Parents Defending Education received documents of the Santa Ana Unified School District’s ethnic studies curriculum from a public records request submitted by the Zachor Legal Institute. The district’s Ethnic Studies Visual Arts course titled “Artivism” emphasizes students will “develop and cultivate respect, empathy, and solidarity with historically marginalized groups of people (Asian and Pacific Islanders, Black, Chicano/a/Latinx, and Native American) through visual arts.” Students foster “active social engagement and community building.” Over the course of the class students will “apply their agency to collectively generate a themed exhibition” to “challenge the lack of diversity, space and representation within the arts.”
The students are asked to reflect on their identity based on power and privilege and core concepts like assimilation, appropriation, alienation, gentrification, oppression, racism (institutionalized and internalized), stereotypes, privilege and intersectionality. In addition, the students will walk away from the course with a deeper understanding of how historically marginalized groups have worked to resist, survive, and accommodate colonization and oppression though visual art.
The district’s Ethnic Studies World Histories course looks for a deeper understanding of groups marginalized within Eurocentric textbooks. The primary focus for this class is “creating safe, brave, and empathic spaces for students and their teacher.” Students will look at a worldwide mindset that was justified by global racism, bigotry, and discrimination that can still be seen today.” The course will explore the invention of racism, silos of discrimination, and the rationalization for the inhumanity demonstrated by the slave trade that created world-wide genocide, global wars, and the destruction of the environment.
Students are encouraged to “conceptualize, imagine, and create new possibilities in society that challenge systemic racism and promote radical healing through civic action and community connection.” The course defines Ethnic Studies as the loving and critical praxis of holistic humanity as educational and radical justice.” The definition further promotes understanding of intersectional race, ethnicity, indigeneity, coloniality, and hegemony. Students will learn about how Eurocentric power and oppression led to stolen land and natural resources, forced labor, and the destruction of local markets.
The Ethnic Studies: World Geography course offered at Santa Ana Unified School District highlights the interdisciplinary strategies that shed light on the plight of peoples traditionally marginalized. Topics discussed in the course include: “race,” “racism,” “colorism,” “ethnicity,” “white privilege,” “white supremacy,” and “the Brandt line.” Students are responsible for answering questions such as “why did colonizers decide to place indigenous reservations in the places they did?” and “what processes have erased some of the original place names in America?”
In addition, students will be forced to compile lists of Native culture or identity they use in real life and teachers will facilitate a discussion on whether these items are appropriated or are being used with appropriate reverence and appreciation of the culture.
The course’s colony unit primarily focuses refugee populations in the Middle East. The assigned readings in the course emphasize the downfall of the Kafara System in the Middle East and its control over migrant workers’ employment and immigration status. The Arab system was created out of need for cheap labor and desperation of migrants to provide for their families.
The course highlights pro-Palestinian videos such as, “Firing Zone 918-Exercise in War Crimes.” This video emphasizes that the region previously known as Masafer Yatta was where dozens of Palestinian families had been living in the area prior to it becoming a military zone in 1967. The video is a visual representation of hardship and plight that these seasonal workers experienced when the Israeli military expelled the 700 occupants in 1999.
The Israeli soldiers are depicted in the video as “forcibly transferring of these residents, which constitutes a war crime under international law.” The soldiers appear armored with various weapons, arriving in tanks asking the Palestinians to leave the region. The chyrons in the video emphasize the community has been “barred from building or connecting water and electricity-in an effort to force them to leave.” Another chyron reads, “for them, this is home. For Israel, this is another target for landgrab.” The final chyron of the video is “stop the expulsion!”
A required reading for this unit is “Sealed off and forgotten: What you should know about Israel’s ‘firing zones’ in the West Bank.” The article emphasizes Israel’s role in “impounding the only vehicle available to a medical team that provides assistance to 1,500 Palestinians living in an Israeli military firing zone in the West Bank.” The article also states, “don’t let the confusing logic of the Oslo Accords fool you; all Palestinians, in all parts of the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip, are under Israeli military control as well.” The article states that the occupants’ movement and access to clean water are controlled by the Israeli military. The article notes, the complex system of control is akin to one “imposed on black South Africa during the Apartheid regime era.” The article labels Israel an “extremist illegal Jewish settler population.”
In addition, the article accuses Israelis of “a massive wave of ethnic cleansing” and “forced removal of approximately 300,000 Palestinians” in 1967. Furthermore, the piece deems Israel’s judicial system as “unfair.” The piece notes the United Nations saying, “their hardship includes ‘the confiscation of property, settler violence, harassment by soldiers, access and movement restrictions and/or water scarcity.” The article concludes by stating ethnic cleansing has been Israel’s strategic goal all along.
Another unit in the class does a deep dive on the United Nations plan to divide territory between the Jewish population and Palestinians. The unit notes, “state sanctioned violence against Palestinians, Rwandans, and Kurds will be placed in their proper context as consequences of European imperial nation-making.” A required video for the course, “The Israel-Palestine conflict: a brief, simple history,” labels Israelis as settlers.
Another required reading, entitled, “UN Agency: Israel’s Gaza blockade has devastated economy,” notes the “true price was paid by Palestinians in lost time, lost opportunities, and separation from loved ones is inestimable.”