The striker who became teacher – Podcast with Daniel P. Gonzales on how ethnic studies was birthed at San Francisco State University

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Over the Easter weekend, Donald Trump was resurrecting his anti-immigrant rhetoric in tweets and off-handed comments. First, he blasted California for issuing pardons to a group that included three Asian Americans subject to deportation. Then he tweeted he’s changed his mind on DACA and that he would end NAFTA to force Mexico to pay for his fantasy wall. He topped it off with a comment how people were crossing the border to become eligible for DACA.

Mr. President, DACA is for young arrivals who came years ago. He’d know that if he didn’t revise history with every utterance or tweet.

Enter the scholars and historians of ethnic studies. They know all that what we’re seeing from Trump is nothing new. There’s a pattern in history from the way Chinese were excluded, to the rescission politics regarding Filipino colonization and military service. Trump’s DACA stance is fairly typical.

But Dan Gonzales doesn’t think ethnic studies scholars are as tuned in politically as they should be.

Gonzales was one of the coalition of students that included Blacks, Latinos, and Asians in 1968 at San Francisco State. One of the demands of that strike–said to the longest student strike in the nation’s history–was the formation of a college of ethnic studies.

Gonzales never left and became a fully tenured professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. He was a speaker at the Association of Asian American Studies held in San Francisco this past weekend, and urged the scholars to be more connected to what’s happening in today’s politics.

“We need to have our faculty invested in the political nature of ethnic studies, and they have to include it within their own teaching practice references to political process,” Gonzales told me on our podcast, Emil Amok’s Takeout. “They have to understand the politics of the campus and be able to guard against well in advance issues that could be an existential threat to the cause of ethnic studies or any of its member departments.”

And how do professors do that today?

“Be skilled enough to be able to organize well and form alliances with other colleagues on campus,” Gonzales told me. “Because that’s the only way you get anything done. And the best way to protect your own best interests is to form good, strong alliances based on principle. That’s what we need.”

Spoken like a strike veteran who helped lay the strong foundation for a college of ethnic studies–not just a department, not just for a program, or a few classes–but a whole school at SFSU, 50 years ago.

Listen to the podcast here and read more about Dan Gonzales in this March 31 blog post.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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