As of Fall 2018, the student demographic on campus is 63% Hispanic, 13% White, 7% Non-resident foreign students, 5% African American, 5% Asian, 4% Unknown, 2% are two or more races, and 1% Native American/Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander according to CSUSB’S statistical data. With this kind of diversity in an institution, students and faculty are pushing toward a decolonized education for curriculums that reflect their background, experiences, and struggles.
The need to decolonize education inspires many students to pursue research beyond what is taught to them, and to search for buried archives that represent their roots that haven’t been read.
Vanessa Ovalle Perez has recently earned a doctoral degree in comparative literature and graduate certificate in gender studies from the University of Southern California. She is now a CSUSB English professor who specializes in Chicanx and Latinx literature.
“When I started my research, I thought of myself as a student, and the things that I wish were being taught to me right now and that I would want to learn more about was really part of what motivated me to actually build those things I wanted to learn,” said Perez.
Perez did not feel connected to the history being taught in her education, and that drove her to do her own research on Latinx history.
“A lot of Latinx history and text that go way back haven’t been recovered. It’s not that they are not there, sometimes they haven’t been preserved at all. There are fewer surviving Latinx newspapers than there are newspapers written in English. The dominant culture is the one that is going to preserve their history,” said Perez.
She became interested in Latinx newspapers and poetry written by Latinas in the 19th century.
Perez has made presentations and podcasts speaking on these archives and, by recovering this work, people are allowed to have opinions and question culture, gender, and authorship.
Students have shared concerns about the need to belong, receiving representative context of themselves, their position in history of this country, and the opportunity to disrupt the current balance of power in education.
Luis Esparza is a graduate student and teaching associate pushing for classes where their stories are centered.
“Growing up in the K-12 system, I was taught that Mexican heroes like Zapata and Pancho Villa were the enemy. After taking history, media, and decolonial theory classes at San Bernardino Valley College and CSUSB with brilliant professors like Dr. Conlisk-Gallegos, Dr. Yvette Saavedra, and Dr. Ed Gomez, I learned that the history I was taught in K-12 was not my history. The history I was taught in K-12 was essentially an Anglo version of history that eliminates the contributions of people of color and queer folks. It is a version of history aimed to get students to assimilate and be ashamed of their cultures,” said Esparza.
Esparza’s experiences in the lack of culture and identity in education have motivated him to regain existence in history and continue the battle for a shift in education. He has been inspired by professors who have guided and shown him history, media, and decolonial theory classes that used conscious methods that apply to a particular demographic.
Through his journey to establish a place and a voice for students of color, he is hosting an event “Decolonizing Education: Dismantling the IMS” on March 17, 2020 at PL-4005 from 2-6pm. The event will be an open-mic and they will be accepting donations for local homeless folks.
“I hope students are able to heal through their education with events like this one,” said Esparza.
The event is open to the community and will provide snacks, drinks, musicians, artists, and poets from the Inland Empire to take part in the event.
“My motive is to maintain the foundation of the bridge between the University and the community. I feel like there needs to be more events like this to bridge that gap between the two,” said Esparza.
Priyamvada Gopal is a writer and educator with a BA from the University of Delhi and MA from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Once she completed her studies, she moved from India to the United States and completed her PhD in colonial and post-colonial literature.
As stated by Gopal in her article, Yes, we must decolonise: our teaching has to go beyond elite white men, “Decolonizing the curriculum is, first of all, the acceptance that education, literary or otherwise, needs to enable self-understanding.”