from Asian/Pacific Students Unite! Summer 1978
In the 1960's, a movement arose in resistance to the increasingly poor conditions of national oppression faced by Third World people. Many of us remember glimpses of the civil rights movement in which black people across the country by the thousands demanded the rights long denied them. Following this, there was a nationwide movement to oppose US aggression in Southeast Asia and supporting the Vietnamese people's struggle for liberation.
Third World students drew inspiration from these struggles and saw how it related to their own conditions such as at San Francisco State College. 70% of all public school students in SF were minorities, but yet, they made up only 16% of the enrollment at SF State. They also experienced the racist tracking systems, which systematically put minorities and working class students into "vocational" track classes and privileged white students into "college-oriented" classes. Third World students saw that their communities were totally without legal aid, decent housing and health care. Third World students knew that these conditions of national oppression would not just work itself out, or be eliminated by the school administrators and the government it represents. They were determined to actively try to change them.
THIRD WORLD STRIKES
Drawing inspiration from the civil rights movement, and the heroic struggles of the Vietnamese people, they began to wage their own struggle on the campus. One of the most significant was the 1968 Third World Student Strike at SF State. In the fall of '68, after many attempts to attain effective programs to enable Black, Asian, Chicano and Native Americans into the college, a newly formed Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) called a general student strike to boycott classes and shut down the school. This was in response to the complete neglect by the administrators to meet the students' just demands.
OPEN THEM UP OR SHUT THEM DOWN!
The struggle that followed involved the active support of 85% of SF State students in boycotting classes. A solidarity strike by 300 teachers, along with the library, sanitation and other campus employees, people from the Third World commmunities and workplaces, progressive whites all came out show their support. This massive strike, shut down the campus for an entire semester, and began the long struggle of Third World students to gain a more equal chance of education in the form of EOP (Educational Opportunity Programs), special admissions, financial aids, ethnic studies including Asian American Studies (AAS).
The strike was not met without the resistance of the administrators who called the SF police. They hoped to beat down the students, arresting over 600 people and seriously injuring several protestors. At the most intensive time, the newly appointed S. I. Hayakawa, self-proclaimed spokesperson for the Asian community, called in 650 police armed and mounted to occupy the campus. This violent repression only furthered the students' determination and built the movement with growing support from Third World communities outraged at the actions of the administration, government and' police.
The strike at SF State was a spark that spread a fire across the campuses in a major city in the country, as students at UCLA, CSULB, UC Berkeley, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, in the midwest and throughout the East coast took up the struggle for similar demands and to defend newly formed programs the administrators were already attempting to eliminate. This marked the beginning of the Third World student movement and in particular, the beginnings an Asian student movement.
LEARN FROM THE THIRD WORLD STRIKES
There are many things we can learn from the strikes and struggle to establish ethnic studies and other programs. Much of this we can apply to the ongoing struggle to defend these programs, in particular Asian American Studies (AAS).
One was that whole basis for the formation of ethnic studies/AAS was from the NEED of Third World people to change their conditions in society. By having a program that enables us to learn more about our true history and culture, the conditions in our communities and its causes, we can work more effectively to change these period. AAS has helped many students to learn about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWI I and about the redevelopment of the Little Tokyos, Chinatowns, and Manilatowns presently taking place. This has helped many Asian students support community organizations as CANE (Committee Against Nihonmachi Evictions) and LTPRO (Little Tokyo People's Rights Organization) which are fighting against the destruction and dispersal of J-towns.
Included in the demands put forward by Third World students was that there should be community/student input in the direction of ethnic studies and also the forming of an independent Third World College. These intentions were unique from any other studies offered, and its progressive nature is important to continue.
Another lesson is how the students relied on the strength and unity of the masses of people in building the movement and winning important gains. It is apparent that the UC Regents administrators and the government are not really working in the interest of Third World students nor the majority of the students; but have worked in every way to keep Third World people on the same track of low-paying and unskilled labor.
The aspect of national oppression is what united Asians with Blacks, Raza, and Native Americans into a common struggle to fight against the racism and national oppression they face as Third World students. This common experience still remains, and we should further our efforts to unite with other Third World students as well as the progressive movement in general to carry on the present defense of AAS and other special programs.
BUILD OUR ASIAN STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS TO DEFEND SPECIAL PROGRAMS AND AAS.
The forming of Asian student organizations started after the strikes and the beginnings of ethnic studies. These organizations continue to develop AAS, give more direction to the ongoing struggles of Asian students and meet the social-cultural, political-educational needs of Asian students. These organizations such as the ASU's, AAPA's, AAA, etc. played an important role in uniting students into a strong movement for social change. Today, the APSU and other Asian student organizations are constantly struggling to build this movement and to carry on the defense and growth of AAS.
WHAT IS THE STATE OF AAS TODAY?
The existence of Asian American studies on various campuses was a significant step forward for students to learn about the true history of Asian Americans that was denied to them historically. But since the establishment of Asian American/Ethnic Studies in the late 60's, only 10% still exists today. There remains a growing need for these programs to be expanded into departments, further the experiences amongst Asian students, learn about other Asian cultures, and to promote social change through better understanding the conditions of this society. Present conditions show that AAS is under attack by the institutions using the myth of lack of funding and citing low enrollment in classes. Two recent decisions, Bakke and Jarvis/Gann, have helped to further diminish all ethnic studies programs by establishing a legal basis for these attacks. These classes are also being increasingly institutionalized by token faculty who too easily forget their original purpose of AAS and inhibit student involvement in the class and community.
Because of the need to continually learn about the experiences of Asians in America, the Asian/Pacific Student Union has taken up the struggle by having various workshops during the summer. Students in APSU took up the initiative to educate themselves as well as others through the organizing of these workshops. Through these workshops, we have gained a better understanding of our own history, culture and the need to continue our efforts to improve and expand Asian American Studies. We plan to bring our perspective into Asian American Studies classes and encourage students to join in the fight to maintain and expand these programs.
We can learn much from the struggles of the Third World Strikes, and carry on that spirit of resistance today.
DEFEND AND EXPAND ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES. DARE TO STRUGGLE, DARE TO WIN!