Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Fullerton College introduces new Arts Degree that focuses on Africana Studies


During a time of civil unrest in the United States, Fullerton College has introduced an Africana Studies Associate in Arts (AA) Degree that is available for students to pursue starting the fall of 2020. This 18-20 unit degree can be transferable to CSUs and UCs that also offer Africana Studies.

The Ethnic Studies department at Fullerton College also added two courses, Women of Color in the US and Honors American Ethnic Studies, which can both be taken as units necessary for obtaining the Africana Studies AA Degree.

Only a few community colleges offer this interdisciplinary degree, including Cerritos College who just added their Africana Studies AA Degree this fall as well. UCLA and USC both offer African American Studies degrees, but this differs from Africana Studies because African American studies focus mainly on Black history within America. Africana Studies analyzes the experiences, histories and developments of persons from African descent in America and internationally, which means it is more inclusive and diverse in its history. The Daily Trojan for USC back in 2017 wrote an article, USC Must Offer More Black History Courses, about how there was a petition for not only an Africana Studies degree, but also more Black courses as well.

To find out more about this degree and what this means for our students and community, Inside Fullerton spoke with Professor Arnetta Smith, who teaches Ethnic Studies, African American Studies, and LGBTQ+ Studies at Fullerton College.

What can a student do with a degree in Africana Studies?

Graduates with a degree in Africana Studies have limitless career possibilities in areas including education, the arts, governmental positions, non-profit sector, as well as in public and private businesses and medicine. It prepares our students to engage in community-grounded learning that provides work and service experience to prepare them for careers and postgraduate education better.

Can you see more ethnic studies degrees becoming available within the next few years? Why or why not?

Definitely! [Fullerton College Ethnic Studies] department is currently working on an American Indian and Asian and Pacific Islander AA degrees. We live in a multi-racial and ethnic society. We need to understand the real histories and realities of people that collectively make up this country. Our classes teach students to understand oppression and power, why they exist, how they manifest and how to dismantle it. Outside of ethnic studies courses, there is a shortage of courses that teach through this lens.

What does this mean for the Black community?

Traditional education erases the contributions of Black people in this country and internationally. When we teach Black history, we teach that Black people were slaves, and a white man freed us. A lot of folks don’t know that there were free Black people too. Also, we don’t discuss enslavement as a system of racialized oppression led by criminals who kidnapped African people and brought them over to work for hundreds of years for free. We don’t discuss Black people’s many rebellions on slave ships and in the “New World” to free themselves and their communities. We don’t teach the long legacy of police brutality against Black communities and how that legacy of policing Blackness started in the enslavement era. We don’t discuss any of this in traditional education. Having an Africana Studies degree dismantles all of the miseducation that has been going on for centuries. It allows Black people to see themselves as self-sufficient leaders instead of the submissive powerless people we were socialized to believe they were.

Do you believe it should be mandatory for cops to take an ethnic studies course or even attain a degree in an Ethnic Studies category to bring down the number of police brutality incidents against BIPOC people?

Honestly, I don’t know but it can’t hurt. One of the effects of taking an ethnic or Black studies class is that learning about communities of color and understanding their experiences and realities, humanizes them. I would hope that seeing Black people as human will equal to compassion and understanding. However, we also must understand that the criminal justice system was created on the foundation of white supremacy and racial and class oppression. So as long as it has its foundations in those power structures, police brutality will still be an issue for communities of color.

What is something you teach in your class that you wish everybody knew about?

I want them to understand and honor the strength it takes in order for BIPOC people to still exist and in some cases thrive even in the face of constant oppression and genocidal violence.