Ethnic Studies Curricula Seek to Undermine and Erase American Culture
There are doppelgangers in this world—people who look uncannily like you without being related. But aside from this exception that proves the rule, all of us are people with unique looks.
Yet, thanks to the Left, the phrase “people who look like you” has now become a revolutionary tool. It is being subversively and falsely used to sneak in some of the most radical attempts to transform American society through the introduction of “ethnic studies.” Some blue states now want to make this dubious field mandatory in K-12 education, all in the name of racial equity.
“All students deserve to see themselves—their own cultures, communities, and histories—within their education,” said Samantha Senser-Mura, a state representative in Minnesota for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, who is one of the lead sponsors of HF 1502.
That bill would require all high school students in the North Star State, public or charter, to “complete an ethnic studies course for credit to graduate from high school.”
Senser-Mura, who identifies herself as a fourth-generation Japanese American, traces the impetus for the bill to a vexing experience she had in ninth grade. Her world studies class had focused on Europe, she claims, and when she asked the teacher when they would study the rest of the world, the teacher told her that would have to wait for college.
“That experience stayed with me,” she told MPR News.
The publication also quoted a 17-year-old student of Hmong origin telling journalists a similar tale: “In my U.S. history class, I learned about other communities that shaped our country … but then I’m left thinking to myself, when will my history be taught? When will my classmates learn about my community too?”
That view raises its own questions. In a country as ethnically diverse as the United States, where the world’s some 200 countries, and their hundreds of different ethnicities, are represented, can we devote time and attention to each of them? Aren’t the histories, philosophies, and religions of Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem, which were foundational to the American worldview and Western civilization itself, more worthy of attention?
These questions lead us to what is truly troubling about ethnic studies. Those behind the movement are not in the least bit interested in the intricacies of Hmong culture; they care only about American culture—or, at least, how to erase it. Yes, the culture whose civilizational advantages have convinced millions from all ethnicities to uproot their lives and immigrate here is now being destroyed in their name.
Ethnic studies got its start in the fall of 1968. A radical coalition that included the Black Panthers, the Black Student Union, the Asian American Political Alliance, the Latin American Student Organization, and others created the Third World Liberation Front to agitate for the creation of an ethnic studies department at San Francisco State University.
After five months of protests, the university surrendered and accepted the department, which became the first in the nation. Today there are close to 1,900 similar departments and programs at universities across the country.
“The TWLF was formed based on the political principle of Third World solidarity, which is animating Cuba, Algeria, Tanzania and Vietnam. So it’s no coincidence that they called themselves the TWLF—like the National Liberation Front in Vietnam,” Jason Ferreira told Socialist Worker, using the official name of the Viet Cong, which was killing and torturing American GIs defending South Vietnam at the time.
Ferreira is the chairman of San Francisco State University’s Race and Resistance Studies Department, a revelatory name in itself. In 2020, he said, “The demand for ethnic studies is as important today as it ever was, if not more.” That is because of “the inability of this country to come to terms with the ongoing practices of racism and white supremacy.”
Evelyn Hu-DeHart, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Brown University, openly admits that “these insurgent programs had a subversive agenda from the outset.”
And that is exactly what the Minnesota legislators are trying to do. Their bill says ethnic studies will analyze “the ways in which race and racism have been and continue to be powerful social, cultural, and political forces, and the connection of race to other groups of stratification, including gender, class, sexuality, religion, and legal status.”
There are other educational bills in the pipeline, too. Katherine Kersten, senior policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, says that taken together, they “will inject reductive, racialized thinking into every classroom in Minnesota’s approximately 500 school district and charter schools.”
That is what is happening not just in Minnesota but in Rhode Island, Illinois, Delaware, and many other states.
My Heritage Foundation colleague and friend Jonathan Butcher tells me, “State lawmakers don’t have to fall in line with the woke orthodoxy. In fact, officials in Louisiana and South Dakota have adopted new social studies standards that explain how racism is inconsistent with our founding deals.”
So don’t buy the empty rhetoric of “people who look like you.” Listen instead to this 10th grade student who shared an important message recently with a school board in Florissant, Missouri: “I don’t want my school experience to be based on my identity. I don’t want you to make policies based on me being a black girl. I want you to make policies based on me being a student and holding me to the highest expectation.”