Kang: In support of ‘To Be Departments’ campaign for AASP, LLSP

Will Kang, Op-Ed Contributor

Currently, there is a struggle for the recognition of two of Northwestern’s biggest ethnic studies programs — Asian American Studies Program and Latina and Latino Studies Program — as departments. While The Daily has had its fair share of articles written about (and often in support of) this campaign, I too wanted to chime in and talk about why I support this campaign and reflect on what ethnic studies has done for my life.

I am currently an Asian American Studies minor. I have been taking AASP classes since I first stepped foot on campus and I cannot stress enough how much the program has changed my own life by making me think more critically about the world. Furthermore, I am sure that many of those who have taken classes in the AASP/LLSP would feel the same way. Don’t believe me? Ask around. Read some of the opinion pieces and talk to students about why they’re in support of this campaign.

Of course, I could talk about how these courses have helped countless friends and classmates deal with issues and inner contradictions surrounding “identity.” But when I think about it, there’s something that is more important to me about these departments than simply learning about one’s own “identity.” While “identity” is an important first step for many people of color to understand where they are in such a messed up world (and act on it), it certainly is not the final step.

These programs not only help people deal with personal issues, but also equip them with a radically different understanding of the world that they can work with to enact change. It was in an Asian American History class, for example, where I learned more about the rich history of resistance among Asian Americans against injustice and felt a sense of solidarity with other oppressed nationalities. It was in that same class that I found out that the idea of ethnic studies had been formed from arduous and impassioned struggle by revolutionary students of oppressed nationalities. I understood that these programs are important for both understanding who people are and also taking what they learned back into their communities. The things we learn in these programs are tools that we can use to forge a brighter, healthier world.

Additionally, these programs have become a community for me. There’s nothing better than coming to Crowe Hall after a day of classes just to talk with faculty or other students, or even to relax. Some of the best dinners I’ve had were in the company of both AASP faculty and students where we share food, experiences and a good time. It is here that I have found a home.

Though 50 years have passed since the Third World Liberation Front fought for an ethnic studies program at San Francisco State University, some things still have not changed. There are still many people who are struggling in the face of injustice. These programs are important for those who see their communities suffering and want to enact social change. To see AASP and LLSP disadvantaged because they do not have all of the benefits departmental status can bring is shameful. I strongly urge all people to support the “To Be Departments” campaign. It will be very helpful for the growth of ethnic studies and people who want to fight against the injustices that face our world today.

Will Kang is a Medill sophomore. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.