I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holding me
-Nina Simone, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”
The feelin', the feelin' of false freedom
I'll force-feed 'em the poison that fill 'em up in the prison
I feel like it's just me
Look, I feel like I can't breathe
-Kendrick Lamar, “Feel”
The Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at CSU Fullerton condemns and is outraged by the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, the murder of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, the murder of Tony McDade in Florida, and the ongoing brutality against black and brown people in every state in the country at the hands of police officers and White supremacists.
We are in solidarity with the protestors addressing these injustices, and denounce all violence against protestors, journalists and civilians on the streets during this time of civil unrest. We are in solidarity with Black families and neighborhoods throughout the country and Black members of our campus community. We understand that our students of color face the everyday danger of losing their lives as they occupy public spaces, and that these physical realities also cause deep anxieties that Kendrick Lamar expresses when he says, “Look, I feel like I can’t breathe.” Lamar’s lyrics are especially prescient for a time when victims of police brutality express their inability to breathe with their few remaining breaths, while at the same time communities of color are suffering and dying disproportionately from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.
In her music Nina Simone expresses the imperative to know and experience freedom. The struggle to experience freedom for members of the African Diaspora dates back centuries. The racist and highly disproportionate number of police murders of Black people in the United States is not a recent phenomenon, and George Floyd’s murder in police custody is yet another example of how White supremacy and White supremacist institutions have the unchecked power to, at any instance, take away basic freedoms and human lives with impunity. At the same time, our institutions have engaged in systemic racist practices that have limited access to housing, employment, wages, education, and political enfranchisement to African American communities. As a department that studies Chicanx and Latinx histories, we uphold that since 1492 the fates of African and Indigenous peoples are interconnected through their pain, struggle and blood. The birth of the modern world and modern capitalism would have been impossible without the labor, sacrifice, exploitation, and deaths of countless members of these populations.
The Chicana and Chicano Studies Department at CSUF affirms our commitment to:
- Collaborate with and support Black students and faculty and staff colleagues to make systemic changes on campus that make and sustain CSU Fullerton pro-Black spaces.
- Continue to support anti-racist events and initiatives from our colleagues in African American Studies and other departments who specialize in African American, and cross-coalitional knowledge production.
- Support our faculty to create spaces of healing for our students, faculty and staff who are experiencing racialized trauma and pain.
- Create more opportunities for our Chicana/o Studies majors to incorporate electives from African American Studies.
- Continue to demand the Ethnic Studies degree graduation requirement on our campus and the CSU system.
- Call out both subtle and explicit White supremacy and racism on our campus, at all levels of the university.
- Continue to emphasize our department’s commitment to social justice and anti-racist pedagogy, praxis, and politics.
- Hold university leaders accountable who speak “diversity and inclusion” but rarely support students or faculty of color in concrete ways.
- Advocate for the university to perform a deep review of campus police personnel to ensure the safety of members of the campus community, and break contracts with other law enforcement agencies.
Leaders of African descent, such as Gaspar Yanga in Mexico and Toussaint L'Ouverture in Haiti, remind us that we are always ready to resist and rise up. We will never be defeated in struggle. We feel that the same spirit of solidarity among African American, Chicanx, Asian American, and Native American student activists that created our Ethnic Studies departments in the late 1960s across California bind us once again for broader racial and economic justice and equity, political work and direct action. We must remember also that it was trans Black and Latina women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera who were leaders in the Stonewall Riot that led to what we call Pride today. Without cross-coalitional anti-racist work, we fall prey to a long history of divide and rule. Chicanx and Latinx people must remember to support and advance the struggles of Black people. If not, we will continue to contribute to the “false freedom” that Black people feel on a daily basis. We must dedicate ourselves as the Zapatistas instruct us that “otro mundo es posible” (“another world is possible”) as we envision and create a future of social justice.
#BlackLivesMatter #SayTheirNames #TransLivesMatter
Eddy Francisco Alvarez, Jr
Erualdo R. Gonzalez
Alexandro Jose Gradilla
Mario A. Obando
Patricia A. Perez