EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA.
Arizona Republicans straight up banned Mexican American Studies (MAS) in 2012.
Texas Republicans have not been as direct in their opposition to MAS, still, they have been successful in suppressing culturally relevant courses for public school students. The proof is on the chalkboard.
This last April, the Texas State Board of Education appeared on the verge of making a major breakthrough for culturally relevant courses. It voted to support defining the standards for a Mexican American Studies curriculum and to support an innovative course developed in the Houston Independent School District.
That was great.
But what could have been a historical moment was thwarted in just a few minutes.
In the span of about 30 minutes, Republican Texas State Board of Education Representative sabotaged what could have been a major policy spearheaded by the majority Republican board.
David Bradley, a State Board of Education member, brought an intelligent discussion to a halt and told the audience that he found hyphenated names like Mexican American divisive. The statement was mind-boggling for many reasons. First, no one used the hyphen between Mexican and American anymore. Second, that’s like finding fajitas divisive. It would have made as much sense. Third, he pulled a name out of thin air and imposed it on a field of study that scholars have dedicated their entire lives to.
Subtler Forms of Discrimination
Arizona’s direct attack on MAS relied on a bill that prohibited courses that, among other outlandish accusations, promoted the overthrow of the government. Of course, the books of history and poetry that made up the MAS curriculum did no such thing. And last year, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned that so-called un-American law.
It is important to note that the final legal opinion stated that the law was implemented with discriminatory intent and for the purposes of politicos to gain power.
Texas activists, writers and educators learned a lot from the battle for Ethnic Studies in Arizona. As a Librotraficante, we smuggled texts prohibited by the Arizona ban of Mexican American Studies from Houston to Tucson. We learned a lot from our brother and sisters in Tucson about standing up to discrimination. We joined a nation movement to keep that un-American prohibition in check, so that it didn’t spread the same way Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB1070, aka “The Show Me Your Papers” law, did.
And it appears that Texas Republicans learned a lot from Arizona, too. Instead of a direct attack on Mexican American Studies, Texas Republicans have created a procedural poll tax and subtler forms of discrimination.
From Mexican American Studies to “Ethnic Studies”
Texas Republicans have replaced the name Mexican American Studies with: “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.”
The sense this makes is non-existent.
It really is as if the Republican majority Texas State Board of Education took Tex-Mex food and renamed it “Ethnic Food: American Food with ingredients from Texas and Mexico.”
The only difference is that more people would be mad.
The National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) Tejas Foco, of which I am a member, has launched a statewide campaign to demand that the TX SBOE change the name back. The NACCS Tejas FOCO released a statement condemning the name change and listing several reasons why the name change is wrong and why the name should be changed back to Mexican American Studies.
One of the most basic and logical reasons is that the name Mexican American Studies was approved by Texas and conforms to the rules and policies needed for courses to be smoothly counted as students transfer from dual credit programs in high school, to community college programs, to university undergraduate programs to master’s programs to doctorate programs.
This does appear to be an egregious act of discrimination.
The names of other fields of study have not been changed.
Will they change the name of African American Studies to “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of African Descent”?
They better not.
When pressed, Texas State Board of Education members reply that no other Ethnic Studies courses have been approved, so no other names have been addressed.
That’s a worse answer.
Mexican American Studies needs to be correctly titled and correctly implemented so that we have a template of the process to facilitate the implemention of African American Studies, Native American Studies, Asian American Studies, and on.
Give Us Our Name Back
We Texas educators and activists have included other fields in Ethnic Studies in all of our calls for culturally relevant courses.
As Librotraficantes, we have learned to spot and defy discrimination.
This name change sounds just like Arizona’s law which was “implemented with discriminatory intent” to “further political careers” just like the court’s found with Arizona’s law.
This June 12, 2018 we go back to Austin to demand that the Texas State Board of Education give us our name and history back.
As November elections come up, it is important for voters to take note of who openly condones and who silently condones this discrimination.
We will let the world know who turns their backs on us and who marches hand in hand with us into the multicultural, multimedia era we have rung in.