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Victory for Ethnic Studies in Texas



By: Amanda Hart

Photo courtesy of Librotraficante

In March, FPH covered an important fight that was brewing on the steps of the State Capitol. Our favorite Houston Senator, The Great Dan Patrick, had introduced Senate Bill 1128 which would have redefined what Texas universities could classify as history.  That same day, Texas Republican House of Representative Giovanni Capriglione introduced House Bill 1938  which outlined the same goal as SB 1128.

According to the bill(s), “A college or university receiving state support or state aid from public funds may not grant a baccalaureate degree or a lesser degree or academic certificate to any person unless the person has credit for six semester hours or its equivalent from courses providing a comprehensive survey of American history.” Translate that from white man speak and you have effectively eliminated all history courses that focus on minorities. It was not coincidence that this bill was introduced on the first day of spring break. Patrick, Capriglione, and their cronies thought that everyone would be sleeping on the job.

Fortunately for us, and all history courses everywhere, their plan did not work. Activists from all over the state came together and stood in solidarity against these bills–and their voices were heard. Thanks to activists such as Tony Diaz, one of the founders of the Librotraficante Movement, SB 1128 and HB 1938 were crushed by the masses. According to Diaz, “We formed a Texas-wide coalition that fought against HB 1938 & SB 1128, which would have discredited Ethnic Studies at Texas state colleges and universities and effectively eliminated Mexican American, African American, and Women’s Studies programs, among others.  Both bills are now dead.”

Movements such as Librotraficante have made a name for themselves fighting abusive legislation that wishes to whitewash our nation’s history. Librotraficante was born when Arizona House Bill 2281, which dismantled the Mexican-American studies programs in their schools, was passed. When the Mexican-American studies programs were eliminated, it led to the banning of multiple authors from the school libraries. Authors such as Isabel Allende, Junot  Díaz, Dagoberto Gilb and numerous others.  Tony and others in the movement responded by  “smuggling” the banned books back into Arizona and setting up “underground” libraries all over the country.

Diaz summed it up best when he said, “Capriglione and Patrick submitted these bills on the first day of Spring Break. They must not have realized that the Librotraficantes spend Spring Break defying oppression. At this time last year, we launched the Librotraficante Caravan to Smuggle Banned Books Back into Arizona, and this year we defended Ethnic Studies in our own back yard. This is a warning to all far right legislators in any State of the Union, if you attack our History, our culture, or our books, we will defy you. And we will win.”

You can read more about SB 1128 here and here

One comment

  1. Don’t get me wrong, I think people should have the right to study history through whatever prism they want, but good luck getting a job with a degree in gender or ethnic studies.

    It just seems pretty pointless to me.

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