Department chair strives for change
For Albert Ramirez, chair of the ethnic studies department, the impact of social inequality started early.
Growing up in Houston, Texas, Ramirez’s 7th grade history class taught him and his peers to look down on Chicano culture.
“I felt like I was the villain,” he said. “That my people were the villains.”
Ramirez was taught that Texas “heroes” such as Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie stood up to the terrible agenda of foreign invaders. It wasn’t until college that he realized that each story contains a different perspective.
The change came, Ramirez said, when he realized that the intruders at the Alamo were on the inside.
Since then, Ramirez has dedicated his career to the study of race relations in the U.S., getting his PhD from the University of Houston in Social Psychology.
While a student, Ramirez examined interracial group relations in schools. He found that students were more highly influenced by white communicators, regardless of their own background. He believes this is because we live in a society where there’s a strong correlation between power and race.
Today, Ramirez works to dissolve this power relation.
“We’re striving to be a multicultural society, but in many ways we’re a monocultural society, because one predominant group is in power,” he said.
Ramirez said education is the key to uprooting the status quo. Miming the mission statement of the Ethnic Studies department, Ramirez believes that students need a broad education that includes a variety of ethnic, sociological, and economic perspectives. This, he believes, will help to achieve ethnic equality.
Ramirez added that providing an equal playing field for everyone isn’t only what’s right, but what’s necessary.
“History shows that in order to sustain itself, (a society) must be a fair and just society,” he said. “Otherwise it withers from within.”
In regards to diversity at CU, Ramirez cited a lack of funding as a major problem in promoting diversity. He said a rise in tuition, coupled with less financial aid, inhibits the enrollment of minority students and the hiring of a diverse faculty.
At the end of the interview, when asked to stand next to something in his office that was of particular significance to him, Ramirez picked a painting next to the door.
He voiced his contempt for the hand in the painting, as it crossed out the word “casa” and replaced it with “house” on a chalkboard.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Spencer Everett at email@example.com