Message from the Vice Provost of the Institute of American Cultures
M. Belinda Tucker
This is an exciting time for the Institute of American Cultures (IAC) and for ethnic studies more generally at UCLA. For over 40 years the IAC has been a primary force on campus for research and study in African American Studies, American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies, and Chicano/a and Latino Studies. Over this period, the four ethnic studies research centers affiliated with the IAC have become among the most highly respected in the world and they continue to generate new scholarship and understandings that have contributed in very direct ways to policy development at both local and national levels. The IAC has also greatly advanced the diversification of the professoriate by supporting faculty hirings and career development in ethnic studies and related fields. In the process, we have seen very meaningful change in many of the more traditional disciplines of the academy, where work by and about the groups that have been the foci of our efforts are now core elements of the canon.
Societies do evolve and change. In fact, the social environment that provoked the establishment of these research centers has undergone a very significant transformation. The city and county of Los Angeles, along with California as a whole, have become so ethnically diverse that they long ago achieved “majority-minority” status (now mirroring the composition of the earth itself). Within group diversity has also exploded, as we’ve learned that migrants from countries such as Nigeria or China can represent literally hundreds of distinct ethnic groups. In southern California (and in other key locations around the country), we are being exposed to and enriched by ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity on a level unparalleled in human history. We call this phenomenon emerging America. The new IAC is poised to examine this new environment and the intersectional encounters and circumstances presented by these new social arrangements.
To be sure, we view pronouncements of a “post-racial” society as grossly premature (if such a state is even imaginable). Whether occasioned by the perceived “threat” of expanding diversity or the election of the first U.S. President who was not a Caucasian man, hate groups have actually increased by over 50% since 2000 (according to the Southern Poverty Law Center). Moreover, economic inequity is, in the view of many, greater than ever. Inequality, racism, sexism, and the array of injustices that have existed throughout much of human history remain with us. Yet, fundamental to the ethos of ethnic studies is the belief that knowledge generation should be accompanied by a commitment to address and correct societal ills. We see the challenges and opportunities before us, and look forward to working with our colleagues across campus and in our communities to (in the words of Michael Jackson) “make this world a better place.” We invite you to be a part of this effort by participating in our programs and activities; visiting our websites, Facebook pages, and blogs; or making a donation to your center or program of choice. We greatly value your continued support.