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We Can be Asian, if Necessary

by Ishraq Ali, MPower Change Monday, Jul. 27, 2020 at 8:52 PM

Flood the system. Arab Americans are Asian Americans. We Demand Inclusion

As salaamu alaykum,

Rightwing groups are flooding an ongoing public comment period on whether California should cut Ethnic Studies generally, and Arab-American Studies specifically, from their schools.

If there was ever a time that we should be protecting anti-racist education, and ensuring students learn about struggles of indigenous and racialized communities at school and not on TV or random YouTube sessions, it’s now.1

If the biggest education system in the United States decides Arab-American Studies and Ethnic Studies are a “problem”—or even worse, succumb to a campaign that would brand any mention of Palestine in public schools as "hateful"—we’re going to face a dangerous future that could long outlive the Trump administration.

We can’t let that happen. California has opened a public comment email that has become a political football for Islamophobic and racist groups—we can overpower them and take it back with our demands for inclusion, with comments from every corner of the US.

We’ve made it incredibly easy to send an email urging California schools to not succumb to ultra-right-wing pressure and drop Ethnic Studies in the midst of the George Floyd uprising — just click here, no matter where you live, and add any optional personal message you might have on why this is so crucial.


Elected officials are under tremendous pressure to erase Arab Americans from California’s Ethnic Studies curriculum. But if we take action now, flooding their inboxes with demands for inclusion and justice, we can save Ethnic Studies in the biggest education system in the United States.

The biggest education system in the US—California’s—is about to make an incredibly consequential decision with long-standing implications for how we deal with this summer’s anti-racist protests.

The racial disparities in the impact of Covid-19.

The xenophobic targeting of Asian Americans as “vectors” of disease.

The national uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd.

All of these, and so much more, point to the urgent need for anti-racist education. All students need Ethnic Studies in their K-12 curriculum to build empathy, unity and solidarity with each other, strengthening our movements for justice.

For almost a year now, teachers, activists, students, and community members have been struggling to convince the California Board of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) to keep the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) intact, including the proposed Arab-American studies curriculum.

They have faced an extremely well-funded right-wing campaign aimed at eliminating the Arab American content, and branding any mention of Palestine as anti-Semitic.

That fight is now coming to a head. On August 13, 2020, the IQC is meeting to consider a revised curriculum.

Arab-American scholars have been shut out of the revision process. We won’t get to see the specific content until August 3, but the IQC says they are using public comment to guide their revision.

In the midst of a renewed Covid-19 outbreak, California is using a public comment email as their primary method of hearing from the public.

We're getting word that that public comment email has been absolutely flooded by far-right, fascist-friendly trolls, sometimes affiliated with well-funded campaigns, from across the country.

They literally are counting on you not opening this email and taking 20 seconds to fight back.

Let's disappoint them.

California was until quite recently—just last year—on its way to making history with an Ethnic Studies curriculum instituted statewide.

Then something happened at the last minute. Arab-American Studies were singled out from the curriculum to be cut.

Let’s be really clear on why.

A key part of the Arab-American experience is the struggle for justice in Palestine—and the inclusion of Palestinian liberation efforts in the curriculum has led to immense pressure on California's Department of Education to remove Arab-American history and culture altogether.2 We must reject this, and we need your help.

Let’s include Arab-Americans and our stories in our high schools, and not shy away when it means educating students on Palestine.

Earlier this month, the Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC) released a report exploring the representations of Arabs and/or Muslims in San Francisco Bay Area schools. One of their most striking findings: only 2.3% of the students they surveyed said they learned about Arabs and/or Muslims at school.3 (Even more striking when you consider that more than 2/3rds of respondents received most of their information through the internet or television — which, given everything we know about the spread of anti-Arab and Islamophobic material online and on the major networks, is deeply alarming.)4

It doesn't have to be this way. But it's going to take us showing up.

Let them know you’re calling on them.

In solidarity,

Ishraq and the MPower Change team


1. "TURATH: teaching, understanding, and representing Arabs throughout history", AROC, 2020

2."Critics Slam Draft of California Ethnic Studies Curriculum As Far-Left, Anti-Jewish Propaganda," Washington Post, August 14, 2019.

3. "New: Report on Arab Representation in Bay Area Schools," AROC, July 17, 2020.

4. "United States of Islamophobia," Action Center on Race & The Economy, June 7, 2019.

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