MAS Whitewashing: Tucson OKs textbook list with NO Chicano authors

tusdlogo640Let me tell you a joke. Ready? The Tucson Unified School District. Get it?

No? Allow me to me explain.

On Tuesday night the TUSD approved a textbook list for their now defunct Mexican-American Studies program, which they have dubbed “Culturally Relevant US History and US Government.” The list, which consists of 25 books, has absolutely ZERO Chicana/o authors on it.

Go ahead and read that again.

If you have been following the divine comedy in Tucson at all then you already know that they not only destroyed their wildly successful Mexican-American Studies program but that they also banned a laundry list of books by Chicana/o authors, closed barrio schools and fired MAS teachers.

After years of protest, subpar legal battles and a war of words that continues to leave many casualties on the virtual battlefield, it has all come down to this: MAS Whitewashing.

The now “culturally relevant courses” are part of the district’s unitary status plan, which is supposed to satisfy a federal desegregation order set in motion by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund.

So much for federal power in Arizona.

How in the hell do you get a “Mexican-American Culturally Relevant Viewpoint” with no Chicana/o authors? That is the question I would like answered. There’s not a single Chicana/o author that will be taught in these courses. This isn’t just an issue of banned books anymore; this is Fahrenheit 451 come to life.

To say that this is an outrage in an understatement but most people have slept on the issue. In fact, one of the few people that has consistently documented the destruction of Chicana/o Studies and the book banning in Tucson is D.A. Morales of Three Sonorans. But Morales is not the most popular guy in certain circles and so much of what he says falls on deaf ears.

There is much division in Tucson. There is much division outside of Tucson. In fact, there is so much fighting among ourselves that we really don’t even need the gringo inquisition to cut the legs out from underneath us –we have accomplished that all by ourselves in recent months.

Even so, when I tuned in to the Livestream broadcast of the school board meeting last night, Morales, seemingly flustered, stood in front of the board by himself and asked how in the world they could possibly consider approving a textbook list for these courses without any Chicana/o authors on it.

“We are bringing Mexican American perspectives into this curriculum. There’s not one Chicano author on the list that you’re going to approve tonight. How are you going to have Chicano perspectives with no Chicano authors?” Morales asked.

And as soon as he asked the question the board shut him down without answering his question.

When the board finally voted on the issue, there was nothing said about the banned books. TUSD superintendent H.T. Sanchez simply remarked that the list was not “final” and that other books could possibly be added in the future, with board approval of course, which is a clever way to say that CHS books will never be added to the curriculum.

“This is the list we have today. As with any curriculum, as new materials become available or as teachers find information that they find fits what they are working with, as they make recommendations to us, will bring them back up to the board,” he said.

And that was it. The board approved the list 3-2.

Speaking of the school board, it is almost impossible to believe that the know-nothing buffoon, Michael Hicks, who was exposed and destroyed by Al Madrigal on The Daily Show last year, is still on the TUSD board helping to make these kinds of decisions.

But here we are.

Can you imagine teaching a course on Jewish Studies with no Jewish authors? Or trying to teach a class with an African-American perspective with no African-American perspectives? Of course you can because we’ve been here before – decades and centuries ago.

Where the hell is Mexican American Legal Defense Fund now? It was not too long ago that they were celebrating “victory” in Tucson over their desegregation lawsuit, which prompted the unitary status plan. When I asked them via Twitter if the CHS books would still be banned they had no answers. To this day they continue to ignore me and others who question their motives.

Where is Eva Longoria, who just the other day said that the ban on Chicana/o studies in Tucson is “criminal?” People were quick to pat her on the back for taking a virtual stand but what has she ever done for the kids in Tucson? Recently, she paraded her Chicano Studies degree for the press and even got props from former President Bill Clinton of all people – an obvious pat on the back in exchange for a donation.

Oh! That’s right, MALDEF and Longoria are too busy promoting Devious Maids, a show which encompasses everything Chicana/o studies stands for, right..?

Where are the so-called activists, book smugglers and Latina/o media rebels now? Where the hell is the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies?

Where is *anyone* for that matter?

Why is Tucson all by itself now? Simple. Because it’s not the flavor of the month and it’s no longer “sexy” to write about it for many of these organizations. The truth is there’s no longer a profit or a spotlight in it for any of them. And so the kids in Tucson are right back where they started – on their own.

People still don’t realize the implications of this disaster in the desert. You would be hard-pressed to find any other wholesale banning or destruction of one’s history unless you looked all the way back to the burning of the Maya codices.

I have said it before and I will say it again: Chicana/o studies and history are American studies and history. Our history and our books are just as much part of the story as any other.

That’s worth fighting for.

I am often told that I am stuck in the 70’s and that it’s time to move on – get with the times! Yet, as banned author, Rudy Acuña has stated before, things are worse now than they were then – who gives a damn!

This issue does not raise eyebrows with the general public because the authors and students are Chicanos. If this were any other group of people, all hell would break loose. The very word Chicana/o is once again a pejorative for certain people. Everything old is new again.

There are many of us, coast to coast, who have been trying to rally the call for action on this issue. For a multitude of reasons, this has not been successful but now is not the time to surrender – just as it was not the time to declare victory so many months ago.

There are many people working and fighting independently to preserve Chicana/o history and our books. We might not all get along but that does not mean we shouldn’t fight for a common goal.

If I learned one thing watching the TUSD school board meeting it is this: the board is not as powerful as they are perceived to be.

If we can collectively come together to make Disney shake in their boots, then we can do the same with one school board in the desert.

As the saying goes, la lucha sigue.