July 18, 2019 | 74° F

RATERO: History of activism is long, ongoing process

Opinions Column: Mangoes and Revolution


On Wednesday March 30, Reclaim Revolution invited the Red Blanket Singers to start off the teach-ins. Teach-ins that have decolonized our minds and ignited our passions. My brain is still buzzing from the knowledge, wisdom and energy from those rooms.

We started with the history of colonialism at Rutgers. Those men in powdered wigs that decorate our campus on the “Revolutionary for 250 years” signs were not people that we should celebrate.

Some of the things I learned:

Colonialism and coloniality are different things. Colonialism is when people in power — often linked to technology and money — extend dominance over other people and land to reap profit. This process is not simple. Colonization does not go without resistance.

One way to break down opposition and establish dominance is to create knowledge that validates the colonial power. Colonial empires need to influence people’s psyche. Existence within a colonial state that affects your body, your autonomy and quite literally the way you think is coloniality.

Coloniality affects the entire current framework of knowledge production. We need to unlearn not only many of the things we’ve learned, but even the methods of learning them — from hard sciences to history to social norms. With the United States’ history of brutal land theft, genocide, horrific slavery, systemic racism and violently entrenched patriarchy, let’s not make the mistake of believing we are exempt from coloniality in the (neo)liberal institution.

As I mentioned in my column two weeks ago, this is the stuff you won’t learn in your average classroom. I say average because there are professors and graduate students, who make up one third of all instructors, who work tirelessly to plant the seeds of critical thought in us, the students. Although — it can be hard by the time we get to college to plant seeds in the metallic brains that the U.S. empire has been molding into robotic thought processes for years.

Like Randy Green said in the panel "History of Activism," “The Kool Aid is being served and many of you have already had it.” Once the comforts of the so-called "American Dream" are at your fingertips, who’s going to be the idiot to turn around and think about everyone else, right?

Forgive my cynicism. I’m angry that the same exact battles that Randy Green fought 40 years ago, the same ones that Taqwa Brookins’ mother fought 20 years ago, are still being fought today by the students on the panel Current Activism.

Of course there’s student activism — we’re still fighting to hire and tenure faculty of color! I Google “diversity at Rutgers” and the official Rutgers sites select the information they present, lumping together Camden, Newark and New Brunswick to talk about the ethnic breakdown of the student body (artificial barriers in themselves) while New Brunswick separates itself from Camden and Newark for everything else.

In fact, back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, many of the changes that took place at Rutgers due to student activism occurred precisely because Rutgers College and Douglass College wanted to ensure that the campuses in New Brunswick didn’t “become Newark.” They were afraid that something like the takeover of Conklin Hall in Newark in ’69 would happen in New Brunswick, and as Randy Green said, "They couldn’t let that happen to their baby.”

We observe a symptom of the increasing alliances with corporations, and the strategy to make the University — supposedly a public institution — run like a private corporation. In Rutgers’ contract with Pearson Education for online courses. Katherine Gray, a graduate student in the Department of Women and Gender Studies, explained that once an instructor designs an online course for this company, that syllabus and course structure becomes intellectual property of Pearson. The instructors, those who put the actual time and labor into it, cannot use that course except through the online portal for that one class.

After two teach-ins there is so much more information I’d like to further disseminate. Videos and audio will be online soon, and the links can be found through our Facebook page. The Daily Targum article on the teach-in offers some further information.

Despite the official narrative, student activism is alive and well. We know that this institution will not be the place of learning and growth it can become unless we take matters in our own hands and change the way the university system operates.

I strongly encourage you to come out tonight, April 7, to celebrate activism through the arts at Activist Art for the Soul in the Douglass Student Center, to learn, to celebrate and to connect with other students.

In the meantime, I still want to know what diversity truly means to the imperialist money-mongers running this institution as a corporation.

Becky Ratero is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in women's and gender studies and history. Her column, "Mangoes and Revolution," runs on alternate Thursdays.

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Becky Ratero

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