Professor lectures on equitable educational access and opportunities

By Paul Medina

University of California, Riverside professor and author Tara J. Yosso spoke at was the last speaker of the Racial Equity & Social Justice Town Hall series.

The talk on Friday was on ‘Cultivating a Community of Praxis at East Los Angeles College’ which was sponsored by the President’s Office. 

Yasso is known for her extensive work with Critical Race Theory and on topics such as “critical media literacy which examines educational access and opportunities,” her speaker profile said. 

According to her presentation, the working definition of Critical Race Theory in education is “a dynamic interdisciplinary framework used to identify, analyze and challenge the ways race and racism shape the experiences of People of Color in education.”

Yosso said, “We got to talk about critical race theory at its intersections for women of color, for working-class women of color, how we experience gendered racism for men of color if we don’t talk about it at its intersections.”

It was in the 1970s where Critical Race Theory began to flourish in law schools. 

Some of the critiques from law scholars was on “how they can address the slow pace of civil rights legislation if they cannot specifically address the issue of racism and by not naming it, they cannot challenge its legacy,” Yasso said.

Yasso said, her work with Critical Race Theory draws upon the intentional political acknowledgment of what happens in schools and how to put that theory into practice or praxis.

Yasso said she acknowledges that when teaching, she isn’t the only individual who holds the knowledge in a classroom. The students in her classroom bring various forms of knowledge, which is crucial and she welcomes it.

Yasso touched on the East LA Walkouts (also known as the East LA Blowouts) where in 1968, multiple high school students from predominantly low-income Hispanic majority communities in the Northeast and East Los Angeles area walked out from school in order to demand better educational rights.

Yasso said that the walk out was an example of “students organizing and resisting with their parents and community members consistent about what schools are supposed to be, have equal opportunities but are not.”

The lecture brought up many elements on Yasso’s work, which according to her biography, “her work seeks to understand the ways communities of color have historically utilized an array of cultural knowledge skills, abilities, and networks to navigate structures of racial discrimination in pursuit of educational equality.”

Part of the lecture touched on education deficit thinking which “perpetuates an incomplete view of communities of color and asserts that students of color lack the appropriate cultural and linguistic attributes for school success.”

Yasson said that deficit thinking blames the assumption that “families of color do not prioritize and do not instill high aspirations in their children.”

Dr. Vanessa Ochoa, Dean of Student Services commended the series, which brought many guest speakers throughout the year “The series is committed to practices that are driven by equity and centers in love.”

According to the biography on Yasso’s UC Riverside page “Tara J. Yosso is a first-generation college student and Professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside.”

Furthermore, the biography states that she earned her B.A. at UCLA in an individual major she designed: “Social Psychology of Education with an Emphasis in Chicana/o Studies.”

She also earned her Ph.D. at UCLA in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies in Urban Schooling.

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