Wednesday, January 30, 2019

It's time to Reinvest in Texas Teachers

Investing in our state's teachers is long overdue as stated in today's Austin American-Statesman posted below.  Also, consider attending the March 11, 2019 Texas state teachers rally to the Capitol in Austin, Texas.  While we are at it, school district leaders, lest make it a point to hire a more culturally diverse faculty.  It'll make a positive difference in your school for everyone.

-Angela Valenzuela

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Reverberations of Memory,Violence, And History: A Conference for theCentennial of the 1919 Canales Investigation

Do consider attending this conference taking place January 31-February 1, 2019 at the Bullock Museum located at 1800 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701 • Map it

Reverberations of Memory,Violence, And History: A Conference for theCentennial of the 1919 Canales Investigation

January 31, 2019 - February 1, 2019
Over ninety years ago, a border native and the only Mexican American serving in the state legislature, José Tomas ‘JT’ Canales called for an investigation into state-sanctioned violence unleashed on the predominantly Mexican-origin community in the state’s southern border.
This two-day conference held on the centennial of that investigation will dive deep into that investigation and its ongoing legacies in the state of Texas.
Event Details
The Bullock Museum is pleased to host a FREE two-day conference exploring the 1919 Canales Investigation and its ongoing legacies in Texas. Presentations will feature internationally-recognized scholars and researchers from the United States, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, who will deliver different perspectives on the history of lynching and other extralegal violence in Texas, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and the U.S. South. Topics of discussion will include the relationship between Mexican American communities and the Texas Rangers, women’s anti-lynching activism, histories of racialized state violence, and the importance of civil rights struggles throughout the twentieth century, all set within broader considerations of borderlands and transnational history.
Sessions run 8:30am-5:30pm on Thursday, January 31st and 8:30am-4:30pm on Friday, February 1st. Click here for preliminary session and presenter details.
Registration is now open for this conference! Click the RSVP link to register. 
The 1919 Canales Investigation Conference is co-sponsored by:
·       Refusing to Forget 

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this forthcoming conference and subsequent edited volume, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Support for the Bullock Museum's exhibitions and education programs provided by the Texas State History Museum Foundation.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

INVITATION: Celebrating a Historic Mexican American Archive—the Arce v. Douglas Victorious Legal Challenge in Arizona

Students, Colleagues, and Friends:  
I write to invite you to this historic Mexican American Archive event.  You may RSVP HERE.  See you soon, I hope! 
-Angela Valenzuela

INVITACIÓN: Celebrando el Histórico Archivo Sobre Estudios México Americano: El Desafío Legal victorioso—Arce v. Douglas en Arizona

Estudiantes, colegas y amigos:

Les invito a este evento histórico del archivo mexicoamericano. Usted puede confirmar su asistencia aquí. ¡Nos vemos pronto ojalá!

-Angela Valenzuela

RSVP aquí

How the Loss of Native American Languages Affects our Understanding of the Natural World by Rosalyn R. LaPier

We must do everything to preserve and revitalize Indigenous languages and dialects.  
"Embedded in indigenous languages, in particular, is knowledge about ecosystems, conservation methods, plant life, animal behavior and many other aspects of the natural world."  

Language extinction should indeed be viewed, as posited below, as serious as the extinction of a plant or animal.  Our education system needs to be a core part of the solution.  Read on. 


The Conversation

Dance is a unique way of passing on cultural stories to a younger generation.
Aaron Hawkins/, CC BY-ND
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, The University of Montana
Alaska has a “linguistic emergency,” according to the Alaskan Gov. Bill Walker. A report warned earlier this year that all of the state’s 20 Native American languages might cease to exist by the end of this century, if the state did not act.
American policies, particularly in the six decades between the 1870s and 1930s, suppressed Native American languages and culture. It was only after years of activism by indigenous leaders that the Native American Languages Act was passed in 1990, which allowed for the preservation and protection of indigenous languages. Nonetheless, many Native American languages have been on the verge of extinction for the past many years.
Languages carry deep cultural knowledge and insights. So, what does the loss of these languages mean in terms of our understanding of the world.
Environmental knowledge

The shell necklace of Queen Liliʻuokalani. David Eickhoff/Flickr.comCC BY
A tool for doctors
Blackfeet word for face paint.
Saving vanishing languages
Embedded in indigenous languages, in particular, is knowledge about ecosystems, conservation methods, plant life, animal behavior and many other aspects of the natural world.
In Hawaiian traditions and belief systems,for example, the tree snails were connected to “the realm of the gods.” Hawaiian royalty revered them, which protected them from overharvesting.
The Bishop Museum in Honolulu holds a shell necklace, or lei, of Queen Lili‘uokalani, the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. It is made from tree snail shells, which signifies the high rank of female royalty. Wearing a shell was believed to provide “mana,” or spiritual power and a way to understand ancestral knowledge.
Many of these snails are now extinct and those remaining are threatened with extinction. Scientists are working with Hawaiian language experts to learn about the belief systems that once helped protect them and their habitats.
Words in indigenous languages can have cultural meanings, that can be lost during translation. Understanding the subtle differences can often shift one’s perspective about how indigenous people thought about the natural world.
For example, as an indigenous scholar of the environment, I led a team some years ago of language experts, elders and scholars from Montana and Alberta, Canada, to create a list of Blackfeet words, called a lexicon, of museum objects. The elders I worked with noted that the English word “herb,” which was used to describe most plant specimens within museums, did not have the same meaning in Blackfeet.
In English, the word “herb” can have numerous meanings, including a seasoning for food. The closest English word to herb in Blackfeet is “aapíínima’tsis.” The elders explained this word means “a tool that doctors use.”
The hope is that the lexicon and audio files recorded in the Blackfeet language that our research helped create, might assist future scholars access the embedded meanings in languages.

Many Native American communities in the United States are now working to save these cultural insights and revitalize their languages.
In Wisconsin, an Ojibwe language school called “Waadookodaading,”translated literally as “a place where people help each other,” immerses its students in the environmental knowledge embedded in the language.
The Ojibwe believe that theirs is a language of action. And the best way for children to learn is by doing and observing the natural world. Each spring, for example, the students go into the woods to gather maple sap from trees, which is processed into maple syrup and sugar. These students learn about indigenous knowledge of plants, their habitats and uses.

Language loss can be considered as extreme as the extinction of a plant or an animal. Once a language is gone, the traditional knowledge it carries also gets erased from society.
Efforts are now underway worldwide to remind people of this reality. The United Nations has designated 2019 as the “International Year of Indigenous Languages” in order to raise awareness of indigenous languages as holders of “complex systems of knowledge” and encourage nation states to work toward their revitalization.
The loss of indigenous languages is not Alaska’s concern alone. It affects all of us.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Why Do We Keep Using the Word ‘Caucasian’? When a term signifies something that does not exist, we need to examine our use of it

 Dr. Yolanda Moses, former president of the American Anthropological Association, is on target.  The continued use of "caucasian," has got to stop for reasons that are well-argued within.  It's so handily used and accepted that it's not exposed as a fiction.  

We can do better than that.

-Angela Valenzuela

Why Do We Keep Using the Word ‘Caucasian’?

When a term signifies something that does not exist, we need to examine our use of it

By Yolanda Moses
The word “Caucasian” is used in the U.S. to describe white people, but it doesn’t indicate anything real. It’s the wrong term to use! My colleague and one of my longtime writing partners, Carol Mukhopadhyay, has written a wonderful article, “Getting Rid of the Word ‘Caucasian,’” that is still relevant today for how it challenges us to critically examine the language that we use. It’s obvious that language shapes how we perceive and see the world. And we know how powerful the concept of race is and how the use of words related to the notion of race has shaped what we call the U.S. racial worldview. So why do we continue using the word “Caucasian”?
To answer that question, it is helpful to understand where the term came from and its impact on our society. The term “Caucasian” originated from a growing 18th-century European science of racial classification. German anatomist Johann Blumenbach visited the Caucasus Mountains, located between the Caspian and Black seas, and he must have been enchanted because he labeled the people there “Caucasians” and proposed that they were created in God’s image as an ideal form of humanity.

And the label has stuck to this day. According to Mukhopadhyay, Blumenbach went on to name four other “races,” each considered “physically and morally ‘degenerate’ forms of ‘God’s original creation.’” He categorized Africans, excluding light-skinned North Africans, as “Ethiopians” or “black.” He divided non-Caucasian Asians into two separate races: the “Mongolian” or “yellow” race of Japan and China, and the “Malayan” or “brown” race, which included Aboriginal Australians and Pacific Islanders. And he called Native Americans the “red” race.

Blumenbach’s system of racial classification was adopted in the United States to justify racial discriminationparticularly slavery. Popular race science and evolutionary theories generally posited that there were separate races, that differences in behavior were tied to skin color, and that there were scientific ways to measure race. One way racial differences were defined was through craniometrics, which measured skull size to determine the intelligence of each racial group. As you can imagine, this flawed application of the scientific method resulted in race scientists developing a flawed system of racial classification that ranked the five races from most primitive (black and brown races), to more advanced (the Asian races), to the most advanced (the white, or Caucasian, races). Even though the five-race topology was later disproven, “Caucasian” still has currency in the U.S.
One reason we keep using the term “Caucasian” is that the U.S. legal system made use of Blumenbach’s taxonomy. As early as 1790 the first naturalization law was passed, preventing foreigners who were not white from becoming citizens. But according to Mukhopadhyay, Blumenbach’s category of “Caucasian” posed a problem because his classification of white also included some North Africans, Armenians, Persians, Arabs, and North Indians. The definition of Caucasian had to be reinvented to focus the ideological category of whiteness on northern and western Europe. The term, even though its exact definition changed over time, was used to shape legal policy and the nature of our society.
A second reason the term has had staying power is that, as new immigrants began to stream into the country in the 20th century, political leaders and scientists supported a new racial science called eugenics that built on 19th-century notions of race. Eugenicists divided Caucasians into four ranked subraces: Nordic, Alpine, Mediterranean, and Jew (Semitic). I’m sure you will not be surprised to learn that the Nordics were ranked highest intellectually and morally. These rankings were used by our government to design and execute discriminatory immigration laws that preserved the political dominance of Nordics, who were largely Protestant Christians.
Today, the word “Caucasian” is still used in many official government documents, and it continues to carry a kind of scientific weight. For example, it is found in social science and medical research, and is used by some colleges and universities in their data collection and distribution of student, staff, and faculty statistics. In Mukhopadhyay’s research, she sampled government websites and official documents and was surprised to learn how many government offices, including the U.S. Census Bureau, still use the word.

So“Caucasian” became entrenched in our legal, governmental, scientific, and social lives. And although the U.S. government reluctantly denounced or at least played down racial science after the atrocities of Adolf Hitler’s regime were fully exposed at the end of WWII, the term has not been discarded.
What can we do to change it? We need to acknowledge that the word “Caucasian” is still around and that its continued use is problematic. We should use terms that are more accurate, such as “European-American.” Doing so would at least be consistent with the use of descriptive terms like “African-American,” “Mexican-American,” and others that signify both a geographical and an American ancestry.
The bottom line is that it is time for a modernand accurateterminology. The use of an outdated and disproven term that falsely purports to describe a separate race of people has no place in the U.S.

Yolanda Moses is a professor of anthropology and a former associate vice chancellor for diversity, equity, and excellence at the University of California, Riverside. Her research focuses on the broad question of the origins of social inequality in complex societies. Moses has explored gender and class disparities in the Caribbean, East Africa, and the United States. More recently, her research has focused on issues of diversity and change in universities and colleges in the United States, India, Europe, and South Africa. She has co-authored two books about race: Race: Are We So Different?written with Alan Goodman and Joseph Jones, and How Real Is Race?: A Sourcebook on Race, Culture, and Biologywith Carol Mukhopadhyay and Rosemary Henze. In 2017 she received a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Cultural Competence at the University of Sydney, in Australia. Moses is a former president of the American Anthropological Association.