When Mexican-American leaders and academics in Texas demanded that the state’s Board of Education provided books on Mexican-American studies, they never expected the texts they offered to state that tango, rumba and salsa were Mexican rhythms. In this case, ignorance is not the only horrifying part, but the racism and bad intentions accompanying a school text that will be used by a majority of Latino students.
The book in question, entitled “Mexican American Heritage,” by Jaime Riddle and Valerie Angle, is an insult to a community that constitutes an integral part of the history of Texas. The publication contains a line describing Mexican-Americans as people who “wanted to destroy this society,” and groups them together with undocumented immigrants to accuse them of causing “economic and security problems,” including “poverty, drugs, crime, non-assimilation, and exploitation.”
Among her credentials, Riddle cites “professional development of conservative instructional content […] Particular emphasis on socialist, anti-modern, anti-American motifs.”
For its part, the publishing company belongs to an ex-member of the Board of Education who, in the past, has described public education as “tyrannical” and a “deceptive tool of perversion.”
The Texas State Board of Education is famous for its conservative, religious extremism and by the way this ideology influences its decisions ‒ such as the textbooks schools will use, ‒ which are often used in other states. The agency’s most recent scandal arose when it accepted a book describing African slaves as immigrants and “workers.”
One candidate who has a good chance of becoming a member of the Board has called President Obama a gay prostitute, says that Democrats killed Kennedy and that dinosaurs would not have become extinct if they had been able to reproduce inside Noah’s ark.
This is arrogant ignorance, the same driving force behind global warming denial and an idealized history of the United States which, in this case, despises Mexican-Americans as if they were dunces.
We hope that this book is rejected and that the majority of students in Texas, who are Latino, are allowed to be proud of their heritage and learn about it. Ethnic studies are crucial to understanding the diversity within our communities.
Texas is a cautionary tale, alerting us about protecting education from those who manipulate it to fit their religious beliefs. That belongs in church, not in the classroom.