To the black students at #Mizzou, we the graduate students of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University stand with you in solidarity. To those who would threaten your sense of safety, we are watching.
We at San Francisco State University stand in the activist legacy of the black student-led 1968 campus strike, which resulted in the creation of the College of Ethnic Studies. The strike was a demand to the university to recognize students of colors’ self-determination in transforming their material conditions of oppression. Racism, specifically anti-black violence, did not end because of the strike, but was part of a larger movement for black power, native sovereignty, and third-world Liberation. Like previous struggles, we stand in solidarity with Missouri students and students around the world fighting for black freedom, liberation, and abolition.
We, like many other students of color across the country, have deeply been exposed to the structural and interpersonal violence black students, and other students of color at Mizzou, Yale, Ithaca, Howard and countless other schools experience on a daily basis. Anti-blackness is rampant globally, but we know this sentiment very intimately in the United States. Institutions posing as liberatory educational spaces, like colleges and universities, are not excluded from anti-black structural violence, curriculum that valorizes eurocentricity, siloed and regressive programs/practices for diversity and/or inclusion, environments that nurture microaggressive interpersonal relationships. This is to say that colleges and universities are complicit in the violence and trauma experienced by black people and other people of color — including their students, faculty, staff and the surrounding communities.
This has to stop. And the efforts we have seen across the country of black students and all students of color demanding justice, participating in healing communion, and requiring (not asking) our schools to recognize us not just as black spots in the classroom, service workers on campuses, or the football player who brings millions to the school, but as people who have struggled and resisted to be our black selves — not defined by racist institutions.
Thank you for indicting this system which proclaims it is a space for free and liberatory education, as we know this system only benefits a few. We refuse, as you do, to allow it to continue. We seek, like you do, to require our institutions to address their complicity in the violence and trauma experienced by students of color — not only in post-secondary education and post-graduate work, but also through the school-to-prison pipeline affecting K-12 students. It is important to note that just because we are in higher education doesn’t mean we have “made it,” as the narrative of respectability politics would have you believe; it doesn’t mean racism will stop as neoliberal rhetoric likes to teach; it doesn’t mean capitalism at the expense of black and brown lives doesn’t exist in education. The deep fissures within education truly show the institutionalization of black death. Since these institutions were largely created and supported by white people, much like racism, we must demand they do the deep work to deconstruct and transform them so that conditions for all students of color change.
We encourage, in the midst of the organizing, that you do take a moment to breathe, to meditate, continue healing communion, recognize progress and keep the fight moving. Be gentle with yourself. This system can, will and does break us. Know that the cost of your mental, physical, psychic, and spiritual well-being should not come last as it so often does for students.
We know this system was not built for us, but together we will make it ours by radically dismantling, transforming, and reconstructing higher education into a space which truly liberates and nourishes our collective minds, bodies, souls, and communities. As Frantz Fanon so poignantly urged, “we shall see that another solution is possible. It implies restructuring the world.”
In Solidarity and Love,
The Richard Oakes Multicultural Center
College of Ethnic Studies Graduate Students:
Veronica Coates, Middlebury College & SFSU
Elisa Leon, SFSU
Andrew Szeto, SFSU
Kirin Agustín Rajagopalan, UCSC & SFSU
Eunjae Kim, SFSU
Nathaniel Tan, SFSU
Jari Bradley, SFSU
Booker Cook, SFSU
Moses Omolade, SJSU and SFSU
Rebecca Castro, SFSU
Renae Moua, SFSU
Hiroki Keaveney, SFSU
Jewell M. Bachelor, SFSU
Shellie Adrian Stamps, SFSU
Daphnee G. Valdez, SFSU
Nicole Leopardo, SFSU
The San Francisco State University College of Ethnic Studies is the first program of its kind. In 1968, as a result of radical student activism and the longest strike in the US, the program was established through the efforts of the Third World Liberation Front (a collective group of students of color). Following in the footsteps of their predecessors, the 2017 graduate cohort, who wrote this letter, is unequivocally committed to the mission of achieving liberation for all people of color. They love/hate discussing hegemony and racism. #problematicasfuck is currently their favorite phrase. Follow @s0jari and @femladyv on Twitter.