I love love love hearing that teachers like Karen Salazar exist. I just wish I was hearing about her under different circumstances (such as being the recipient of a Teacher of the Year award). But no.
Salazar was recently fired from her job as an LA school teacher because her curriculum was deemed too “Afrocentric.” According to Salazar:
I am being fired because I am trying to ensure that my curriculum is relevant to my students’ daily lived experiences, and in the process, create a space for them to be critical of Eurocentric society and curricula that only serve to reinforce their dehumanization, subjugation, and oppression …
I have been observed in the classroom and evaluated by administration over a dozen times (almost twice a month) this school year, whereas in comparison, most teachers are observed and evaluated 1-3 times per school year. The evaluations claim that I am creating “militancy” within students, promoting my personal political beliefs, and presenting a biased view of the curriculum. It has also been implied that I have been teaching students “how to protest.”
Three weeks ago, things began escalating when I was again observed, and in his evaluation, the administrator accused me of “brainwashing” my students and “forcing extremist views” on them. The class had been reading a 3-page excerpt of the Autobiography of Malcolm X (an LAUSD-approved text, of which we have several class sets in our school bookroom), in which Malcolm describes the first time he conked his hair…My contract is being terminated because according to the principal, I am “indoctrinating students with anti-Semitism and Afrocentrism.” The anti-Semitism accusation comes solely from the fact that I have an Intifada poster hanging in my classroom (a symbol of support for a free Palestine), and the Afrocentrism accusation comes from the fact my culturally-relevant curriculum reflects the demographics of my students, though I am surprised I am not being accused of Raza-centrism as well.
Shit like this just burns me up. I think a big factor that led me to becoming a women’s historian was the lack of history relevant to me growing up (me as a woman, and me as a Mexican American). I absolutely adored doing my thesis research on Mexican American literature and history because it gave me a chance to read all these awesome things that weren’t even an option as a kid in a Texas public school.
I was both awed and devastated to learn in college that there had even been a Chicano civil rights movement. That, yes, there was a history that wasn’t strictly white vs. black (with the occasional Native American infraction). How is it that schools in an border area that’s 90% Latino don’t teach their students their own history? How many people from the RGV know that during the Progressive Era, Roosevelt sent troops down to Brownsville because it was the site of one of the major race riots during that era? I myself barely learned this about two month ago from reading a footnote in an unrelated history text.
Non-Eurocentric history isn’t revisionist history. Teaching students of color history that is relative to them, and important works by people of color, isn’t in any way detracting from the national historical narrative. It’s enriching it, and encouraging students to learn about their heritage and think outside the box. I would’ve loved to have a teacher like Salazar when I was a young student wondering why the only time my teachers talked about Mexicans was when they were talking big bad Santa Ana and the slaughter of the valiant “heroes” at the Alamo.
So hearing about teachers like Salazar being fired for teaching their students that White History isn’t the definitive history? That just pisses me off.