In the News: December 2020

An Ethnic Studies Requirement

The Minneapolis Public School’s Board of Education voted in November to require a one-semester ethnic studies course before graduation, beginning with 9th graders in 2021-22. Elective courses now offered at some schools include First Nations Studies, African American Studies, Hmong Studies, and Race & Identity Studies.

Several states have explored a deeper commitment to ethnic studies curriculum in recent years. Some are statewide, some are district by district. Ethnic Studies courses are designed to engage students in learning beyond the Euro-American perspective.

The growth of interest has been inspired partly in response to an Arizona law in 2010 that banned ethnic studies. As NPR reported in 2017, “Republican lawmakers were specifically targeting a Mexican- American studies program at Tucson High School, where minority enrollment is 88 percent. The Republicans who wrote the legislation claimed the classes were stoking racial tensions and ‘radicalizing students.’”

Arizona prohibited classes and materials that “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government,” “resentment toward a race or class or people,” or “ethnic solidarity.”

Stoking resentment, said one of the Tucson teachers who offered the class, was not the point. The class began with an affirmation, a Mayan precept called In Lak Ech, which translates to “You are another me.”

Source: NPR News, “A Movement Born of a Ban”

Eugenics: The Legacy We Do Not Want to Return

A nurse called attention in September to hysterectomies performed by a gynecologist on detained migrants without their full consent. She was working at a detention center in Georgia and reported that almost every woman was told they needed the procedure, which removes all or part of the uterus,

The 19th, a new gender-based online newsroom about politics, reported a history of the eugenics movement in the U.S. In 1905, Indiana made sterilization mandatory for “certain individuals in state custody.” Eventually, more than two-thirds of states passed similar laws, which was especially associated with women impacted by poverty, disability, criminality, alcoholism, and having children out of wedlock.

In 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a state’s right to forcibly sterilize a person considered “feeble-minded.” One person testified that it was a justified response to addressing the “shiftless, ignorant, and worthless class of antisocial whites of the South.” The law has not been overturned and has impacted as many as 70,000 women.

As Elspeth Wilson, author of “The Reproduction of Citizenship,” told The 19th, “England and the United States started the eugenics movement, not Nazi Germany.” The idea was that America would be stronger if only the physically and financially strong reproduced.

According to some reports, between 1973 and 1976, at least one- quarter of Native American women between ages 15 and 44 were sterilized. About one-third of Puerto Rican women of childbearing age were sterilized between the 1930s and 1970s, Wilson said.

Source: The 19th, “Whistleblower Complaint”

A New Approach to Celebrating Diwali

Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights that marks one of the most popular celebrations for Minnesota’s 50,000 Hindus, which was celebrated — in adapted form because of the pandemic — on November 14.

Sahan Journal quoted Monika Vadali, of Plymouth, whose neighbors are largely Indian immigrants. “It’s one of the first festivals that comes when it gets cold. I look forward to it. It has religious significance and there’s normally a neighborhood get together. One of our friends plays music, we hand out sweets, and do fireworks on the driveway.”

Pooja Bastodkar, the president of the Hindu Society of Minnesota, explains that the holiday started around 5,000 B.C., and commemorates the homecoming of a prince named Ram. The kingdom celebrated his return by lighting lamps in the palace and around the kingdom. In modern times, “it’s a time for celebration with family, cleaning, lighting up your home, good food, festivities.”

Bhakti Modi, of Chanhassen, joked with the Sahan Journal reporter: “Thanksgiving doesn’t have anything on Diwali, because Thanksgiving is one day. With Diwali, you’re eating for like 10 days. This is a nightmare for diabetics.”

Modi, who works at a software company, said she knows many people who were resistant to new technology. She said the good thing that happened in 2020 is that more people embraced computers and video calls in her family.

For Diwali, “We’re going to do a huge family call with all my family members across the world, across the U.S., in India, and other places. We’re going to get together on a Zoom call and eat together and talk together,” Modi said.

Source: Sahan Journal, “Hindus Light Up