Announcing the Black Studies Minor

June 11, 2020

In the past few weeks, catalyzed by the police murder of George Floyd, a powerful mass movement has emerged against the lethality of antiblack racism. People, including many in our community, have taken to the streets to hold racist structures accountable, calling for the defunding, demilitarization, and disbanding of the police as a necessary means of transforming the racist distribution of power and resources in this society. 

In a moment when the dungeon is shaking and the chains are falling off, CRES announces the long-awaited launch of the Black Studies minor, effective Fall 2020. In the midst of worldwide demonstrations against antiblack police brutality, this minor’s approval reflects the urgency of an intellectual hub on this campus that “focuses on Blackness, Black Lives, and Black Lifeworlds” (BSU Demands, June 1, 2020). The minor will offer students both breadth and depth in the intellectual histories, political movements, cultural expressions, and critical theories of the Black diaspora, while engaging a range of methodologies from across disciplines. As of June 17, when enrollment opens for fall quarter, students can sign up for the core course for the minor, CRES 68 (“Approaches to Black Studies”), which is substitutable by CRES 10. Approved outside electives for the minor can be found on the CRES tentative curriculum page and more information about minor requirements can be found on the new Black Studies minor page.

Frederick Douglass stated over a century and a half ago that power concedes nothing without a demand. In announcing the minor, CRES honors the visionary students who fought so hard and at great personal cost to make Black Studies a priority on this campus. We soberingly recall the duration and persistence of their struggle. The Afrikan/Black Student Alliance’s reclamation of Kerr Hall in Spring 2017, which paved the way for the Black Studies minor, was part of a powerful grassroots arc, stretching back to 1968 when UC Santa Cruz students advocated for the establishment of Malcolm X College (now Oakes College) as a space dedicated to the study of the “black experience.” We also recognize the committed faculty who sacrificed their own research time and the dedicated staff who worked long hours to bring this minor into being. 

In preparing our case for the minor, CRES polled undergraduates across campus on their interest in Black Studies. Conducted in mid-April, the survey explored three points: (1) “UCSC would benefit from a Black Studies minor,” (2) “If Black Studies classes were offered at UCSC, I would be interested in taking them,” and (3) “If a Black Studies minor were offered at UCSC, I would be interested in pursuing it.” We reached out to colleges and undergraduate advisors across campus, in addition to forwarding the survey to the Black Student Union (BSU), CRES, and Ethnic Resource Centers listservs. In just five days’ time, we received 210 responses. 

  • 94% (or 197 students) surveyed agree or strongly agree that UCSC would benefit from a Black Studies minor.

  • 85% (or 179 students) surveyed would be likely or very likely to take Black Studies classes.

  • 63% (or 132 students) surveyed would be likely or very likely to pursue a minor in Black Studies.

What came through loud and clear from these results was unabating student demand for Black Studies, and we have no doubt that if we conducted the survey now, the message would be amplified. The students of this campus have spoken, as they have for decades: the time for Black Studies was in 1968, and the time for Black Studies is now.

Even as we celebrate this important milestone, we realize the magnitude of work before us. In order to strengthen Black Studies, CRES needs your continued advocacy, and we require the partnership of campus leadership. To build Black Studies in meaningful ways, we must be able to mount more than a bare minimum of classes. As with every other Black Studies major or program in the UC system, we need to be able to offer program-specific electives, especially in areas of longstanding need like critical prison studies, a field whose relevance is more urgent than ever. Our efforts this year to hire a junior Black Studies scholar through the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program did not succeed. We are hopeful that our current open search in Black Studies, a search in which BSU members vibrantly took part, will lead to a hire who will offer up to two classes per year in CRES. 

For now, in taking stock of this victory, we turn to the students of this campus and those who came before to express our profound solidarity. In calling for the transformation of public education in this institution, you paved the way for generations of students to come.