The “Essential Worker” in the Time of Corona: Ethnic Studies and a Legacy Canceled in the Napa Valley


  • Lilia Soto



As the wrath of COVID-19 among the poor and BIPOC communities continued into summer 2021 and beyond, and so did the uprisings. Calls to defund the police entered mainstream discourse, as did calls to abolish prisons. Connecting the pandemic and the renewal of social justice mass struggle leads to a new appreciation of ethnic studies as a decolonial practice. Ethnic studies itself has become one of the “essential workers” needed to assess the present conjuncture. Yet for that very reason, ethnic studies is also presently under attack at local, national, and international levels. It is within this context that I situate how the elimination of the Legacy Youth Project (LYP) in Napa, California —the only ethnic studies program offered at some local schools—became a dangerous reality for K–12 students.