By Meredith Chase-Mitchell
This post was written seven years ago when Arizona was on the front line amending their ethnic studies curriculum. At the time, as a woman of color who celebrates diversity- it was a shock to hear that a state would purposely modify education to NOT be inclusive.
View below the incredible Dr. Michael Eric-Dyson on CNN debating the topic. http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/05/12/arizona.ethnic.studies/index.html
The more I read and hear about the racist policies in Arizona, the more grateful I am for the education and choices that I had. If you haven't heard this week the state of Arizona has proposed banning "ethnic studies" in public schools. How is this even possible in a country as diverse as ours, that one state doesn't find it important enough for us to learn about each other? I've never agreed that America is a "melting pot" , but implementing policy that is racist and can lead to more mis-education among races, is appalling.
In the summer of 1995 I took a class at Nassau Community College that changed me forever, African American History I. As a product of New York City and Long Island public schools, the most I learned about African American history in high school covered the basics, Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. and Jackie Robinson. My mother thank goodness attempted to fill the gap with visits to the Schomburg Museum in Harlem, her own collection of Richard Wright and August Wilson novels, and assigning her own unique reading and research assignments over the weekend. Even with my mother’s intervention to supply me with knowledge on a subject my school district ignored, I longed for the debate and in depth discussion on all things related to ME.
That summer my personal library grew quickly with books on the Panther Party, speeches by Cornel West and even getting annoyed at social interactions that years before I never was concerned with. The 90's gave us the Crown Heights riot, the LA riots and the OJ Simpson trial and all of a sudden, being a young black women in America became my number one concern, what was my role and how would I survive? 1995 also marked the first time I was called a nigger- a life changing summer indeed. Enrolling in a class that taught me more than any class in High School ever did, gave birth to a new person. If it weren't for the glimpse of history, or as Arizona may classify it, ethnic studies, my eyes may have never been opened to a realm of information that is often ignored in the classroom. The opportunity to study additional cultures other than my own, wasn't just an asset for me, but also for my peers of other ethnicities.
Arizona's attempt to close the door on thought and education in a country comprised of individuals from all over the globe has to be one of the most detrimental policies ever drafted. I am both scared and curious to witness how we will all be affected by this policy.