CA Ethnic Studies Writers Remove Their Names from State Curriculum, Insist it’s an Insult to Ethnic Studies
February 3, 2021: On Tuesday, February 2nd, in “The Fight for Ethnic Studies in California” webinar hosted by the Save Arab American Studies Coalition, featuring special guest, Angela Davis, more than 10,000 people listened to Ethnic Studies experts calling on the California Department of Education (CDE) to not cave to right-wing interest groups.
In a stunning announcement, Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, professor in the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University and co-chair of the advisory committee that created the original Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) declared that all writers, co-chairs and members of the ESMC Advisory Committee will be sending a letter to the CDE demanding that their names be removed from the document.
“Significant parts of the curricular text do not fully reflect the work of past or present Ethnic Studies teachers/educators,” the letter states. “Ethnic Studies knowledge, framework, pedagogy, and community histories have been compromised due to political and media pressure. Our association with the final document is troubling because it does not reflect the Ethnic Studies curriculum that we believe California students deserve and need.”
Special guest speaker Angela Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of California Santa Cruz, set the context:
“As is often the case when Black, Indigenous, and people of color gain power, attacks on Ethnic Studies have plagued the discipline since its earliest days. . . Today’s fight to maintain the integrity of the ESMC is the next phase of the fight to defend Ethnic Studies. This is especially true of the inclusion of Palestine in the Arab American Studies portion of the curriculum. Erasing Palestine from the curriculum reiterates the erasure of Palestine by Israel, what Israeli historian Ilan Pappé calls “the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.”
Ever-escalating demands from pro-Israel lobbyists have resulted in the relegation of the Arab American lesson to the appendix and the complete erasure of Palestine and Palestinian Americans.
Jason Ferreira, associate professor in the Department of Race and Resistance Studies housed within the College of Ethnic Studies at SF State, whose current research is on the 1968 strike, explained:
“The fight today over a liberating Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, over who has the power to determine what constitutes Ethnic Studies, and the inclusion of Arab American Studies is testament to this fact: Self-determination and solidarity—of the internationalist and anti-imperialist variety–are still central to our fight and to winning.”
Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American Studies at SF State and co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate stated:
“We have similar histories of being racialized, mass-deported, mass-detained. When we saw the rise in violence against Asian Americans last year, we realized that the best way forward was to draw from Arab American and Muslim American strategies after 9/11.”
Jeff Duncan-Andrade, professor of Latina/o Studies and Race and Resistance Studies at San Francisco State University, spoke to the need for Ethnic Studies to heal the deep rifts caused by white supremacy.
“One of the mistakes people make in this conversation is thinking that Ethnic Studies is a curriculum, that it’s a project or a department. It’s a way of being in the world, focusing first on the most vulnerable and wounded, their histories, their voices, their needs. There’s nothing about excluding others. . . If we can find the courage to tell our children the truth, they can begin to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems.”
The focus now is on the March 17-18 public meeting of the CDE, which will discuss the fourth revision to the ESMC before final approval by the California State Board of Education. As moderator Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), explained, the CDE has ignored Ethnic Studies educators across the country and 30,000 public comments demanding authentic Ethnic Studies and the return of Arab American Studies as an integral part of the ESMC.