I thank my lucky stars every day that I realized this through taking an ethnic studies course.
When I first walked into Dr. Eileen Connells race and ethnic studies class, I was not expecting a social awakening. I was proven wrong within the first 15 minutes of lecture. I will never forget how she first addressed the class, she said something along the lines of:
“White boys, I am going to make you very, very uncomfortable”
She kept her promise. Within the first 30 minutes of class one student stood up and left. When asked why he said ‘I’m dropping this bullshit’. The second week of class the number of white boys had dwindled significantly.
Even though I believe the boys who left were entitled idiots who couldn’t handle a little bit of criticism, I too was uncomfortable at times. It is hard to sit through a class in which the entire premise is about how your race is responsible for the continuous oppression of others. However, as uncomfortable as it was, I fully believe that my future career is going to benefit significantly from what I learned in Dr. Connell’s class.
Everyone should take an ethnic studies course in their time as an undergraduate, and as a matter of fact, it should be required at all United States universities.
I know its hard to imagine why, say, a mathematics major would benefit from an ethnic studies course. Why spend the money on courses that are built off opinions and left-wing political rhetoric? The benefits are not so much for the sake of education in your field, but rather becoming socially aware independent of your major. At universities like CSU, which have a large population of white students, the community does not reflect society as a whole. In order to be fully integrated into a community, one needs to be informed about the reality of the American social experience, from the eyes of every race.
The reality is this: White privilege is real and people of color are still oppressed. Denying the social implications that race has on society is illogical and ignorant to blatant racial bias in the media and pop-culture. Oppression and White privilege are everywhere. The fact that my favorite brand of foundation only has two dark skin shades and about thirty light skin shades is white privilege. The fact that majority of Latino movie rolls are negative stereotypes is white privilege. It is everywhere, in everything we do, and until we recognize the reality of it, nobody will be able to advance in their career path to their full potential. You can claim you don’t need to be racially conscious, but racial issues are inescapable.
I am not saying that only white students should take ethnic studies courses to be educated on other cultures. Every single student regardless of race needs to be educated on the history of our country that isn’t reported in our textbooks. The narrative of old white guys building our country is a myth. Our country was not built by George Washington; it was built on the backs of slaves.
By examining the development of social ideologies in our history, it is easier to understand why race is a fundamental aspect of the social experience. We like to ignore it. Hell, I still like to ignore it. It would be nice if every white, black, Latino, Asian and Indian person could just get along with no reservations, but that’s just not reality. Just like you wont understand long division without practicing about a million times, you will never understand race without being thoroughly educated on its implications. If we continue to only give a crap about our own race, we are robbing ourselves of a better human experience.
It is time to immerse yourself in something different. If you think Mexicans should just “go back where they came from,” take a Chicano studies class. Still think all Muslims are responsible for 911? Take an Islamic studies class (and also learn that Muslim isn’t a race, by the way). Think that Black people should just “get over” slavery? Take an African American studies class and learn about how slavery historically continues to inhibit Black people from reaching their full potential.
Although I have only grazed the surface of what I learned from ethnic studies, I hope I have made my point. I can’t just hit up Tony Frank and change CSU’s curriculum to include Ethnic studies courses, but I really wish I could. Our generation can break the chain reaction of social ignorance by simply taking ethnic studies courses. Let’s reach out, learn something we never knew before, and make ourselves a little bit uncomfortable so we can reach our full social potential regardless of career path.
Staying ignorant is only harmful, and becoming educated gives perspective on so many issues that are important to our countries history. Stop being confined by the chains of your own culture.