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Published: Sat, March 25, 2017
World | By Lorena Waters

Notes from Aztlán | From the Barrio | Page 49


Asians are often stereotyped, and whether Korean, Chinese, Filipino or Japanese, they are called "Chinese." This sort of stereotyping leads to prejudices and prevents an appreciation of Asian cultures. A recent speech by Asian American Studies Professor Glenn Omatsu reminded me of the importance of Asian American and Ethnic Studies in combatting stereotypes.

Glenn Omatsu is pioneer in Ethnic Studies; For over thirty years he has explored the rich history of Asian Americans. The truth be told, all Asians do not look alike, and many are far from the model minority invented by white Americans.

Omatsu has a complex world view; He puts each Asian and ethnic group into a historical and cultural context. Omatsu sees Ethnic Studies as a transformative force that is the antithesis of the ethnocentrism that grips American culture and education.

Japanese Americans have a long history of struggle, which has given Omatsu a mature view of civil rights. Omatsu does not dwell on the homeland - for him, the homeland is here.

Japanese migration to the United States dates back to 1868. From the beginning, the nativist reaction was harsh. In 1907 the U.S. forced Japan to sign the Gentlemen's Agreement whereby Japan could not issue a passport to the United States. In 1913 California passed the Alien Land Law prohibiting Japanese from purchasing land. And in 1924 the federal Immigration Act banned all immigration from Japan.

However, the event that formed the consciousness of Omatsu was the World War II internment. In 1942 a presidential executive ordered 110,000 persons of Japanese origin living on the West Coast of the United States interred in concentration camps.

After the war, Japanese Americans form civil rights groups. As in the case of African Americans and Mexican Americans the tactics varied within the community. No doubt the internment and the repatriation of militants influenced moderates. Civil rights and Labor Movements.

Social transformation always comes from the left that has a different epistemological base than moderates. The left asks different questions and uses different tactics. In his acceptance speech, Omatsu said:

One controversy

One controversy Is happening on our campus and focuses on the partnership announced by top university officials with the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM for short, to promote Latin American Studies ... From my own experiences in dealing with institutions of power, I see these institutions as Never at the forefront of social change or social justice. In fact, these institutions often play a reactive role to the demands for change and justice coming from the margins of the institutions. I think this is why we see good people in positions of leadership in these institutions defending unfair policies and decisions. These can include a defending denial of tenure to a highly qualified faculty member of color based on biased and incomplete assessments by a Chair and a Dean. These are the words that are used to describe the status of the students and their families.

Who in Latin America will this agreement benefit? Will this partnership focus on the needs of indigenous peoples and poor people and the concerns raised by grassroots movements like the Zapatistas, or will this partnership focus on the interests of the elite and the concerns of corporate and government leaders? How will this partnership address the neo-colonial relationship between nations and peoples of Latin America and the US?

In US communities, who will benefit From this agreement and who will be harmed? How will this partnership respond to the problems facing people in low-income communities that are basic issues in Ethnic Studies?

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On our campus, which faculty will be involved in this program and what perspective will they bring to it? For example, if faculty are mainly from departments outside of Ethnic Studies, what perspective will they bring to analyze injustices, economic exploitation, and racism? How will their agreement help with low-income students on our campus?

What impact will it have on the rights of our students to a relevant and affordable education?

Finally, who will the UNAM partnership empower? Will it empower low-income students in Mexico, Latin America, and CSUN? Will it empower the poor in Latin America and in our local communities? CSUN's Chicana / Studies Department responded forcefully to the clear violation of faculty governance.

It is irrefutable that to campus community had no interest in Mexico before the UNAM accord. However, the student population has shifted, and more Latin students than white students are matriculating. This comes in great part driven by the Mexican origin population.

We understand that these types of transgressions will happen due to reductions in State funding for higher education . Administrators and faculty who ignored brown students and the fields of Mexico and Latin America in the past now see their right to cash on them.

We respond, "if you like Mexicans and other Latinos so much hire them ". We estimate that six percent of the faculty is of Mexican origin; We further challenged it, "if you say that our data is wrong, give us the raw data." We challenged the administration to disprove our allegations of institutional racism.

Clearly this agreement does not benefit the Zapatistas or Social reformers. It benefits PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) that is privatizing Mexico and selling off its natural resources, its patrimony, and privatizing basic institutions. Part of PRI's stated agenda is to privatize public education and UNAM.

NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) in 1994 touched off the Zapatista Revolt; It eliminated small farms that could not compete with subsidized American agribusiness. NAFTA has produced a dozen billionaires while the poor got poorer. Bottom-line, the UNAM-CSUN accord will empower the ruling elite.

Further, the deal does not include any stipulation that the record high tuition of $ 3200 per semester will be reduced. It says nothing about the Tseng College, a private university on the CSUN campus, and its relationship to the UNAM-CSUN deal.

Meanwhile, it will bring in more foreign students, students who can pay for a private Education. The UNAM agreement says nothing about low income Mexican students.

It is well established that UCLA and other California universities encourage the registration of foreign students; At the same time they reduce the number of minority and white student slots.

- by Dr. R. Acuña

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