Africana Studies Department Collaborates with Criminal Justice Program to Expand Course Offerings

Police at protestRace Relations Courses Required for Criminal Justice Majors Beginning in 2021

By Leslie L.J. Reilly

The role of race in American law enforcement continually presents itself. 

"The recent [8/23/20] shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police underscores the need for significant changes in policing and criminal justice work,” said College of Arts and Letters Dean Monica J. Casper. “It is not enough to include content on race relations in policing, though that's a start. Alongside and within criminal justice classes, we must also educate students about pervasive, longstanding anti-Black ideologies and behaviors, and infuse all our curricular offerings at SDSU with anti-racist perspectives and advocacy.”

One of the new course requirements for criminal justice majors is AFRAS 380: Blacks in the U.S. Justice System, which enables students to explore the broader historical, political, and legal context of Africana people in the United States. The course examines the interpretation and application of constitutional principles and judicial decisions to political and social problems faced by African Americans.

“This course approaches the content from an African American perspective,” Adisa A. Alkebulan, chair and associate professor, Africana Studies said. “The desired outcome is a better educated and better trained cadre of criminal justice professionals.”  

Students studying in the fields of law, law enforcement, probation and parole, corrections or other social services agencies will gain an understanding from a different cultural and disciplinary perspective to enhance what they receive in their criminal justice curriculum.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with SDSU’s department of criminal justice on one of the most pressing issues of our time,” Alkebulan said. “There has always been a desire of some criminal justice students to increase their personal and professional understanding of and interest in the ways in which the U.S. justice system adversely impacts the lives of Black people. Black Lives depend on such initiatives.”

To further address the concerns of policing, the Department of Africana Studies formed the Africana Community Engagement Committee. The formation of the committee is to act as the thinktank hub for research, scholarly discourse, and curriculum development in the field of alternative policing, specifically regarding the African American community. In development now is a training course on Applied Alternative Policing which will address subjects such as: empathy initiatives, defunding and repurposing; comparative policing philosophies, training, and statistical data; and, alternative policing methods.

“The Department of Africana Studies – inclusive of African-American, Africana, and Black studies – is superbly positioned to offer critical content. We in CAL look forward to working with the School of Public Affairs in broadening the kinds of courses students can enroll in to deepen their education," said Casper.