July 5, 2020
California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901
Dear California Department of Education:
We write on behalf of the California Scholars for Academic Freedom with regard to the attacks on the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) draft. California Scholars for Academic Freedom is a group of over 200 scholars throughout California committed to fighting all forms of racism, xenophobia, and antisemitism. We are scholars, teachers, researchers, and organizers. Many of us are housed in Ethnic Studies departments across California’s campuses. We are committed to the critical study of race and ethnicity not only on our own campuses, but also in K-12 classrooms, as the histories of race, colonialism, and empire within U.S. borders and within its imperial reach are necessary for all of us to collectively understand the inequalities of the present moment. Additionally, research has shown that the kind of culturally relevant and meaningful curriculum that critical ethnic studies provides empowers students to be more engaged in school and thus more likely to graduate.
We unequivocally support the inclusion of Arab American Studies in the ESMC. The current draft includes Arab American Studies under the rubric of Asian American studies, one of the four recognized mainstays of ethnic studies as a field formation. The National Board of Directors of the Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS) has publicly applauded this inclusion. While Arab American Studies is indeed its own field, with categories that include Arab American, Arab, Muslim, Muslim American, South West Asian, North African, and Middle Eastern, AAAS’s letter of support shows that Arab American studies has also long been part of Asian American studies as a field. In addition to shared frameworks, methods, and topics across Indigenous, African, African American, Jewish American, Latinx, and critical American Studies, Arab American studies and Asian American studies have long shared both overlapping geographies and a dialogue about racialized surveillance and the afterlife of war. Central to Asian American studies is the study of war, diaspora, exile, and militarization; and central to Arab American studies is the study of militarism, empire, pre- and post-9/11/2001 Islamophobia, and the shared and unequally distributed effects of the “war on terror.” For these reasons, the AAAS Board of Directors has reiterated their support for the ESMC.