Yusuf Baker, professor of International Studies at CSULB, discusses Islamophobia at Tuesday's teach-in. Photos by Michaela Kwoka-Coleman.
About 80 students, faculty and staff gathered at the Cal State Long Beach Speaker’s Platform this afternoon for the first “Reclaiming Democracy” teach-in, sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts.
Continuing monthly through April, the teach-ins are the college’s response to President Donald Trump’s administration and aim to educate students on current political issues.
Today’s teach-in featured three speakers, Stewart Chang of the Asian and Asian-American Studies department, Amanda Trefethen from the philosophy department and Yusuf Baker from the International Studies department.
Chang discussed Trump’s executive orders during his 10-minute segment. He advised international students from the seven countries included in Trump’s “Muslim ban” not to travel abroad while the order stands.
He also addressed DACA, the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals policy implemented by the Obama administration in 2012, which grants a two-year deportation deferment and work permits for undocumented persons who were brought to the United States as children.
Chang said that under the Trump administration, the DACA policy most likely won’t be renewed, allowing for the potential deportation of undocumented students and young adult workers.
As of June 2016, 844,931 DACA applications were approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), according to the Migration Policy Institute. In California alone, 238,206 DACA applications were approved by USCIS by the same date.
Baker focused his segment on Islamophobia and its deep history in the U.S. The past three administrations have all contributed to the Islamophobia present today, he said, allowing the current administration to justify its “Muslim ban.”
“The refugee ban is not about a threat they pose, because they don’t,” Baker said. “It’s about creating a discourse… to foment fear.”
Referencing the Japanese internment camps of World War II and Friday’s immigration order, Trefethen quoted former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, “You are kidding yourself if you think this won’t happen again.”
Trefethen then asked those in attendance to “make facts matter” and to “not give in to unwarranted fear.”
Students, faculty and staff broke out into cheers and applause.
Following the three speakers, students broke up into small focus groups which included topics such as Islamophobia, anti-semitism, reproductive rights, voting rights and executive orders, and racism and immigration.
During this time, a lone protester, Cyrus Hojjaty, arrived carrying a sign that read “honk to stop illegals, China trade, H1B visas.”
Jeff Blutinger, professor of Jewish Studies at CSULB, discusses anti-semitism during the small group part of Tuesday's teach-in. Students asked questions regarding anti-semitism in the United States and the future of the U.S. as a democracy.
Some students complained about his presence, but professor of Jewish Studies Jeff Blutinger reminded them free speech allowed him to protest peacefully.
In his focus group on anti-semitism, Blutinger talked about Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart news executive, and his role in the White House. Bannon’s appointment to the National Security Council, Blutinger said, is a nod of approval to the “alt-right” movement.
Blutinger made the point that “alt” in German means “old,” explaining that the group’s name is an ode to the old right movement in Nazi Germany.
“We’re about to have our democracy tested like it’s never been tested before,” he said, in response to a student’s question about whether the U.S. is going to become the next Nazi Germany.
Responding to a question about the near future of the U.S., Blutinger reminded students that Congress is where most of the damage will likely be done.
Congress is the biggest threat and the Republican-controlled Congress will try to push through it’s agenda “before [Trump] self destructs,” he said.
Students, faculty and staff listen to speakers at the first teach-in at Cal State Long Beach. Tuesday's teach-in, part of the "Reclaiming Democracy" series focused on current political topics and President Donald Trump's executive orders.
Jose Larios, a fifth-year CSULB student who was part of Blutinger’s small group, said the teach-in helped him process the current political climate and how it’s affecting people.
“There’s actually a lot more victims of the current administration than I originally thought,” he said. “I originally thought, Muslims and more violence towards people of color, but I didn’t even consider Jewish people being victims.”
The next teach-in is scheduled for Wednesday, February 22 at noon at the Speaker’s Platform in upper campus. It will focus on fascism and its historical rises.