A recently introduced bill by Texas Senator Dan Patrick has Mexican-American activists on the defense. Currently on the floor, Senate Bill 1128 is being called an attack on college ethnic studies.
“It really has the resemblance of Arizona House Bill 2281, which banned ethnic studies K to 12 and allowed the dismantling of the Mexican-American studies program out in Tucson Unified School District,” Librotraficante Media Coordinator Liana Lopez told VOXXI. “Basically it’s talking about high level education and what will be credited and what will pass as American history. For me personally, this is a big deal. The effect of the legislation is going to further minimize contributions by a wide range of [minority] Americans. Not just Latinos but African-Americans, Asian-Americans and women.”
Lopez said the timing of the introduction of the Senate Bill 1128, along with House Bill 1938 by Texas District 98 Representative Giovanni Capriglione, raised suspicions. Both bills are identically worded and so far neither have been passed.
“They had Jan. 8 to March 8 to file these bills and these bills were filed in the last few days of the legislative session right before spring break,” Lopez said. “That’s kind of what happened with the bill in Arizona, where the legislature passed it in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2011. No one was paying attention.”
But Librotraficante and other groups are paying attention to Senate Bill 1128. Last week a few dozen people went to the Texas capital to speak with lawmakers about the issue. Lopez said they talked to Patrick’s legislative aid Suzanne Tomlin, who pointed to classes such as “History of Rock ’n’ Roll” and “History of Sex and Drugs through the Americas” as being targeted by the bill.
VOXXI contacted Tomlin, who referred an interview request to her office. No one from Patrick’s office returned our calls.
One of the problems for Lopez and her peers is they believe Patrick is allegedly basing his bill on the findings from a survey conducted by the National Association of Scholars (NAS).
“That’s a big deal,” Lopez said. “That particular reporting group has had issues with the way they do their reporting. They were one of the groups responsible for getting a Latino paper at the University of Texas de-funded.”
Lopez said the fear is Senate Bill 1128 will be used to open the door to further legislation attacking Mexican-American studies programs.
“It’s a step in the direction of heading toward what could lead to the passing of another bill like Arizona’s 2281,” Lopez said. “We’re sensitive to that because we dealt with Arizona. We came in after 2281 was passed because that’s when we found out about it but the first steps leading up to any limiting of history minimizes what someone would learn at a higher level of education. I feel those options shouldn’t be minimized.”
Based on Arizona’s HB 2281, classics such as Sandra Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street” and Dagoberto Gilb’s “Woodcuts of Women” were pulled off high school library shelves. Also eliminated were Latino literature classes. That’s when Librotraficante started a city caravan bringing books to the underground in San Antonio, Albuquerque and Tucson.
Looking ahead, Lopez said a fight looms.
“We have to get the word spread,” Lopez said. “It’s only been a week since we found out about the bill but we’re banging the drums, getting the word out and making sure people are aware of this law. We want the law to go away. It shouldn’t even be given a hearing and it definitely shouldn’t be passed. That’s the game plan, to squash it.”