Ethnic studies programs were borne from college student protest and demands to have education experiences that destabilized eurocentrism and centered the knowledge systems of Indigenous, Black, and brown peoples. Ethnic studies programs have been in existence for decades, but they have never had security in the way that eurocentric education systems have enjoyed for generations. From struggles to study on college campuses to the fight to educate society’s youngest in the ways of their peoples, ethnic studies has been both at the vanguard and vulnerable.
Many are familiar with the specific fight for ethnic studies pedagogy and curriculum in Arizona, and more specifically, the Tucson Unified School District because of media and documentary coverage of the historic showdown between culturally relevant educators and conservative politicians.
On June 27, 2017, the fight for ethnic studies programs in Arizona moved into the U. S. District court system, with the plaintiffs first arguing for the right of students of all racial backgrounds to learn about history beyond Eurocentric frameworks. This coming week, the defendants will do their best to convince the judge that learning about race politicizes students of color and imperils white students.
The struggle to study happens in multiple, concurrent forms. From thousands of Chicago Public School teachers striking and marching to protect rights to the special education teacher who attends to her students socioemotional needs instead of proliferating the number of Black students labeled with behavioral disorders, the struggle truly is everywhere. As the fight for ethnic studies is argued by lawyers, witnesses are examined and cross-examined, and a judge bears witness to the one of the most rarified battle lines for racial justice, we hold close the educators, students, and families in Arizona who seek the basic human desire and right to education as tool for liberation. In lak’ech.