Across the country, states are considering how (or whether) to integrate “ethnic studies” courses into graduation requirements. California’s efforts drew much attention in 2021, but the state of Washington’s has flown under the radar, save for reporting by the Daily Wire’s Luke Rosiak – who uncovered how one of the state’s leading ethnic studies proponents, Tracy Castro-Gill, has disturbing views on “Jewishness” and its relationship to ethnic studies.
Castro-Gill, who was employed by Seattle Public Schools (SPS) from August 2014 through June 2020, served for two years as the district’s Ethnic Studies Program Manager, during which period SPS released its controversial ethic studies framework. Beginning in March 2020 (a time period which overlapped with her full-time employment at SPS), Castro-Gill served as executive director of Washington Ethnic Studies Now, a 501(c)4 advocacy organization, a position she currently holds. Castro-Gill also was an advisor on Washington State’s Ethnic Studies Framework. She was also an advisor to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Learning for Justice” initiative, which used to be called “Teaching Tolerance.”
In the wake of Rosiak’s reporting, Parents Defending Education filed a public records request with Seattle Public Schools to obtain Ms. Castro-Gill’s emails between September 1, 2018 and June 30, 2020 that contain the terms “Jewish,” “Judaism,” and “antisemitism.”
Two emails released on December 21 are below. Castro-Gill’s perspectives on both “whiteness” and Judaism show that this activist and her advocacy organization’s biases have permeated the educational materials and curriculum that they have produced for public schools. Washington Ethnic Studies Now is currently an approved provider of professional development credit hours under the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for the 2022-23 school year; their modules are available for purchase here.
Key excerpts include:
- “We would also critically analyze how white Jewish people beneﬁt from systems of oppression that disenfranchise all people of color. I know there is some question about the ‘race’ of American Jews, however, data show that Jewish Americans beneﬁt from current systems of power and, for the most part, have access to and control of systemic power. For these reasons, Judaism would not be a central topic in an ethnic studies program.” [This implies that because some Jews have been successful in America, antisemitism must be ignored.]
- “Through laws, policy, and practices, white people have been taught to exchange their ethnic and cultural identities for the benefit of ‘whiteness.’ Our history tells us racism is the result of whiteness, not of race.” [This is not correct – there is, and has been, racism all over the world among and between every racial group; here, Castro-Gill claims that all racism is the fault of white people.]
- “[T]he creation of The Federal Housing Administration restricted housing opportunities to ‘whites only,’ so people who were previously considered ‘ethnic’ groups, like Jewish Americans, chose to forgo identification as an ethnic group and instead selected whiteness.” [This is an attempt to claim that Jews “chose” to join white people in being racists.]
- “I define whiteness as, ‘the cultural values, norms, behaviors, and attitudes that uphold White Supremacy.’ White people can’t turn their backs on whiteness, but they try: when I bring it up they want to revert to ethnic identities.” [This is explicit racism directed at white people, claiming that all white people, no matter their views, “uphold White Supremacy.” A similar accusation directed at any other group would be instantly disqualifying.]
- “Colorblindness is a cancer. You think you have cured it, but later find out it’s moved to another part of our language.”
- “Using whiteness instead of racism reminds white people they have an ethnicity, too, and they’ve lost a piece of their humanity by perpetuating whiteness. … White people need to find their medicine and restore their own humanity so they can stop hurting others.”
- “People of color cannot be racist but they can engage in whiteness. I do not believe people of color can be racist. Never in history has any non-white group had the systemic power to oppress whites or any other group of people.” [This claim is also incorrect; to take one recent example, in early 2000’s Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe imposed policies stripping white people of property and expelling many of them from the country.]
- “White supremacy is such a powerful concept that non-white people will betray our own people in attempts to benefit from it. Recent polling data shows that 25-30% of Latinx people support Donald Trump despite his racist, anti-Latinx migrant rhetoric. Those 25-30% of Latinx people are engaging in whiteness. They are trying to tap into the power that whiteness provides certain people.” [The premise is that Latinos don’t deserve to be treated as individuals and instead should be seen as members of a monolithic identity group with one set of beliefs or values.]