Thursday, April 28, 2022

Join the Librotraficante Caravan of Banned Books in #ATX Tomorrow to the Texas State Capitol—Friday, April 29, 2022


Tony Diaz, the famous “Librotraficante,” or book smuggler, has turned his sights on his very own Texas after having smuggled books to Arizona when the Tucson Unified School District dismantled the Mexican American Studies program in 2010, resulting in a court case in which I and others testified that was ultimately won in 2017. (Note: I have covered all of this amply on this blog; keyword search the following to learn more: “Mexican American Studies (MAS),” “TUSD Ethnic Studies,” “Tony Diaz,” and “Librotraficante.”)

Now in light of banned books in Texas, he and his colleagues are looking to smuggle books into different places, including Austin. Here is his Austin schedule in the event that you want to join us tomorrow as we openly challenge the attack on our history and the censorship of books in the schools.

—At 2:00 PM, Librotraficante Underground Library, Palm Park 200 N IH-35 frontage road, 5B (also known as “Palm School”)

—At 3:00 PM, March for Cultura (from Palm Park to the Capitol, along Cesar Chavez St. to Congress St., to the State Capitol Building). 

—At 3:30 PM, Austin State Capitol

—At 5:00 PM Refreshments, Raul Salinas

—At 8:00 PM (Teatro) ¡Estar Guars!: A May The Fourth/Cinco De Mayo Comedy Fiesta, 600 River St, Austin, TX 78701-4218, United States

Like Librotraficante on Facebook:

Follow Tony Diaz on Radio Show 90.1FM KPFT:

He is also a reporter for Fox 26 News Houston:

Check out the wonderful piece on him below by  in the Houston Chronicle, as well. I won’t have a revolution if I can’t dance, my friends. Looking forward to good times tomorrow!

-Angela Valenzuela

‘Book smugglers’ plan caravans from Houston, San Antonio to start underground library for banned books

Librotraficante members Tony Diaz and Liana Lopez try to decide which sign to make into a large poster on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, in Houston. The group of activists plans to use signs and posters later this month at a rally in Austin, following a caravan from Houston, against recent efforts to ban books in the state.


Godofredo A. Vásquez, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

A decade ago, Tony Diaz and four other Latinos organized a caravan to deliver forbidden books and history to Tucson, Ariz., where a Mexican-American studies program had been banned from schools.

The “book smugglers” return this week, spurred by the wave of book challenges and bans that has spread across the country over the last year, with some parts of Texas leading the charge.

On Texas has seen a surge in requests to pull books from schools. Here are Houston's numbers so far

The Librotraficantes, which translates to book traffickers, plan to lead a pair of caravans loaded with banned books to Austin from Houston and San Antonio Friday with a similar mission to 10 years ago: spread the words others have sought to suppress.

“I am hoping that this is going to open the eyes of our community members,” said Diaz, who 24 years ago founded Nuestra Palabra, which started as a group of Latino writers and has evolved into a mission to promote Latino literature and culture. “This is not a one-shot deal. We proved that we are here for decades-long work. We’ve proven that, but now this movement is a response to the movement that is trying to silence voices.”

The caravans, organized in partnership with LULAC Texas, are in response to a spate of attempts to remove books from school libraries across Texas and the nation. In the Houston region, school districts so far mostly have avoided mass challenges that have occurred elsewhere, but still have recorded an increase in requests for book reviews. Last week, the ACLU of Texas accused Katy, Klein and San Antonio’s North East ISDs of violating students’ First Amendment rights by removing dozens of books and, in some instances, not following designated review procedures.

The American Library Association tracked the most attempts to ban books last year — 729 challenges to library, school and university materials — since it began 20 years ago compiling a list of such efforts.

In Texas, state officials have emboldened such efforts. Gov. Greg Abbott put educators in the cross-hairs, essentially accusing them incorrectly of stocking porn in school libraries, among other attacks.

COMPLAINTS: Books challenged in Houston schools are 'contrary to everything Christian', promote BLM

State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, chairman of the House General Investigating Committee, sent a list of some 850 books — many of which explored LGBTQ issues — to school districts, asking if the titles were on their shelves.

The moves helped spur the return of the Librotraficantes, who already were thinking of marking the 10-year anniversary of the original caravan.

“Honestly, I thought we were just going to mark the anniversary,” Diaz said. “But the book bans are back.”

Since the original caravan to Arizona, a federal judge ruled in 2017 the state had violated Mexican-American students’ constitutional rights by ending the successful ethnic studies program, writing in an opinion that the enactment and enforcement of the ban was “motivated by racial animus.”

To Diaz, a writer who switched from fiction to nonfiction around the time Arizona enacted the ban because he figured he “can’t make this stuff up anymore,” the ruling was a victory. He also believes the current attacks on history have been informed by that success, as well as the success of the 2012 caravan.

So, he and the Librotraficantes have organized again.

Friday’s events are expected to start with a morning press conference in Houston before some 45 individuals board a bus to Austin, where it will meet the bus from San Antonio at Palm Park. There they will launch an underground library with about 200 donated books, to start. The group, Diaz said, will give some of the books to La Peña, a cultural organization and art gallery that will serve as their steward.

“Literally, what it means is it will be a bookshelf with those books and then the stewards decide: Do they just lend them out, do they give them away,” Diaz said. “When they run out, they need to tell us.”

In the afternoon, The Librotraficantes plan a procession of banned books on Cesar Chavez Street to Congress Avenue en route to the capitol in a “March for Cultura.”

The group also plans to honor six Latina icons — among them Dr. Angela Valenzuela, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who had testified in a case cited by the federal judge who overturned Arizona’s law — in hopes of inspiring their recognition in Austin, Diaz said.

The whole plan came together in a matter of weeks, Diaz said, following a conversation about the 10th anniversary of the Tucson caravan.

Liana Lopez, one of the other five original organizers who goes by Librotraficante Lilo, said it felt like the effort to ban Mexican American studies that spurred the first protest was a “testing ground” for the current, wider attacks on history.

“I don’t understand what is scary about history,” Lopez said. “The only way to heal is to heal ourselves first, and we have to be able to address what’s happened in the past in a way that is not scary.”

View Graphic with hyperlinks at

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

"What new piece of the universe did your students touch today?" A Memorial Film for Dr. Linda McSpadden McNeil

The beloved and consummate educator, Rice University professor of teacher education, the late Dr. Linda McNeil asks at her September 24, 2012 presentation at the "Measuring Up" Forum that took place at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, "What new piece of the universe did your students touch today?" 

To memorialize her passing in 2021, the family and I welcome you to a "Remembrance Celebration" taking place this Friday on her behalf as part of the AERA conference beginning this week in San Diego, California. It takes place on April 22, from 6:30 to 8:00pm PDT (8:30 to 10:00pm CDT) at the San Diego Convention Center.

In line with the conference theme, “Cultivating Equitable Education Systems for the 21st Century,” it is an honor and privilege to reflect on Dr. McNeil’s impactful life and career, including her specific contributions to cultivating equitable education systems. To learn more about her, treat yourself today to her blog. Linda, you left us much too soon.

Personally, Dr. McNeil was a dear friend and colleague with whom I worked closely over the years, particularly in the struggle in Texas against high-stakes testing, one that continues today. She helped me in my early years as a struggling assistant professor to survive my stint at Rice University, bringing me into her nurturing and intellectually stimulating sphere and network when she served as director of the Rice University Center for Education. Our families were close throughout and remain so today. Much love to Kathryn, Carrie, and baby Luke and all the family that mourns her loss. If you're in the neighborhood, consider joining us so that you can learn about Dr. McNeil's many contributions to making our schools and world a much better place.

Here is her obituary from the New York Times and below is a beautiful short video made by a former student and friend, Sonia Noyola, who, along with her students, created this special tribute. Linda, words cannot capture the depth of my love, respect, and admiration. Thank you for living the life you lived and for bringing me and so many others on for the ride. Your spirit lives on!

-Angela Valenzuela

Saturday, April 16, 2022

White Anxiety, Redefined: The psychic wages of disfiguring the meaning of critical race theory, by Anthony Conwright

There is so much wisdom to be gleaned from this piece authored by Anthony Conwright writing for the African American Policy Forum in the context of the current political and policy context with respect to the anti-Critical Race Theory (CRT), extremist moment we're in. 

What makes this piece important is its signaling of psychic wages to white people who, as Conwright aptly states, "no longer know who they are when Black people avow their autonomy," resulting in a caricatured view of CRT spun "into groundless abstraction [that denotes] its effective social meaning to be anything that triggers anxiety in white people."

What this extremist agenda seeks is to numb children—and society, as whole—to the horrors of slavery and genocide not unlike that which Holocaust deniers seek. Conwright writes cogently on the impact of this agenda on white people themselves:

"If society is numb to the murder and structural oppression of Black Americans, then society will not be moved to change the laws that govern these evils.  The white Americans who denounce critical race theory as an unthinkable source of inner angst and distress thus betray their own rarely acknowledged psychic investment in the justification of systemic violence meted out toward Black people in the service of white supremacy."

 Again, Conwright gets to the heart of the matter:

"Indeed, this core evasion of Black Americans’ humanity has become so compelling, some white people are willing to destroy their history at the cost of their own humanity." 

White people manifesting white anxiety clearly need grounding opposite that which is indifferent toward, or numb to, black and brown people's suffering. Do note that people of color can similarly fall prey to such ideologies through an internalization of white supremacy that manifests as self-hatred, or hatred toward one's own racial or ethnic group.  

A good first start is to stand up against this unethical re-writing of history, these legislated sins of omission, that reinscribe a white identity that ill-serves white people anyway.

-Angela Valenzuela

White Anxiety, Redefined

The psychic wages of disfiguring the meaning of critical race theory

Anthony Conwright | March 31, 2022

To loot an object of its meaning, the object must be seized and its identity erased through an abracadabra flourish of semantics so it can be made anew. Philosopher and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon described this process in his 1952 book Black Skin, White Masks. “I am overdetermined from without. I am the slave not of the ‘idea’ that others have of me but of my own appearance,” Fanon wrote. “And already I am being dissected under white eyes, the only real eyes. I am fixed. Having adjusted their microtomes, they objectively cut away slices of my reality. I am laid bare. I feel, I see in those white faces that it is not a new man who has come in, but a new kind of man, a new genus. Why, it’s a Negro!”
     The project of overdetermining Black people extends well beyond the corporal form and bleeds into academia. Under the lenses of “white eyes,” Black studies, hip-hop scholarship, and critical race theory are not what their pioneers defined them to be. These fields of study are seized, undressed and converted into symbols that marshal anxiety among white Americans who no longer know who they are when Black people avow their autonomy. We’ve witnessed this process at close remove in recent months, as much the same rhetoric and legislation that transmogrified enslaved Africans into non-beings have been revived to spin the definition of critical race theory (CRT) off into groundless abstraction—and then denote its effective social meaning to be anything that triggers anxiety in white people.
     If this sounds hyperbolic, just consider the testimony of the lead propagandist in today’s CRT moral panic. “Strung together, the phrase ‘critical race theory’ connotes hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist, anti-American,” said Manhattan Institute fellow Christopher Rufo. “ ‘Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain.” True to his word, Rufo has been aggressively promoting a wholly imaginary version of CRT while projecting just about every conceivable brand of white anxiety onto it—in exactly the fashion that Fanon long ago diagrammed.
     Seizing on this new front in the right-wing culture wars, legislators across 33 states have appointed themselves expert interpreters of critical race theory, further disfiguring its meaning and assailing it as “divisive.” This ritualized exercise in bad-faith demagogy not only means that conservatives are undermining the basic facts of their own identity as Americans benefiting from long-established racial hierarchies; it also serves to hollow out the history of the country into a series of untrue, inoffensive nostrums. Today’s anti-CRT inquisitors thus condemn educators who seek to tell the truth about America’s identity to silence themselves—or else join in the make-believe and bowdlerized version of the country’s racial history—at the cost of their own livelihoods.    
     To see this process in action, consider an episode that actually predates the full onset of the CRT moral panic. On August 27, 2020 Matthew Hahn, a former teacher in Sullivan Central High School in Sullivan County, Tennessee, talked about “white privilege” with his students during his Contemporary Issues course. During the lesson, Hawn showed a video of the family of Jacob Blake, an African American shot by police officers in Kenosha, Wis., speaking to the press. He also showed a picture of Kyle Rittenhouse with one hand on his rifle and the other hand in the air walking toward police. Rittenhouse, a white American, shot and killed two people in Kenosha during protests of Blake’s shooting. After showing the media to his students, Hawn said, “this is white privilege and it is a fact. Not up for debate, but what are we going to do about racism in the U.S.?”
     On September 9, Hawn received an email from Dr. Brent Palmer, Director of High Schools for Sullivan County Schools. Palmer suggested that Hawn was in violation of the Tennessee Teacher Code of Ethics, which says that an educator “shall not unreasonably deny the students access to a varying points of view.” Palmer took issue with Hawn saying white privilege “is a fact.” After receiving Palmer’s email, Hawn did not talk about racism in his classroom until the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, when a mob of predominantly white Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building as they sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
     On January 13, Hawn assigned “Donald Trump: The First White President,” an Atlantic article written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, that argues white supremacy is the reason Donald Trump won white voters of every economic class during the 2016 presidential election. Hawn stipulated to his class that the article represents one viewpoint, but four days after he assigned the article a parent complained that Hawn did not offer an opposing viewpoint.
     On February 13, Hawn received a formal letter of reprimand. Hawn revisited the concept of “white privilege” in April 2021. This time, he asked if there was such a thing as “Black privilege,” and included a article by John Blake called “It’s Time to Talk about Black Privilege”—a clearly varying viewpoint on notions of privilege. This effort did not alleviate anxiety among school leadership; Hawn received formal dismissal papers on May 5, 2021. “Your job is not to teach one perspective,” Ingrid Deloach, the assistant director of Sullivan County Schools, told him. “Your job is also not to ensure students simply adopt your own personal perspective.”
Legislation that defines critical race theory as a “divisive concept” has no standing as a logical or moral argument, and, much like the bid to neuter Holocaust denial, is entirely dishonest.

Friday, April 15, 2022

"Admit it: Testing our kids has been a failure," by Fred Smith New York Daily News

And not just in New York. The only entities that are benefitting from the state's testing system are the testing companies as follows:

"Since its inception, CTB/McGraw-Hill, NCS Pearson and Questar have received state contracts to provide the tests and their scoring, amounting to $130 million. The state comptroller’s Open Book database details the combined cost of these services."

Once you factor in administrator, counselor, and teacher time in administering these tests, the actual cost of this system—and these systems nationally—is astronomical.  We don't need to keep following bad money with good money, my friends—particularly when we consider that these are folks' hard-earned taxpayer dollars going right into the coffers of these private companies. At some point, we have to cut our losses.

A healthy first step is indeed to admit that these testing systems have failed us miserably.

-Angela Valenzuela

Admit it: Testing our kids has been a failure Up to 1.2 million students, including 400,000 in New York City, will take the English Language Arts (ELA) exam. The math tests will come a few weeks later.

Too much. (Shutterstock/Shutterstock)

MAR 29, 2022  5:00 AM

It’s time to end the March madness.

The program was set forth in 2001 when Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, mandating annual English and math tests. Here we are 20 years later, still adhering to the regime without asking what we’ve gained and lost. A primary aim of NCLB was to close the test performance gap between Black and Hispanic students, on the one hand, and white and Asian-American students, on the other. This elusive goal has not been realized.

Since its inception, CTB/McGraw-Hill, NCS Pearson and Questar have received state contracts to provide the tests and their scoring, amounting to $130 million. The state comptroller’s Open Book database details the combined cost of these services.

Results have fluctuated wildly across the years, in large part because the state’s standards and grading procedures keep changing, pressure on students, teachers and principals to do well has been constant, stemming from functions and high-stakes decisions beyond the capacity of the test data to support. In 2006, 51% of students citywide were deemed to be proficient on CTB’s ELA exams. By 2009, the proficiency level had risen to 69%. The increase in math went from 57% to 82%. Observers knew gains of such magnitude were not plausible. One Board of Regents member questioned the wisdom of releasing the inflated, too-good-to-be-true results to the public.

More rigorous exams were then ordered by the Regents in 2010, and ELA proficiency suddenly fell to 42%. This began the transition from CTB to Pearson, ushering in tougher learning standards, aka the Common Core. By three years later, the 42% tanked to 26%, as Core-aligned exams became the new baseline. Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said it was time for students to “jump into the deep end of the pool.”

Under Mayor Bloomberg, parents began to feel the stress placed on children who could be denied promotion if they failed to reach an arbitrary test cutoff point, they were supposed to be held back. And teachers spent an inordinate amount of time preparing students for the exams, which meant bonuses if they scored high.

As if that weren’t enough, Gov. Cuomo sought an accountability system to weed out ineffective teachers and principals on the basis of scores entered into incomprehensible formulas.

In 2013, an opt-out movement took root because of the harm testing had wrought in the classroom, where weeks of time and resources were wasted drilling children for the tests and fostering anxiety. Pushback grew strong on Long Island and upstate. By 2015, proficiency stood at 31%. Pearson was despised, and the parent-led resistance peaked in 2015 and 2016, with one out of five students abstaining despite ominous warnings from school authorities of dire consequences.

Mayor de Blasio kept parents confused while his old-school chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said testing was a part of life and kids should show up for the exams.

Cuomo saw growing political risks, and had second thoughts about continuing to back the Common Core. It had been launched without sufficient instructional materials and lesson plans that are essential before tests can meaningfully measure whether learning standards have been met.

Through it all, National Assessment of Educational Progress has shown New York’s growth in achievement to be incremental, varying little over time. Based on NAEP’s carefully calibrated exams — which are given to a representative sampling of kids in grades 4 and 8 in just two hours every two years, not 200,000 students statewide per grade over a two-day period every year. The percentage of students proficient in reading ranged by only eight percentage points between 2003 and 2019.

In addition to seemingly perennial changes in publishers, standards and scales, other factors have scrambled efforts to interpret the yearly results. These include shifts in test population; the removal of time limits from the exams; and an uneven phase-in of computer-based tests. Footnotes in results released by the state concede that data cannot be compared from one year to the next.

So what are we really accomplishing here? The testing ritual was halted by COVID-19 in 2020 when the mandate was suspended, but the feds said testing had to resume in 2021. The State Education Department sought waivers. Under the disruptive circumstances, parents had the flexibility to opt out. A stunning 58% statewide and 78% citywide did not participate.

The last two years have confirmed that education can survive without the exams. Yet the testing cycle is about to begin again, even as COVID-related chaos has jolted schools the entire year. When will we come to our senses?

Smith was a testing specialist and administrative analyst for the city’s public schools.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

A revealing gender divide for Latinos and Political Clues for 2022 by Jazmine Ulloa | April 12, 2022 | New York Times

I hope that this piece gets the attention it deserves. It speaks, among other things, to the miseducation of our youth and how this translates into the disenfranchisement of our community. It's easy to point the finger at the community, to blame them for their lack of political literacy. 

While, as discussed herein, this is frequently true, the onus resides in a system that refuses to even acknowledge what could be an ennobling curriculum that teaches them of the incredible sacrifices that have been historically made by members of their own community for them to have the right to vote and thusly, exercise agency over their own futures. Borrowing from the late Brazilian educator, Paolo Freire, instead of getting educated for liberation, they are educated for domestication, to be powerless and alienated from schools, policy struggles, and politics, as a whole. If they only new that this, too, is their inheritance...

Considering that education for domestication is the status quo, viewed from this perspective, the educational system is actually succeeding in protecting the incumbencies of those in power who unsurprisingly, do not prioritize equitable school funding policies to provide this vast community with the same high quality education that their peers receive in the most well-funded schools in our state and nation. Not only has "wokeism" not even been a factor in their own political formation, the powers that be seek to ensure that it never manifests to begin with.

All is not lost as these youth remain teachable. And for this, we advocate, and will continue to do so.

-Angela Valenzuela

A new report exploring young Latinos’ views on immigration sheds light on one of the most important voter groups in the midterm elections, and found a noteworthy gender divide.

QAnon conspiracy theories were one of many forms of online misinformation that targeted Latino voters during the 2020 election.Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Greetings from your co-host Leah Askarinam. Blake Hounshell is off this week. We have an item tonight from our colleague Jazmine Ulloa, who reports on a new analysis of young Latinos’ media habits.

Online disinformation hit Latino communities hard ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

It came in the form of videos, tweets and WhatsApp messages, YouTube videos and the rants of Spanish-language radio hosts. It included false reports of widespread violence on the streets of Democratic cities after the murder of George Floyd, QAnon conspiracy theories, and overblown claims of terrorists and criminals crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

As the most egregious material spread online — and in the private text chains of young Latinos’ tías and tíos — organizers with United We Dream Action, an immigrant rights organization founded and led by young immigrants, jumped into the fray. The group trained members to provide accurate information to their families and friends and create shareable content across social media platforms that was meant to dispel anti-immigrant and anti-Black narratives.

Now, with the 2022 midterms months away and both parties scrambling for the votes of one of the most crucial swing groups in American politics, the organization released a report today that more deeply explores Latinos’ online engagement with material about immigration. Long exploited by bad actors on the web, the contentious issue is widely expected to be pivotal in elections across the country.

The immigrant advocacy network teamed up with Harmony Labs, a nonprofit research group in New York, to study the television and online consumption habits of more than 20,000 Latinos nationwide who agreed to share their data from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2021. Latinos over 36 were more likely to encounter polarizing anti-immigrant narratives than other cohorts, the analysis found, mainly through right-wing news sites, television and YouTube.

It also found an interesting gender divide among younger Latinos.

Latinas ages 18 to 35 drew from a much wider variety of news and entertainment sources than their older counterparts, the analysis found, and were more likely to seek out stories not just about immigration policy but also about immigrants and the immigrant experience.

Their search queries and content consumption were curious and community-driven, reflecting “a desire to understand and engage with the people and world around them,” according to the findings.

But Latino men in the same age cohort were far different. Those surveyed tended to inhabit “a very insular, virtual world,” the researchers said. Many young Latino men spent much of their time online engaging with anime and fantasy gaming, and did not absorb much media about immigration or immigrants at all, either positive or negative. When they did consume immigration content, it tended to be about policy and stemmed from conservative-leaning sources.

GameStop stocks and Covid news

Beyond that, their news consumption choices tended to be more individualistic and entrepreneurial. Of 45,000 articles read by Latinos in the first nine months of 2021, only two topics appeared to grab the attention of large numbers of young Latino men: the amateurs who drove up the stock price of GameStop, and Covid-related school closures.

Both young Latinos and Latinas demonstrated less interest in politics, and for the young men, the top “political” personalities were influencers who discuss a broad variety of cultural topics and fall across the political spectrum: Philip DeFranco, Joe Rogan and Mr. Beast.

The vacuum of political information for young Latino men, coupled with their desire for economic stability and penchant for individualism, is likely to leave that group more susceptible to right-wing anti-immigrant narratives and disinformation in the future, the groups concluded.

This uniquely positions young Latino men for negative arguments “that there isn’t enough for them and that someone else is taking their opportunities,” said Juanita Monsalve, the senior marketing and creative director for United We Dream Action. But it also creates an opportunity to intervene with counter-messaging, she added.

“We have this research to figure out how to create culturally responsive content and show up in the spaces where they want to consume it,” Monsalve said.

The report’s findings track with previous research on Latinos’ political leanings — and they add to the picture that is emerging of how these voters are newly up for grabs.

Latinos in general tend to lean Democratic, but in 2020, Donald Trump improved his performance among these voters in some parts of the country, and with working-class Latino men in particular, by centering his messaging on the economy.

Young Latinas are likely to be more liberal than their male peers, and are more worried about social justice and equity issues like racism, immigration and climate change.

Organizers with United We Dream Action, an immigrant rights organization that has worked to dispel online misinformation targeting Latinos.Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

More young Latino men voted for Trump in 2020 than they did in 2016, but whether Republicans will continue to build support among the demographic “is an open question,” said Vladimir Enrique Medenica, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware and director of survey research at the University of Chicago’s GenForward project, which surveys voters ages 18-36.

What is known, he said, is that many have no interest in politics, or they identify as independent or do not have an affiliation to either major political party. This is partly because many feel alienated from politics and unrepresented by either party.

Many also face greater barriers to college education and economic opportunities, both of which help shape people’s political views and can be particularly important to the process of politicization for second-generation Latinos, whose parents immigrated to the United States and who may not have developed a strong attachment to either Democrats or Republicans, Medenica said.

Opening for Republicans

In Florida, where Spanish-language hosts have amplified anti-Black narratives and exaggerated claims of election fraud, Republicans have seen an opening to appeal to more young Latino men through YouTube and social media, said Andrea Cristina Mercado, the executive director of Florida Rising, a racial justice organization focused on building political power for marginalized communities.

As an example, she pointed to an ad released last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida with the U.F.C. fighter Jorge Masvidal, who is of Cuban and Peruvian descent.

To counter any political messages this election cycle meant to sow racism, division or voter confusion, Mercado’s group has been relying on “promotoras de la verdad,” Latina organizers who serve as “truth warriors” and have been canvassing homes to combat misinformation on issues including the coronavirus, vaccines, Florida’s recently passed law restricting classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity, and the upcoming midterms.

“Latina women are organizing to take back the narrative and the disinformation poisoning our community,” Mercado said. But they cannot do it alone, she added.

Monday, April 11, 2022

How the Fight Over Critical Race Theory Became a Religious War, by David French

It's sad to see the church getting so profoundly manipulated and mobilized against something that the church would totally benefit and grow from, namely, a greater understanding of race and race relations and how the church itself is profoundly implicated in the reinscribing of white supremacy.

At some point they'll understand that they're getting left behind by a no-nothing ideology that robs them individually, and the church, collectively, from the inner and outer engineering that must occur if we are to reform ourselves as individuals, and as a society and world. Whatever the reason or justification, to step out of—and even eschew—the race conversation is to abandon ship and avoid the inescapable fact that we all co-create the events of this world.

Hopefully, at some point, a real awakening will occur within the church that allows ministers and church members to see this, as well as to how they have been played. At the end of the day, these useless polemics amount to weapons of mass distraction in a world that is universally impacted by an ever-present pandemic, devastating forms of climate change, and a clear and present danger of nuclear holocaust.

Thanks to Jorge Haynes for sharing this piece that helps deconstruct the ideological qua theological elements that undergird the "religious war" that the church clearly wants to have. And what's so offensive in all of this is the deep sense of Christian righteousness and duty that have motivated so many of us on the left for generations—and continues to do so. 

Where would Jesus be on all of this? Clearly on the side of love. Let's all work to clear the smoke out so that in and through our differences—including religious ones—we can all find our way to that new world where we can co-create a deep, abiding sense of love toward one another, and our Earth mother where the threatened soils and seeds of life on this precious planet are contained.

In Lak' Ech! Tu eres mi otro yo. You are my other me.

Sí se puede! Yes we can!

-Angela Valenzuela

How the Fight Over Critical Race Theory Became a Religious War

This is the wrong time to close Christian hearts and minds to challenging debates about race and justice in the United States.

by David French | April 10, 2022 | The French Press

( Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images)

In the late summer of 1991 I arrived at Harvard Law School a devout Evangelical, conservative Republican. I grew up in a small town in Kentucky, attended a private Christian college in Nashville, and then walked into an intellectual home for a new theory I’d never encountered: critical race theory. 

I remember reading the some of the key early texts, including Kimberle Crenshaw’s seminal law review article, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” first published in 1989. I remember being assigned excerpts from Derrick Bell’s book, Faces At The Bottom Of The Well: The Permanence Of Racism

I remember being both challenged and frustrated by CRT. There were elements that, even in the moment, were immediately enlightening, such as Crenshaw’s discussion of the inability of contemporary antidiscrimination law to grapple with the nuances of “intersecting” identities. 

There were also troubling elements, including a pervasive pessimism about the ability of America’s classical liberal structures to achieve true racial equality and an unwillingness to acknowledge the extent of America’s racial progress. In addition, some of CRT’s most ardent adherents could be remarkably intolerant, sometimes even seeking to shout down competing ideas or suppress dissent.

What I did not think, at any point, was that I was reading an idea fundamentally at odds with orthodox Christianity.

If you wonder why I raise such a thought, you’re not following the grassroots debate about CRT closely enough. You don’t understand the reason for its raw intensity. The Republican attack on CRT isn’t just an attack on an academic idea. At the grassroots it’s seen as a defense of Christianity itself. The origin of this belief, like everything related to CRT, is complicated. But its elements are simple enough to explain. 

The process went like this: 

First, there was and is an interesting and highly technical academic and theological debate about the compatibility of Christianity and CRT, with a number of voices arguing that CRT clashed with the Christian faith.

Second, the definition of CRT was fundamentally and intentionally changed by conservative activists to encompass an enormous number of arguments and ideas about race, including arguments and ideas that have nothing to do with CRT.

Third, the result is that large numbers of Christians who now hear unfamiliar or unpopular arguments about race not only think those ideas are “CRT” but also that they’re positively unchristian and poisonous to their souls. 

Let’s start with the theological debate. The thoughtful Christian argument against CRT boils down to the notion that it’s, in essence, not so much an academic theory as an all-consuming worldview. As Christian writers and scholars Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer argued in an important piece in the The Gospel Coalition, critical theory (CRT is one aspect of critical theory)* purports to answer “our most basic questions: Who are we? What is our fundamental problem? What is the solution to that problem? What is our primary moral duty? How should we live?”

The authors contrasted what they described as the “metanarratives” of Christianity and critical theory. Christianity “provides us with an overarching metanarrative that runs from creation to redemption,” whereas “critical theory is associated with a metanarrative that runs from oppression to liberation.”

While the essay doesn’t claim that everything critical theory affirms as false, it asserts that the Christianity and critical theory’s “respective metanarratives will vie for dominance in all areas of life.” How does this work? Shenvi and Sawyer ask us to consider the question of identity: “Is our identity primarily defined in terms of our vertical relationship to God? Or primarily in terms of horizontal power dynamics between groups of people?”