Diabetes & the Lack of Ethnic Studies?

This blog entry is going to be a little different…It’s not going to follow the typical conventions of proper academic writing nor is it going to conform to conventional styles and rules often imposed by others within the education sphere. Why? Because life is not ordinary, there are constant surprises. Life is unpredictable so why should writing follow a certain mold if we all have different learning capabilities? Hence, writing should be unpredictable and it shouldn’t follow outdated Western styles of thinking, because that may not be applicable to many of our lives, herstories, or frameworks. Why can’t writing be abrupt, random, and unplanned- just the way life is?…For instance, last week my mother unexpectedly called me and informed me that my grandmother might have to get her toes amputated soon, because she has struggled with diabetes for a long time and has poor circulation in her feet.

Moments later, I called my sister in distress trying to assess the situation. My sister told me that the situation with our grandmother was unfortunate, but that our abuelita was partly to blame because she doesn’t take care of herself or eat well. My sister’s comment immediately caught my attention. It’s true that my grandmother is not the healthiest person, but then I started thinking about some of the exterior forces and social conditions that affect and shape our lives, our health, and well-being. Why is it that there is such a high rate of Latin@s with diabetes? Why are there so many liquor stores and fast food restaurants in low-income communities? And what kind of people have access to costly, locally grown organic produce? More importantly, who are the people that have access to some of the information and discourses that universities are producing?

Before coming to college I never shopped at Traders Joes and I never bought organic food items. Even when I go back home and shop with my mother, we always look for the cheapest items on sale. We often shop at Superior and dare I say it—WALMART. Places, my education has taught me are bad stores and are places that should be avoided; yet, when I’m home with my family, there are many critical questions that are not asked about the food we consume. Not to belittle my family but I’m just trying to demonstrate that the people who generally have access to organic costly food tend to be upper class individuals who are dun dun dun…..Caucasian! No surprise there. It may sound like I’m generalizing—which I am—because notice, I have used no statistics but it’s important to acknowledge the experiences and observations that we make on a day to day basis as individuals and members of this society. Don’t get me wrong, empirical data is vital and significant. But as Ms. Davis recently said, we can’t rely solely on statistics to create social change. The data exists, and although it is not always accessible, it does appear from time to time in mainstream media.

…Hence, this event with my grandmother caused me to ask a lot of questions and it made me to want to do more research on the topic, because often important health issues in underrepresented communities become skewed and are depicted inaccurately. And since the education I am receiving does not allow a space for deep critical discussions reflective of contemporary issues that directly affect communities of color and since my education does not encourage action and social activism, I decided to write this entry in hopes that you and I can learn more together collectively combating typical pedagogies. Since the education I am receiving is not meeting my demands or that of many students, this blog is a start in the right direction. We are attempting to create dialogue by documenting the events that eager students are putting forth in order to hopefully someday have an Ethnic and Critical Race Studies department, even if that means sacrificing attention towards our other classes because we are so determined to have this demand met.

You may be wondering what the point of this entry was. To be honest, I’m not even sure if there is one, because as you can probably tell I do not brainstorm before I write. I hate structured writing. To me writing is just another tool to express ourselves, so I like to write exactly what I’m thinking. My writing comes from the heart. There’s no filter on the words I jot down, after all I’m not trying to please anyone. I’m just curious in learning more about this topic that is greatly affecting my family and how can I take this information back to the people in my family and community? How can we be healthier consumers? What sort of foods should we avoid eating? For some people, these questions may be obvious and common knowledge, but for others these are difficult questions that are not taught to us. Many people of color are deliberately targeted when it comes to advertisements of unhealthy foods & products. So hopefully, this entry can help answer some of these questions, because I’m truly interested in learning and growing with other individuals who may share similar experiences or who may be knowledgeable on areas that I am not well acquainted with. I am not a science major; I do not know the technical and medical information regarding diabetes. But I am interested in learning more: how does the illness work & why does it affect so many people of color?

This blog entry was brought to you by a concerned student,

-E

(PS Here are some photos of my grandmother’s feet. Photo taken by nephew SW last week, just in case you’re a visual learner like me…)

 

            –On another note, recently we saw two films “On Strike!” and the “Hunger Strike.” Even though, I know the struggle for ethnic studies and a third world college dates back years and years ago, watching both films helped really put things into perspective. We are STILL fighting for basic fundamental demands that students were fighting for in the late 60s and early 80s. Here we are. It’s 2011 and we like to think of ourselves as living in a very modern and technologically advanced society; yet, we are still struggling with many racial and systematic issues. It can be overwhelming and disheartening to learn about all the issues that are presently occurring in our society and globally. It can be ultra depressing, but we cannot ignore the issues and events that are taking place. Not to sound like a broken record, but Angela Davis recently said at the “Education as Liberation?” event, that “this country has produced a monster and it is our responsibility to dismantle  it.” I hope this blog can provide a space for people to provide input and partake in a critical dialogue on concrete ideas that we can implement to actually create social change. Often, information goes in one ear and out the other, or sometimes we take the time to digest the information but we never go a step further and actually discuss how we can actually create change.

 

            As a fourth year at UCSC, I want more from my education. I appreciate and value the information I have learned from my professors, mentors, peers, friends, and family…But how can we challenge ourselves even more? Let’s not be content with just learning inside the classroom, how can we take that information and implement it in other aspects? How can we decolonize ourselves? How can we live lives that are not contradictory? Too many questions & not enough answers. However, the ethnic & critical race studies that I envision would be highly critical and challenging. IT would promote social change, activism, and community coalition building. Hopefully someday there will finally be an ethnic studies department at UCSC. The students have been asking for this department for decades yet it is still not here. Why are the administrators so hesitant? What will it take to finally have an established ethnic studies department or even better—an autonomous college? In 1981, UCSC students had a hunger strike in front of McHenry Library, but here we are STILL fighting for the same thing. What will it take? This struggle expands beyond you and I. For example, here are some links to some websites that individuals from other independent student taught courses at UCSC have created:

 

http://aapip.tumblr.com/

http://studentsengage.tumblr.com/

 

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About UCSC Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES)

This blog is maintained by students throughout UCSC. We recognize that students have been working around Ethnic Studies for multiple decades and at many levels of the university. We claim no ownership over any movement or material that is produced. We ask that any materiel used from the blog is cited and used for only educational purposes. Most importantly that it is done with honor and respect for the many people who worked in the struggle for Ethnic Studies. We would also like to point out that the name Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) was created to acknowledge the intellectual development of Ethnic Studies since the beginning of this struggle. The name came from countless meetings and hours with many different undergrads, graduate students, and faculty.
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