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Prashad Causes Controversy at ECAASU Closing Ceremony

At the ECAASU conference closing ceremony everyone was not on the same page. In contrast to the CIA, Coast Guard and the US Navy who spoke before him, Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. urged students to think about military spending and war making critically.

Prashad came to the ECAASU conference for the fourth time as a keynote speaker. He first began his speech by talking about the first time he spoke at ECAASU in 1998 during the 20th anniversary celebration where the theme was “Closing the Fist”. He also attended the ECAASU conference in 1999 and in 2003.

He then went on to elaborate on the history of ECAASU which according to Prashad “stemmed from two dynamics”. The first dynamic was the history of Asian American activism in 1960's that primarily focused on civil rights and anti-war protests. Prashad made it clear that these students stood in solidarity with the struggles of African American and Latino/a student organizations as well.

The second dynamic was the aftermath from the Supreme Court decision that opposes affirmative action. Asian American students then created ECAASU as well as MASU and APU. Prashad said that these groups were formed in order to, “affirm their stance against the blockade, against racism and to organize themselves to protect the gains from the Civil Rights Era.” Ultimately it was a fight for all people of color which is why in the 1980's many Asian Americans resisted the idea of “model minority”.

In addition to elaborating on the birth and growth of ECAASU, Prashad also proceeded to discuss the exponential increase of military spending over the decades. He even went as far as to say that, “US military spending is obscene”.

The self proclaimed Marxist* observed the government's distorted priorities, putting the military over education, health care, etc. in his speech in 1998 entitled “Midnight of the Social Order”. Inspired by Martin Luther King it focused on the idea that when social concerns are sacrificed for military funds our society is in “the midnight of morality.”

Currently the United States has spent $725 billion on it's several wars while Prashad compares this expense to China who only spends 18 million. He also said that it is predicted that this amount will increase as the year goes on.

He said “It is awkward to be in an event funded by the military and the CIA”.

He also said that ECAASU has gone from critiquing war making and other decisions the government has made to have “fallen into the lap of the war makers.”

Prashad says, “I caution you don't let your morals go down the tube.”

He urged the audience to see ECAASU as a place to seek alternate, peaceful solutions and to prioritize them and left the audience saying, “We are long past midnight. The clock needs to be reset. Turn your back on war making, peace is in the horizon.”

Netha Gill can be contacted at nethagill@gmail.com

*based off of interview http://www.zcommunications.org/zparecon/junevijayint.htm