OPINION: WSU must change diversity requirement

Learning about the history of ethnic events is important but they need context

JOEL KEMEGUE, Evergreen mint editor

Have you ever taken a Comparative Ethnic Studies class?

We all know WSU has a diversity requirement in it’s UCORE, but that’s not the same thing. Comparative Ethnic Studies deals with race and how that plays into American life, which a lot of the classes that complete the diversity requirement don’t cover.

When I ask if you’ve taken a CES class, I mean a class that delves into the experience of other races. Because other classes don’t do that. And they should but that’s an opinion for another day. Right now, you should take a CES class and learn more about race in America.

“It makes you well-rounded on everything that’s going on,” Julio Ramirez-Robles, a WSU second year pre-nursing major, said. “And frankly, in America, you’re more aware of racism and you can just [say] ‘okay, what can I do?'”

A K-12 education barely covers race, unless you happened to live in a very thorough school system. What we learn about that doesn’t have to do with white dudes mostly amounts to slavery, a little bit of Jim Crow (definitely not the full extent) maybe the Trail of Tears and Japanese-American internment camps.

Those are all incredibly important. But so are redlining, blockbusting, Mexican Repatriation, and the many, many race riots to name a few. Of course we can’t learn everything that ever happened in American history, but think about what you did learn. How much of it had to do with non-white people in this country?

And it’s not just the fact that we’re not learning about the history. We’re also not learning about how that history is impacting America right now. Very few events happen in a bubble, so we really have to ask ourselves what happened after slavery, after segregation ended, and if they had long-term impacts (hint: they did).

Faith Price, director of Native American Student Services, spoke about the need for CES classes from a Native American perspective. She said that for Native Americans, most of what we learn in K-12 is historical interactions with little to nothing on contemporary issues, and coupled with little positive media representation, it’s hard to get a good view on what life is like for Native people today.

“We have a really great opportunity in college to learn about other races and cultures.” Price said. “I think it would open some avenues to ask better questions or have better discussions about native peoples if you’ve got a little bit of a foundation into who native people are, some of the contemporary issues and some of the historical issues.”

And this rings true for other races too. Are slavery and the Civil Rights Act enough to have a discussion on the history of black people? That’s still more than we know about Latinx people, Asians and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans

Price herself said that CES classes allowed her to learn different viewpoints when she was in college, as she grew up mostly interacting with native people and white people.

Price also mentioned that CES classes can often help with majors or future careers. For American Indian Studies specifically, tribes hire architects and engineers and knowing a little bit more about Native Americans can make working with them more of an option.

CES adviser Anna Chow said that taking a class can help students look at issues from other perspectives, which is crucial to working with people no matter what you’re doing. There are people who aren’t your race in every major, every career. And chances are that your views may come into some conflict or provide some barrier, even if it isn’t a big one, because of that, so doesn’t it help to understand how other people live?

“I would say that CES courses benefit all majors and career fields.” Chow said “We live in a global society where we work with people from different racial and cultural backgrounds.  Learning about the complexities of race and racial formation prepares students for our global workforce.”

And here’s the thing. No matter what major you are, you have to fill a diversity credit to graduate. So why not make it a Comparative Ethnic Studies class? Become more well-rounded, take a course and learn more about histories that don’t get the same amount of attention.

If you’ve taken one, take more. Take an African-American studies class, Latino, Rhetorics of Racism. Like how one history class won’t teach you everything about history, one CES class isn’t going to come close to completely delving into other perspectives. And since you can’t sign up now, go to Black History Month events, attend a Ku-Ah-Mah meeting, go up to the student centers.

We’re here to try out different things and grow, aren’t we?