On the second episode of Ask NBN, we asked professors in ethnic studies departments what Asian-American studies, African-American studies, and Latina and Latino studies can do for students at Northwestern.
All three programs were established after student activists fought for and demanded that the administration provide resources for them. Most recently, the Asian-American studies program was expanded from a minor to a major after almost 20 years of activism. But why is it so important for students to take these courses in the first place?
"What you get from an ethnic studies course is the counter narrative to the dominant one," said Nitasha Sharma, a professor in both the African-American studies and Asian-American studies departments. "It’s more fully fleshed out. It is inclusive of all kinds of people’s contributions but it isn’t really a whitewashed history."
These programs challenge students to think critically in a way that a biology class or literature class might not, as they examine culture, racism, social and class dynamics from multiple perspectives.
"I think that we should think seriously about the obligations we have to students of all kinds, epecially students who are students of color," said Monica Russel y Rodriguez, a professor in the Latino and Latina studies program. "It's also really great for students who are not of color, who need to understand what it means to be a citizen of the world, to be exposed to the experiences of students of color."