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Latino Activists: Keep This 'Racist,' 'Poorly Written' Textbook Out of Texas Classrooms

Image from the proposed textbook titled "Mexican-American Heritage." Activists say the book has a negative view of Chicano and Latino history.
Image from the proposed textbook titled "Mexican-American Heritage." Activists say the book has a negative view of Chicano and Latino history.

From Texas Standard:

In Texas education, there always plenty of fodder still out there to spark outrage. Take  a proposed social studies textbook titled  “Mexican-American Heritage”submitted to the  Texas Education Agency as required for review before appearing on bookshelves in the classroom.

Tony Diaz, an activist based in Houston and host of  Nuestra Palabra on KPFT, says this book is the opposite of what activists and scholars, who have campaigned for more visibility of Latino stories in history, wanted to include in the Texas curriculum – in part because of its racist undertones.

“This is so far from what anyone would want in a classroom,” Diaz says. “This book is possibly the most poorly written, most racist book I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. So, no, this is not what we want in Texas classrooms.”

Diaz says the problem is no amount of revision will fix the text, because it omits important parts of Latino and Chicano history. “It really does whitewash parts and it really does characterize Latinos and Chicanos as violent, illiterate, illogical.”

A quotation from the book says: “Chicanos, on the other hand, adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society.” Diaz says the line occurs after a “bizarre tangent” of the evolution of Marxism in Latin America. It’s just one example of the troubling logic of the text’s authors, Diaz says.

“It’s not clear why that comes before the Chicano civil rights movement, until later on, you read between the lines,” he says. “It appears that this book is trying to characterize the Mexican-American civil rights movement as Marxist.”

The good news is, Diaz says, that the book hasn’t entered Texas classrooms. A company called Momentum Instruction published this text, which Diaz says is the first book they’ve ever published. No cultural experts are listed as author or cited in the text. Diaz says  he and other activists are hoping that  the petition they’ve startedwill keep the book out of Texas schools altogether. Diaz says they hope the book will be taken off the TEA’s list of texts when they convene in September, but the state has had other  textbooks with questionable passages accepted into curriculum, including one with  a paragraph that characterized slaves as “workers.”

“This sheds light on the process,” he says. “This book should never enter the classroom – this would teach a generation of students how to discriminate against Latinos for a long time to come. It would take a long time to undo the damage it would do.”

Post prepared by Hannah McBride.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.