On Strike! San Fransicso State College Strike, 1968-1969: The Role of Asian American Students

Image is black background with grey and white swirls at the top. A quote reads "The focus of the strike was a redefinition of education, which in turn was linked to a larger redefinition of American society. Activists believed that education should be "relevant" and serve the needs of their communities, not the corporations." Underneath it reads “Karen Umemoto, On Strike! San Francisco State College Strike, 1968-1969: The Role of Asian American Students.” To the bottom left of the quote is a black and white image of two students; the one on the right holds a sign that says “Education is not a crime.” The white POC logo is at the bottom of the image.

Image is black background with grey and white swirls at the top. A quote reads "The focus of the strike was a redefinition of education, which in turn was linked to a larger redefinition of American society. Activists believed that education should be "relevant" and serve the needs of their communities, not the corporations." Underneath it reads “Karen Umemoto, On Strike! San Francisco State College Strike, 1968-1969: The Role of Asian American Students.” To the bottom left of the quote is a black and white image of two students; the one on the right holds a sign that says “Education is not a crime.” The white POC logo is at the bottom of the image.

by Abaki Beck

Our reading of the week is On Strike! San Francisco State College Strike, 1968-1969: The Role of Asian American Students by Karen Umemoto. This is an article about Asian American student’s political consciousness and their involvement the strikes that helped create the first ethnic studies programs in the nation. Umemoto describes how the desire for ethnic studies grew from desires for of racial harmony but later evolved to focus on self-determination for communities of color. She argues that these strikes are important for students today to know about, as many colleges and universities have shifted to using words like "diversity" to benignly support institutional interests, as opposed to the empowerment of students of color, which is what the protesting students fought for.

These histories of student led strikes focusing on empowering and inclusive education remain eerily important today. In 2010, Arizona banned Mexican American studies courses in the Tucson Unified Public School district, leading to the rise in book smugglers and other efforts to give Latinx students (the majority of that school district) a right to their history. In January, a Republican state legislator in Arizona introduced a follow up bill, aimed at banning social justice or solidarity events at public schools. It literally bans events that would promote “social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class or other class of people.” This makes it vividly clear that Republican lawmakers are threatened by equity and human rights. On the University level, the University of Wisconsin has been under attack by Republican lawmakers, who loosely threatened to remove state funding of the University for offering a course in the African American Studies Department titled “The Problem of Whiteness.” These contemporary attacks on the freedom for marginalized students to education - education that represents their histories outside of a colonial, white supremacist lens - make it clear that the fight for Ethnic Studies spearheaded by the students Umemoto profiles is far from over.


POC Online Classroom strives to make readings and resources that celebrate the intellectual tradition and knowledge production of marginalized communities more accessible. Rad Reading is a our series that highlight texts to read and writers to support! We will post every Tuesday.