Ethnic Studies: Born in the Bay Area From History's Biggest Student Strike


Legislation earlier this summer that would require all incoming freshman at Cal State universities to taken ethnic studies class listener. Michael Variety asked our Bay curious team this question I've heard that there was actually a revolution in the Bay Area for an ethnic studies field. Is this true? And how did it happen? The short answer. Yes, it's true. Reporter assault A sonnet. Poor tells us how it went down during the longest student strike in US history. It was November of 1968. The US was 13 years into the Vietnam War. American soldiers hiking their way through the sweaty jungles of South Vietnam, searching for enemy Martin Luther King had been assassinated earlier that year, and the Black Panther Party demanded systemic change for black communities plagued by poverty and police brutality. That's what black students at San Francisco State wanted to bury. Proves to be a member ofthe last. This is Nesbitt Crutchfield. He started studying at San Francisco State in 1967 and soon joined the black student union. It was the very 1st 1 in the country. It was very clear to me that Black soon Union representative. Very progressive. Among black spoons at state among black students in the very but just a small percentage of black students went to SF State admission rates for minority students had dwindled down to just 4%. Even those 70% of students in the SF Unified School District for from minority backgrounds is a black person you expected for all intensive purposes. To be one of the very few black people in whatever classroom laboratory auditorium. The U. N was overwhelmingly white. Amidst that whiteness black students were hungry to study their own history. The black student union had been pushing the university to create a black studies department for nearly three years. But administrators resisted the idea. was an era of young people asking questions and want to transform their communities. Jason Ferreira is a professor in the Department of Race and Resistance at San Francisco State College of ethnic studies. And that impulse that That hunger to transform one's communities is actually what forms the basis of ethnic studies. It's around this time that Penny no. Okatsu was grappling with her own questions about race and identity. We want Asian Americans, then we were Orientals. An Oriental is a term that was imposed on us by the largest society, so starting to use the term Asian American was a way of taking back er. Our own destiny. Henny became a member of a student organization called the Asian American Political Alliance. It was just one of many ethnic student organizations popping up on campus and an early fall of 1968. These organizations banded together in formed a coalition, the Third World Liberation Front. And at that particular time, third world referred to the Non Aligned Countries are cultures in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It was synonymous with how we might use people of color today. English professor and Black Panther. George Murray was one of San Francisco state's most influential anti Vietnam organizers. Students loved Murray, but his outspoken politics didn't sit well with us of state administrators. The war in Vietnam is racist. That is the law that crackers like Johnson are using black soldiers and poor white soldiers of Mexican soldiers as dupes and fools to fight against people of color. In Vietnam. The board of trustees fired Murray over Comment like this one on November 1st 1968 5 days later, the black student union and the Third World Liberation Front joined together and went on strength in aspic, Crutchfield says Despite coming from different backgrounds, the strikers had a clear goal. I wanted to find out and be educated about ourselves, and we could not get that the nobody getting educated Initially, strikers did things like cherry bombs in toilets and check out tons of books at once in order to overwhelm the school's library system, But almost immediately, administrators invited police on campus. Jason Ferreira says they swarmed the school armed with five foot batons. Students responded by throwing rocks and cursing out the police. Police came down heavy hard, and they just began cracking skulls Strikers carried on anyway. Penny No. Okatsu was protesting on January 23rd 1969. In what many call the mass bust. Two lines of police came up and basically surrounded the over 500 people who were there for the rally and tracked all of the individuals who are part with that net police charged at students, Penny says it was one of the bloodiest and most frightening days of the entire strike. That was a military movement, literally a practice orchestrated military movement. Hundreds were arrested. Virtually all of the individuals arrested head Tio spend some jail time. There are real consequences to having participated in that event. It's up two more months. But eventually in March, administrators and strikers negotiated a deal after five months of protesting the school agreed to many striker demands. They promised to accept virtually all non white applicants for fall of 1969 and they agreed to establish a college of ethnic studies, the first in the country. Class is about communities of color. Ethnic studies is a way of embracing all of the cultures that make up not just this country, but with the world. And if we don't understand each other, how we're going to get along. I'm a solace on before the news For more details

Coming up next