Letter: Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum – Support

By Melina Abdullah

On behalf of the Black Lives Matter Global Network’s California Chapters, we write to express our support for the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum as submitted and to oppose proposed modifications that would expand the definition of Ethnic Studies beyond its scope, whereby eroding its intent. As you know, Black Studies is, perhaps, the most enduring victory of the Black Power era. As a current iteration of the Black freedom movement, Black Lives Matter understands the deep importance of Ethnic Studies and its four sub-disciplines: African-American/Africana/Black Studies, Asian/Asian-American Studies (including API Studies), Chicanx/Latinx Studies, and Indigenous/Native American Studies, especially in an era of soaring hate crimes, White-supremacist rhetoric, racist policy-making, and White-supremacist violence against racialized “others,” especially Black and Latinx communities.

A Stanford University study demonstrates that in school districts where quality Ethnic Studies curricula are implemented, students experienced a rise in grade-point-average of up to an entire point. A California State University, Los Angeles study affirms that students who enroll in at least one Ethnic Studies course perform better overall, even in seemingly unrelated courses like math and science. Moreover, scholars like Gloria Ladson-Billings assert that Ethnic Studies curricula enable students to develop greater cultural-competency and are much better equipped to engage diverse communities.

The passage of AB 2016 indicates that the California Legislature sees Ethnic Studies as a worthwhile investment for the students of the state. As such, the integrity of Ethnic Studies must be protected. The Model Curriculum, as submitted, protects the integrity of Ethnic Studies and engages the field in a manner that fosters a greater understanding and embrace of groups that have been historically oppressed by race in the Americas. The proposed curriculum further engages the intersectionality of each group, without collapsing race-based oppression and resistance with other axes, like culture and religion. While the expansion of the definition of Ethnic Studies might appear to advance “tolerance,” it does so at the expense of deepening our commitment to the communities

that have been most marginalized by race. Ethnic Studies is not the same as “multicultural studies,” “diversity studies,” or even “American Studies.” The thrust of Ethnic Studies focuses on the particular (and intersectional) experiences of the four historically oppressed racialized groups. We offer our strong support of the current model curriculum and encourage the Commission to accept the definition as presented by virtually every scholar in the field.

Melina Abdullah, Ph.D.

for the Black Lives Matter Global Network, California Chapters


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22 Comments

  1. Greg Brucker

    While the expansion of the definition of Ethnic Studies might appear to advance “tolerance,” it does so at the expense of deepening our commitment to the communities that have been most marginalized by race.

    How does the recognition of and inclusion of anti-semitism, which is still the most frequent hate crime on an ethnic minority/religious minority, prevent a deepening of commitment to the communities most marginalized by race? Because many of us look white?

    Dismissing the vast history of anti-semitism world wide at the hands of white nationalists, neo-nazis, and many hate groups around the world that are not white, as not important enough to include in a K-12 standard set that is supposed to address marginalized minorities, for the reason stated above is anti-semitic. Period. This is no different than denying the holocaust. This is denying that Jews are the most harmed ethnic minority (and, as a smaller minority than many traditionally considered minorities) through hate crime per the stats.

    The confusion I have heard about regarding this process includes that, because Ethnic Studies at the Collegiate level does not include Jewish Studies, it wasn’t considered for this. That is a completely fair and understandable reasoning. But that is also based on the fact that there are Jewish Studies depts at the collegiate level. This is not the case in  K-12, and so it must be looked at from a broader standpoint, inclusive of all minorities that have been even partially marginalized. We don’t have Jewish Studies classes in K-12. Therefore, to cover the information without harming Jews further, we must be included.

    Where yesterday’s letter came across as at least having basic understanding. This just comes across as anti-semitic in reasoning.

     

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      Ironic, as it was a lot of ‘white’ Jewish and Catholic folk who supported, were active in, and sometimes spilt their blood in the Civil Rights movement in the South… it wasn’t just Dr King, and Blacks… maybe their efforts and sacrifices “don’t matter”.  Jews and Irish, Italian Catholics knew what it was like to be marginalized and discriminated against.

      Remember the KKK shared their “hate” with Black’s, Jews and Catholic, and their ethnic origins…

    2. Alan Miller

      You must not have read this yesterday:

      Jewish Studies has over a century of tradition in the American Academy as either religious or cultural/multicultural studies, but it has no academic tradition inside of Ethnic Studies at any point in the 50-year history of the field.  This does not diminish the importance of Jewish Studies; to the contrary, it simply respects its academic tradition.  Jewish Studies for the most part was a project to understand the assimilation of American Jews into American Whiteness.  The portion that was not assimilationist into Whiteness still did not focus on Jews of color, African/Black Jews, Asian Jews, etc., and definitely did not re-center Jewish Studies as a people of color, decolonial project.

      Yeah, just that simple.

      I don’t know how you found today’s letter more Jew-hating than yesterday’s, when the guy twisted himself in knots to prove he wasn’t a Jew-hater, which is what racists do.  I found today’s more likely just someone who wants to get theirs — more ignorant and/or unthinking than hating.

      Yesterday’s letter should inspire a scientific study to see if someone can stuff their head so far up their academic arsehole, if their head would actually come out of their own mouth.

    3. Craig Ross

      “How does the recognition of and inclusion of anti-semitism, which is still the most frequent hate crime on an ethnic minority/religious minority, prevent a deepening of commitment to the communities most marginalized by race? Because many of us look white?”

      Perhaps has to do with the relative prosperity of Jews even if they, like Asians, continue to face discrimination.

  2. Eric Gelber

    To deny that anti-semitism (as distinguished from anti-Judaism) is a form of racism is to deny history. The Nazis in Germany, and their neo-Nazi, white supremacist progeny in the U.S., certainly perceived Jews as comprising a separate and inferior race. Race is a social construct, not a biological one. There is no question, therefore, that anti-semitism is a form of racism.

  3. Ron Glick

    Still wondering why is islamophobia included but not anti-semitism? Perhaps these authors and Ethnic Studies academics might re-read the part of The Autobiography of Malcolm X where he goes to Mecca and finds, much to his surprise, white muslims practicing their faith.

    1. Alan Miller

      I’ll say it again:

      The portion that was not assimilationist into Whiteness still did not focus on Jews of color, African/Black Jews, Asian Jews, etc., and definitely did not re-center Jewish Studies as a people of color, decolonial project.

      So there! . . .  – ish . . . . . . .

  4. Ron Oertel

    “Because many of us look white?”

    I’m wondering what this means, perhaps on more than one level. 

    For example, how is it that Hitler promoted an “ideal” that didn’t exactly look like him? (My “Goodwin moment”, for the day.)

    Let’s “settle” this on this blog – Judaism – exclusively a “religion”, or not? 😉

    1. Ron Oertel

      It’s “Godwin’s Law”, you moron! If you’re not going to take any of these labels/terminology seriously, I’d suggest that you don’t comment at all.

      (But yeah – the underlying concerns are serious.)

      1. Ron Oertel

        “Judaism (originally from Hebrew יהודה, Yehudah, “Judah”;[1][2] via Latin and Greek) is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people. It is an ancient, monotheistic, Abrahamic religion with the Torah as its foundational text.[3] It encompasses the religion, philosophy, and culture of the Jewish people.[4]”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaism

        Jews (Hebrew: יְהוּדִים ISO 259-3 Yehudim, Israeli pronunciation [jehuˈdim]) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group[10] and a nation,[11][12][13] originating from the Israelites[14][15][16] and Hebrews[17][18] of historical Israel and Judah. Jewish ethnicity, nationhood, and religion are strongly interrelated,[19][20] as Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, while its observance varies from strict observance to complete nonobservance.[21]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews

        (Seems like this one topic alone could comprise of a course or two, if one was interested in exploring it.)  It’s complicated enough that my first attempt wouldn’t even post – and went into the Vanguard’s “automated” moderation system – due to the numerous embedded links in the text.

        Probably better-off focusing on STEM courses, if the primary purpose of education is to prepare for a job/career. 😉 (Well, that – plus performing subsidized baby-sitting duties for working parents.)

         

         

        1. Ron Glick

          The simplest explanation I ever read was in Michener’s novel “The Source.” Michener, for literary simplicity,  reduces the difference between Jews and Christians to a question of if you believe that God is one or three? With one representing monotheism and three representing the Trinity.

          In Israel the official language is Hebrew, a language that was common to Jews of all races and nationalities who’s journey through the diaspora over generations took them to far flung places across the globe. While culturally and genetically diverse Hebrew provided them with a commonality of communication probably second only to monotheism in importance.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Thanks – that summary does make it more understandable.

          What’s less understandable is how they were identified and persecuted by other groups (for eons, apparently).

          Good thing that we’ve “evolved” biologically so much, since that time.  Just kidding.

          I remember as a child, thinking that things like this were behind us.  For example, World War II was ancient history to me, at that time.  Now that more years have passed, it now seems much more “recent” to me!

          But really, it’s really just one example.

  5. Alan Miller

    Dragging this down from above:

    Craig RossAugust 20, 2019 at 10:24 am

    “How does the recognition of and inclusion of anti-semitism, which is still the most frequent hate crime on an ethnic minority/religious minority, prevent a deepening of commitment to the communities most marginalized by race? Because many of us look white?”

    Perhaps has to do with the relative prosperity of Jews even if they, like Asians, continue to face discrimination.

    Wow . . . there is so much to tear apart here.

    This IS racism combined was class-ism . . . more specifically Jew-hating combined with demonizing economic success.

    I am NOT saying CR is a Jew-hater.  I am pointing out the explicit danger of this attitude and how it leads to racism-classism that can be deadly.

    The Nazis, as the most known modern example, demonized the Jews for their perceived success, and then de-human-ized them.  In hyper-inflation Germany between the two world wars, some Jews were very successful as bankers and lawyers and business-people.  Other Jews lived in squalor in slums.  But the Nazi’s fueled envy and thus Jew hating, and even if you hate-the-rich, ALL the Jews, rich & poor, got swept up in the nationalist contagion.

    My mother’s family of origin lived in a poor Jewish neighborhood in the Great Depression and barely got by, crowded into large flats, her father arrested for bootlegging, their fish store bankrupt.  She was taunted and discriminated against for being Jewish as were they all.  My mother had deep brown eyes, olive skin, jet-black hair and round features.  She could have passed as a light Indian woman, almost.  Was she a person of color?

    The point is — it is easy to create hatred of the successful, and then group them ethnically — Asian, Jewish, White, etc.  Why should they get all the money? One may ask?  But even if you think everyone should have the same amount of money and the same standard of housing no matter how much effort they put in — or none — also known as Communism — isn’t assuming everyone in a race is successful, just as much racism as assuming everyone in a race is unsuccessful?

    As Alan ‘learned’ the other day, Indians are Asian (of course), and so of course are south-east Asian islanders.  Is that guy managing the 7-11, or the women who took care of my mother 24/7 at a daily-rate sleeping on a cot, living high on the hog in high-priced California?  I don’t think so.  Success is not measured in groups.  Success is measure in individuals.

    So we get back to:  “Perhaps has to do with the relative prosperity of Jews even if they, like Asians, continue to face discrimination.”

    Holy Christ man, it’s not discrimination, it’s HATE.  And thankfully, personally, I’ve only run across it a few times, but when I have, it is a really perplexing and horrible thing to be ASSUME-HATED just because “your people killed Christ”, or run all the banks and run the world, or had villages in our home country that weren’t wanted or welcome, or are too successful as lawyers, or took all the jobs as comedians, or whatever the F*CK they are hating us for today.  Y’know, most Jews are just working people who just get by and didn’t actually kill Christ.  And the Israel-Palestine thing is REALLY F*CKING COMPLICATED that has opposing truths that are both real, and a lot of Jews don’t agree with Israel policy — but being driven into the sea by much of the rest of the Middle East isn’t an option either.

    So really, take your ‘relative prosperity’ theory and stick it where it belongs:  this isn’t about racism, it’s about using race as a political tool to bring on socialism, to tax the WHITE and give it to the FOUR HISTORICALLY OPPRESSED RACIALIZED GROUPS.

    They say:  “You need to recognize your white privilege.”

    And the White People answer:  “OK, recognized.  Now what?”

    And the unspoken answer is:  “Give us your money!

    Bring on Communism, American Style!

    1. David Greenwald

      “this isn’t about racism, it’s about using race as a political tool to bring on socialism, to tax the WHITE and give it to the FOUR HISTORICALLY OPPRESSED RACIALIZED GROUPS.”

      Are you sure this is where you want to go? Because you sound like Trump, at least if he was able to articulate it in this manner.

      1. Alan Miller

        Because you sound like Trump

        Thanks, David.  Now I have cred.

        Next, will you please compare me to Hitler?  Then I’ll have cred with my Nazi buddies.

  6. Ron Glick

    “Perhaps has to do with the relative prosperity of Jews even if they, like Asians, continue to face discrimination.”

    Perhaps CR is simply guilty of unconscious bias and didn’t think through all the implications of this statement.

  7. Ron Glick

    “The portion that was not assimilationist into Whiteness still did not focus on Jews of color, African/Black Jews, Asian Jews, etc., and definitely did not re-center Jewish Studies as a people of color, decolonial project.”

    Neither of the letters of the last two days acknowledges the role the Spanish Inquisition played in the colonization of Latin America. Many Spanish Jews fled to the new world after the consolidation of Spain as a catholic country in 1492 when Jews and Muslims were expelled from previously multi-cultural Spain. Many of these families were discrete about their religion for centuries as they resisted assimilation. This would be an important topic for inclusion as the descendants of these Jews have played a role in the development of geopolitical policy in Mexico particularly in the area of energy policy.

    A simple google search found this nugget worthy of inclusion in an ethnic studies curriculum:

    “New Mexico became a settled part of New Spain with the expedition northward from Mexico of Juan de Onate in 1598. Recent research suggests the presence of crypto-Jews among the early settlers, following a period of active investigation and trials by the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Mexico City against the well-placed Carvajal family in Nuevo Leon in the mid-1590s. The existence of descendents of crypto-Jews re-emerged in the latter decades of the 20th century with open declarations of their past and, for some, their continuing of reawakened adherence to Judaism.”

     

  8. Don Shor

    California’s ethnic studies bill is now on hold. The law that would require all high school students to take an ethnic studies course faced criticism over a proposed curriculum seen as overly PC and insensitive to Jewish people. Even the bill’s author agreed it needed work. L.A. Times

    Supporters of the curriculum said people are misunderstanding its purpose. “Ethnic studies is about interrupting racism in America,” a Chicana/o Studies professor said.

    https://www.californiasun.co/ . Edition Aug 23 2019

  9. Bill Marshall

    OK… terminology… a work in progress… (based on, “a Chicana/o Studies professor said.”)

    exploratorium.edu/sites/default/files/Genial_2017_Terms_of_Usage.pdf

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