Prioritizing Ethnic Studies in our education curriculum is an essential step toward decolonizing and rectifying an education system that for too long has refused to serve the needs of people of color.
Next year is the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Third World Liberation Front Strikes, the longest-running student-led strikes in the history of the United States. These strikes, which were begun by working class students of color at San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley,, marked the first time that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students demanded an education that actually reflected their own histories–as told from their own perspectives.
Before this time, few if any schools offered courses that featured the histories and cultures of BIPOC in the United States. If BIPOC people or histories were mentioned at all, they were usually taught from the perspective of a mainstream, Eurocentric curriculum–meaning that BIPOC were mentioned as an aside, or as marginal characters in a larger historical narrative that centered on white people and their histories. For much of U.S. history, for example, basic knowledge of Greek and Latin was a general admissions requirement at major universities–a blatant example of racist policies at work in the public education system that explicitly worked to the disadvantage of students of color. Explicitly or implicitly, women and students of color were also barred from entering the university at all.
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