by Tonyaa Weathersbee, BlackAmericaWeb.com
Looks like Texas is just the beginning.
In that state, the Board of Education is tweaking the social studies textbooks to force history to fit their fantasies. Besides toning down Thomas Jefferson’s role as a founding father because he coined the phrase “separation of church and state,” according to the El Paso Times, those loonies now want to cast Ida B. Wells and W.E.B. Dubois as people who spewed negative views about America.
I guess they figure that, by Wells and Dubois being black and thereby expected to uphold their ideas of subservience, it was their patriotic duty to be silent about the lynchings and black suffering that was occurring during that time; that they should have been satisfied with America’s promise of equality rather than actually force America to keep it.
At the same time, the board has all but ignored Latinos.
One board member who voted against the changes in March told PBS that the books include few specifics about the Jim Crow style of discrimination that Mexican-Americans experienced in Texas.
Now, it seems Texas’ urge to spare schoolchildren of any lessons that threaten notions of white privilege and American moral perfection has crept further west.
Right after signing a law that will invariably lead the police to pay closer attention to Latinos by forcing them to prove that they aren’t in the country illegally, its governor, Jan Brewer, recently signed another law that can lead to making them and other minorities invisible.
In classroom lessons, that is.
The new law bans most ethnic studies from being taught in Arizona.
Schools risk losing funding if they offer courses that “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment of a particular race or class of people, are designed for a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
In other words, any courses in which the facts are too inconvenient for white folks to deal with.
The arrogance here is staggering.
First of all, it’s no secret that black people and Latinos have, throughout their history, struggled against the subjugation of a U.S. government that was run by whites.
For us, it was slavery and Jim Crow, and years of being legally barred from opportunities that would have enabled us to build wealth and to create new opportunities. Latinos have also struggled with displacement, segregation and other forms of discrimination.
Yet the Texas education board and Arizona lawmakers care more about protecting the feelings of white conservatives – who never experienced the pain of legal segregation – than telling the stories of the black and Latino people who are, in many ways, still struggling with the aftereffects.
That logic only makes sense in White Privilege Land.
Then again, something like this was bound to happen. The crush of Latino immigrants, plus a black man in the White House, was bound to cause some white folks to want to rewrite the rules – with a pen dripping with hypocrisy.
For example, one member of the Texas education board lauded the fact that truthfulness and values would be taught in the social studies curriculum.
But how can they emphasize honesty if the curriculum doesn’t include the truth about Mexican-Americans and segregation?
Or any context about Wells and DuBois – patriots who used their voice not to mindlessly criticize America, but to point out that it wasn’t living up to the ideals that people now want it to be lauded for?
And in Arizona, how can history and lessons in contemporary America be competently taught without featuring ethnic studies?
And how irresponsible is it for such courses to be banned at a time when it’s probably more important than ever for all students to know about the history and the lives of minorities who will soon make up a majority of the U.S. population?
And how hypocritical is it for any of the Texas education board members, or Arizona lawmakers, to claim that they’re changing the curriculum to emphasize American values and ideals and to tamp down racial resentment when they don’t want to include textbook lessons or offer courses that show what went wrong when America didn’t live up to those ideals?
I guess they don’t see it.
For them, it’s easier to use the power of white privilege to ignore uncomfortable chapters in American history.
Or, for that matter, to simply write them out.
November 18, 2015 //
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