March 16, 2010

Another reason to excavate our foremothers…

Not only have the lives  of too many of our foremothers been left out of our history texts and our collective consciousness, there are deliberate attempts to alter the curriculum for K-12 public schools that will obliterate their contributions and sacrifices. Not only will these changes make the curriculum andocentric, it will “whitewash” it.

Thanks to Betty Brink at the newly launched Ms. Magazine blog for her post “Texas Whitewashes U.S. History.”

As for women, their historical roles have pretty much been relegated to the June Cleaver stay-at-home-mom model of the 1950s, according to board member Mary Helen Berlanga, a lawyer from Corpus Christi who opposed the new curriculum. When one working group drafted a section on how World War II created opportunities for women to be employed in all kinds of industries not open to them before, the section was taken out by the board majority. When that same working group wanted to include discussions on how sex and gender roles have changed over the decades, a conservative member said that would lead to teaching about “transvestites and all sorts of people with different sexual proclivities,” Berlanga says.

Like most people, upon learning about my foremothers, their struggles and their contributions, I feel empowered and less alone. It allows me to frame my life within the social, historical and political context of patriarchy.

As quoted in Brink’s piece:

“This is frightening. … It is history as seen through the eyes of Anglos,” says Berlanga, who stormed out of the last hours of the meeting, calling her colleagues’ actions an attempt to “whitewash” history. Earlier, Berlanga had made an impassioned appeal for the inclusion of the names of just one or two of the dozens of Tejanos who died at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett and William Travis. She lost.

“I grew up not knowing that Tejanos (Mexicans who lived in Texas at the time of the revolution) died there,” she says. “There was nothing about them in our history books. I would have been so proud [as a child] to know that my people were heroes of the Alamo.”

To know our collective history and resonate with our group identity as members of minority groups continues to be a pivotal step in our personal and collective empowerment. With that said, it comes as no surprise that there are powerful groups operating to erase our historical presence.

It is this very calculated operation at omitting our voices and experiences that propels me to continue seeking out the names and stories of important women and men that have allowed me to enjoy the privileges that many take for granted and may be taken at anytime. To educate is to empower and that will never be a cliche.