Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Letter of Support and Solidarity to UCSD Black Student Union

March 1, 2010

To the UCSD Black Student Union and their allies:

We, the members of Asian Pacific Islander Education and Languages NOW! (APIEL NOW!) at UC Berkeley, are outraged by the racist, hostile, and demoralizing events that have transpired over the past two weeks at UC San Diego. We stand in full solidarity with your struggle to push the UCSD administration both to change its institutionalized practices of racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia and to commit to creating a safe and empowering living and learning environment for the African-American community and other historically underrepresented communities of color on campus.

Far from being isolated incidents of racism at UCSD that can be addressed through teach-ins, the “Compton Cookout,” the racially derogatory comments made by SR-TV, and the noose found hanging in the UCSD library collectively point to the deeper problems of institutional racism and marginalization both within and outside of the education system that perpetuate these kind of ignorant and hateful acts. In a joint statement, the UC President and the Chancellors condemn the racist incidents and state that they “reflect neither our principles nor the values, nor the sentiments of the University of California community,” yet it is clear to all communities of color that condemnation alone does not create real change, nor does it begin to address the real root of the problem: the continued segregation of public schools; the lack of stable and fully-funded resources to recruit, retain, and support students of color in all levels of education; the repeated division of labor along racial, gender, and class lines; the barriers that continually deny underrepresented communities access to public services such as affordable health care, decent housing, stable jobs, decent working conditions, and adequate representation; and the failure of the educational system to build awareness about and to teach students about racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and the need for affirmative action.

We in APIEL NOW! recognize that the fight communities of color face in higher education is against an administration that neither prioritizes students, faculty and workers of color, nor is willing to transform the higher education system into one that actually acknowledges and actively seek to fight the daily oppression and exclusion that underrepresented communities of color face. We are outraged that even though African American students make up only 1.3% of the student population at UCSD, the UC administration still plans to implement a new admissions policy in 2012 that will effectively decrease the number of African American students previously eligible for guaranteed admission to UC by nearly 50%. “Representation” and “diversity” at the UC are both empty terms. Having representation from historically underrepresented communities on a campus does not mean that they are equal, nor does it mean that their peers will automatically have, and more importantly, practice a critical understanding of the history of violence, repression, and exclusion that underrepresented communities face on a daily basis.

We fully support the demands that you have raised, all of which point to key ways to build permanent and institutionally-supported classes, programs, support services (academic, emotional, financial), and spaces that will create a welcoming campus climate and learning environment actively shaped by the African American community’s and historically underrepresented ethnic communities’ concerns and demands.

We stand behind your demand that UCSD better educate the campus about underrepresented communities’ histories through mandated diversity sensitivity requirements in African-American Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Gender Studies, and we hope that the university will develop these departments so they have the breadth and depth necessary to give students a comprehensive understanding of the struggles that underrepresented communities of color face in a society that is still fundamentally divided and racist. The budget cuts are no excuse for not making immediate changes to a deeply flawed curriculum and educational system. The San Francisco Unified School District, for example, where 90% of the K-12 students are nonwhite, just approved a pilot program last week that will add Ethic Studies classes to their high school curriculum. Alongside UCSD BSU, we will continue to fight to make Ethnic Studies, African-American Studies, Gender and Woman Studies, Chicana/o Latina/o Studies, Native American Studies, Middle-Eastern Studies, Asian Pacific Islander American Studies, and South/Southeast Asian Studies an integral part of every K-UC school.

Today, we watched the Black community at UC Berkeley stand in front of Sather Gate for two-and-a-half hours in silent solidarity with you and pass out literature to the rest of the student body – literature that documented both the acts of hatred that took place at UCSD, as well as every racist incident that has taken place against the Black community at UC Berkeley for the past nine years. Next Monday, we will stand in solidarity at Sather Gate with you and with them when they hold their second nonviolent, silent demonstration at Sather Gate. We are ready to help in whatever way we can to fight for the rights of those in our communities who have been marginalized and oppressed.

In solidarity and struggle,

Asian Pacific Islander Education and Languages NOW!

UC Berkeley


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