Who’s Afraid of “The Tempest”?

Who’s Afraid of “The Tempest”?

Required Reading Homework (in addition to the Syllabus) for Week #1:
Who’s Afraid of “The Tempest”?’s-ethnic-studies-dispute/
“The History of Ethnic Studies” by Gary Okihiro:
Class Lecture December 23rd (Part III)

What is Asian American Studies/Ethnic Studies? Why is it important?

Before we discuss what is “race,” “racism,” & how do we critically discuss this, I wanted to put the study of race and racism into the *context* of ethnic studies & Asian American studies. This lecture is a little background information for you:


WHAT IS AAS? (Asian American Studies)

Some of you may have been paying attention to ethnic studies (in Arizona in particular) and Asian American studies (in Los Angeles [CSULA] in particular) in the news lately. Asian American studies is part of an interdisciplinary field of studies that directly stems from the civil rights movement and the “ethnic power” movements. California was a “hot bed” for the kind of awareness, consciousness, collective action and activism that brought rise to this field. Asian American studies, like all ethnic studies, examined power relations of racialized, ethnic groups in the U.S., explored transnational relations between ancestral countries of origin and their structural links to the “American” experiences, and connected what was taught in the classroom to the ethnic communities outside of the university. “Giving back to the community” and “drawing linkages with our communities” became integral, critical aspects of ethnic studies’ scholarship. Initially, ethnic studies (Asian American studies is a part of), linked issues of “race” and “class” with education (particularly “higher education”).

Today, ethnic studies is at the forefront of examining the interconnected, interstructured nature of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, and other group identities/statuses, as well as incorporating global/transnational studies, diasporic studies, post-colonial, post-modern, post-structural theories. Most ethnic studies’ scholars are trained in single disciplines views as “more traditional” such as the social sciences, humanities, and applied fields.

San Francisco State University (then San Francisco State College) was the first campus in which a multiracial/multiethnic coalition of students organized the first “student strike” in 1968. The Third World Liberation Front (TWLF), a coalition of It is the longest student strike in U.S. history. A year latter, UC-Berkeley, UC-Santa Barbara, UCLA, CSU-Northridge (then-San Fernando Valley College) , CSU-Fresno, etc. followed.

Asian American studies emerges in the context of civil rights, ethnic/racial power movements, anti-war movement, free speech movement, women’s movement, etc. The “bottom-up” origins of this academic discipline which questioned the role of the university itself continues to inform and shape the field. Students demanded universities to offer courses that examined the social histories, realities, lives, stories of Native Americans, African Americans, Chicanos/Latinos, Asian Americans, etc. Following this ethnic/racial power movements within the universities across California and the nation, Euro-American groups (Irish Americans, Italian Americans, working class whites, etc.) began rethinking and re-imagining their social positions within U.S. “racialized” society. Many social scientists refer to this Euro-American experience more as “symbolic ethnicity” or “emergent ethnicity” because the reasons for “ethnicity” in the lives of Euro-Americans seemed (historically & contemporarily) to differ qualitatively and structurally than for “racialized,” minority groups or “people of color.” “Whiteness studies” examines the oppositionalized “dominant” racial position occupied by those who fit within the socially constructed category of “white” in U.S. society. “Whiteness studies” is basically the corollary to ethnic studies. Scholars like Peggy McIntosh and Tim Wise (we’ll be reading their work) have been pioneers in “Whiteness studies.”

AAS & Ethnic Studies at CSUN:

Asian American studies at CSUN has a very interesting and unique history. The department is a benefactor of ethnic studies activism and movements by previous generations. In the 1980s, Asian American students and individual faculty (both part-time and full-time) at CSUN began meeting regularly to talk about teaching classes on Asian American history and identity. Black studies (known at CSUN as Pan-African studies) and Chicana/o studies had already well-established themselves by the 1980s when students and faculty were discussing adding Asian American studies to the mix. One of the first classes to be taught on Asian Americans from an ethnic studies’ perspective was in Anthropology by Dr. Laura Uba, a psychologist! Students like Gary Mayeda and Tony Osumi, who both work in Asian American communities today, were at the forefront pushing CSUN’s administration for more courses.Dr. Gordon Nakagawa (in Communications) and Dr. George Uba (in English) were also active along with Dr. Laura Uba to form a more coherent program. In 1990, Dr. Bob Suzuki, former Academic Affairs Vice President, leaves CSUN. As a parting gift to CSUN, with a stroke of a pen, creates the Department of Asian American Studies. And then, the development and growth of the department begins. The events that took place at CSUN are similar to other programs and departments. However, by the 1980s, ethnic studies was a well-established field and precedents were set. Though ethnic studies was not always welcomed at CSUN, today, ethnic studies holds an important place in CSUN’s academic life and accolades. Today, in addition to Pan-African Studies (situated in the College of Social Behavioral Studies), Chicana/o Studies, Asian American Studies, American Indian Studies, and Central American Studies (all housed in the College of Humanities). CSUN’s Asian American Studies Department is the first university in southern California to establish an AAS department and the second department of AAS after SFSU to be established (first in the nation). CSUN CAS (Central American Studies) at CSUN is the first CAS program to be established in the U.S. CSUN Chicana/o Studies is the largest Chicana/o or Raza Studies Department in the nation.


*Though I am not a big fan of wikipedia, what is posted on wikipedia is historically sound and contemporarily relevant. A great cliff notes’ version:

December 23rd, Part II (Lecture): Studying Race & Racism

I was reading a list of “useless college classes” or “dumbest college classes” online. Phew! Luckily, ethnic studies was not on that list! Lucky for you and lucky for me! (The closest class was “cultural studies” but they are not the same at all.)

Although I am a firm believer –as a scholar, intellectual, and educator– that there are no “useless” or “dumb” classes (even if we think that. . . i.e. that would be our “opinions.”). Of course, a particular class may not be helpful toward your graduation, granted. . . Nevertheless, there is always something to be gleaned, something to be learned, something that contributes to your development as a human being. . .

Why study “race & racism?” Why think critically about “race & racism?” What is racism to one person may be something else to someone else? Some people play “the race card.” Other people are overly sensitive about racial issues. Some people completely ignore race because they are insensitive and disrespectful. It’s all about someone’s opinion anyway, isn’t it? It’s 2012 (almost 2013) so why are we still talking about “race?”

As you will explore in 5 short weeks, the study of race and racism, is probably one of the most important studies one could ever embark upon here in the United States. The presence and omnipresence (i.e. the ubiquity) of race in this society are powerfully inescapable. No one is untouched by the topic of “race.” Although “race” and “racism” may not be the same all of the time, the two are deeply intertwined and interconnected. One can choose to see it or acknowledge it or not. If you are one of those individuals who can choose to ignore the presence of “race”, it tells us something about your group (its social location) and how the group/groups to which you belong have come to be “racialized.” If you are one of those individuals whose realities are infused with race directly and obviously, it says a lot about the group/groups to which you belong.

Belonging to “a group” (albeit a so-called “racial” one) is not only about how one looks or what the color of one’s skin is, but about a history and a social reality one is attached to. The United States of America has a long history (or short history–depending upon how you examine U.S. history in its entirety) in which *race* and *racism* have played a significant, integral role in its founding, development, and growth. We can not talk about U.S. history, politics, education, economics, medicine, entertainment, literature, business, etc. without talking about *race* and *racism.* If and when we do, we are missing an integral part of America’s history and legacy. It doesn’t tell the whole story –good and bad– of American social relations.

This course is not about “opinions.” It is about critically examining issues of *race* and *racism*. You must utilize logic, reason, and empirical evidence. If you find yourself thinking, “Oh, that’s someone’s opinion.” or “I don’t agree!” (or “I completely agree!”) You might want to examine why that is. It is important to be reflective and introspective. Think about the theoretical frameworks and paradigms that help us try and understand and explain sometimes abstract ideas as well as controversial, difficult issues. Just because you or I don’t “think” something is the case or we don’t “agree,” it may be “real” for others and vice versa.

Consider the following kinds of scenarios:

When a police officer stops a young Latino man. When the Latino man claims he was stopped for “Driving while Brown” and the cop ridicules him for “being too sensitive and making race an issue.” How do we talk about this “reality?” What kinds of histories and experiences are informing the attitudes and actions of each individual? What “racial baggage” might each person be bringing? Who has “power” –both personal and institutional? What role does “privilege” play?

When a non-Asian person says to an Asian American woman, “You’re really pretty. I find chinky eyes of Orientals really attractive. No offense. I meant it as a compliment.” How do we deconstruct what such a statement might mean? What role does “prejudice” or “ethnocentrism” play? What about racism as a set of attitudes or racism as a system of power?

When an African American person says, “The word ‘niggah’ is reserved only for Black people. When Black people use it, it’s not racist, but when non-Blacks do, it is.” What does such a perception of reality tell us about our society? its history? How do we continue to experience our past in the present? How does the understanding or lack of understanding of sociohistorical contexts inform our experiences?

When a White person says, “I don’t see myself as ‘White.’ I am an American. It’s racist to call me White.” or “Why can’t White people have a White Studies class without people called racist?” What does this tell us about what it means to be part of a so-called “racial” group in this society? How does the understanding or lack of understanding of sociohistorical contexts inform our experiences?

When someone says, “I’m not a racist or anti-Arab. I just wouldn’t want to get on a plane with people who look like they might be terrorists.” How do we understand the social psychology of race and racism? What’s the difference between race, racism, prejudice, discrimination, fear, and legitimate concern for one’s safety and well-being?

When these kinds of topics and realities come up (these are just examples), we are not here to judge if these expressions are right or wrong. We can, but that is not our purpose here. We are trying to use the concepts, paradigms, as well as logic, reason, and empirical evidence to further understand the role of race and racism plays in one-on-one human relationships as well as in our social structure. We are trying to *understand*.

When you find yourself reacting with emotions and opinions, stop and consider what is being put forth and what are the layers of socio-political meaning both stated and implied in what is being said or experienced. In real life, we may not have that luxury, but in a classroom setting (even an online one!) we have a wonderful opportunity to step back, breathe, contemplate, examine and learn!

The study of *race and racism* is difficult, challenging, controversial, uncomfortable, and disturbing because it is wrought with unresolved issues from our history that continue to affect, influence, and inform (and uninform) us today. The study of *race and racism* is also wonderous, rewarding, and empowering because we learn so much about others and mostly about ourselves!

W.E.B. DuBois put forth that the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line. With the increasingly complex racial and ethnic interrelationships in the U.S., DuBois’ predictions may be more true than ever before in the twenty-first century. In this course, students will be required to develop, employ, and demonstrate analytical thinking skills, critical reasoning, and intellectual argumentation as they explore and question the significance of race and racism in contemporary American society. The course will delve into the complexity of critically thinking about “race” and “racism.” In the United States, “Even when it’s not about race, it’s always about race.”

The objectives of this course is:

*to introduce students to the process of critical thinking through the lens of race-based theories and selected historical and contemporary discourses of major racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. (e.g. Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos/Chicanos, Native Americans, European Americans, Arab Americans, mixed-race peoples, etc.) in relationship to their racialization processes and representations.

*to interrogate the social construction and institutionalization of race and racism in the U.S. through the examination of scholarly studies and a range of cultural texts.
*to explore the effects of race and racism on the relationship between language and logic.

*to engage in critical reflection of racialized images, representation, and texts.

*to examine the processes and forms of reasoning in deepening students’ understanding of race and racism in the U.S.
to develop analytical, critical skills in speaking, reading, and writing about race
What is critical thinking?
Critical thinkers ask the “how’s” & “why’s” of social reality, open their minds to every and all positions, and use logic, reason, & empirical evidence to support their perspectives.

Being analytical requires examining underlying assumptions and interrogating the layers of social meanings attached to terms & concepts. Go beyond “taken-for-granted” understandings. There are times when people assume, “that’s common sense.” Yet, when we dig beneath the layers of assumptive meanings, social reality may turn out to be different. This is where critical thinking comes into play and assists the proactive, analytical mind in delving beyond what may be assumed.

A famous person once said, “Opinions are like buttholes, we all have them.” It’s great that people have opinions but these opinions may be just that! By exercising “critical thinking” our opinions can become informed, supported by logic, reason, and empirical evidence.

The following tools can help in honing and sharpening one’s “critical thinking.”

Sociological Imagination:

C.W. Mills defined it as “the vivid awareness of the relationship between experience and the wider society.” In enlivening one’s sociological imagination one must be able to see the interconnections between the individual and society, biography and history, and personal troubles and social issues.

Human beings and our social realities exist within contexts– frameworks of conditions, circumstances and relationships. We do not live in a historical vacuum, for example. The more we understand history and its cumulative effects on our lives, the more we are incorporating “historical contexts” in understanding the effects and influences of “yesterday” on “today.”


Culture is a complex system of beliefs, ideas, behaviors, languages, practices, norms, customs, material objects, By examining “culture” as well as incorporating and including “context” and exercising one’s sociological imagination, the critical thinker can better understand individuals, groups, societies and social movements.

In our contemporary world, meaning is not stable or absolute; values and identity are relative to culture, religion, and geography.

Social Reality:

W.I. Thomas stated that whether something is “real” or not, if human beings define it (social reality) to be real, it is real in its social consequences. There is a widely accepted school of thought called, “social construction” and “instrumentalism” that assumes and understands “social reality” to be constructed or created from social contexts by human beings, institutionalized.

“Stereotypes versus Generalizations”
See if you can distinguish between “stereotypes” and “social patterns” (or “generalizations.”)

Stereotype: African Americans are Democrats.
Pattern/Generalization: 90% of African Americans who are registered to vote are registered to the Democratic Party.

Stereotype: Men are violent. (or Women are victims of violence).
Pattern/Generalization: 70% of women will experience violence by men.

The critical thinker would not assume for example, “Blondes have more fun!” The critical thinker would ask many questions, putting what this statement represents into social, political, historical context: What does “blonde hair” represent, racially? gender-wise? class-wise? intelligence-wise? How does the color of hair and physical appearance in general get represented? And on and on and on. . . Before one legitimizes or reifies overgeneralizations, in other words, stereotypes, (e.g. “Blondes have more fun.” “White men can’t jump.” “Black men are threatening.” “Asian Americans are conservative.” “Latinos have a lot of children.” “Arabs are terrorists.” etc.). one must ask if these categories, groups of people (e.g. “Whites,” “Blacks,” “Asians,” etc.) are logically sound in the first place and then ask if these characteristics (e.g. “can’t jump,” “terrorists,” “more fun-loving,” etc.) are even valid? If so, how? If not, why not? How have these representations come to be? What social, political, economic purposes do they serve? How have they changed? How have they remained the same? How do they manifest in the American consciousness?

Stereotypes are for the “lazy mind.” It is the inability to think critically with depth, complexity, logic, reason, & empirical evidence. We all stereotype (overgeneralize, distort

Stereotypes are overgeneralizations, distortions, and even negatively put perversions of social realities.

Generalizations and social patterns demonstrate common characteristics by using empirical evidence.

Can you tell the difference between a stereotype and a social pattern (or a generalization)?




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