Directors and members of WAESN have been participating in and following the work of the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s work on the legally mandated creation of a K-12 model Ethnic Studies Curriculum. WAESN board president, Amanda Hubbard, is an official member of this committee and has witnessed fragile whiteness in both the leadership of this committee and the creation of the framework. WAESN board members have held several meetings with Senator Bob Hasegawa, a sponsor of the ethnic studies legislation, and Superintendent Chris Reykdal to outline our concerns and advocate for a course correction, but we have seen only further backsliding into whitewashing of this important effort.
WAESN board members co-authored a letter to Superintendent Reykdal outlining our concerns and demands for change that could lead to a more authentic, BIPOC-centered model curriculum. If you are interested in supporting our advocacy, there is a petition you can sign that will send a letter to Senator Hasegawa, Superintendent Reykdal, and the OSPI Social Studies lead who facilitates the committee, Jerry Price, and his supervisor, Kathe Taylor, OSPI Assistant Superintendent.
We, the Executive Team and Youth Advisory Board of Washington Ethnic Studies Now (WAESN), are writing to you today to address concerns we have with the Washington State Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee. Our Executive Director, Tracy Castro-Gill, and two of our Board Directors, Amanda Hubbard and Jeff Stone, have been present during several meetings that were very troubling. Tracy and Amanda have raised their concerns regarding the disproportionate representation of white members on the committee and asked that better outreach and recruitment efforts for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of Color) members with experience in Ethnic Studies be conducted.
The entire process started off in the culture of white supremacy when the lead role was assigned to a white man, Jerry Price, who lacks any expertise or experience in Ethnic Studies and was given the role simply because he’s the social studies lead, which is evidence of the systemic failure to understand that Ethnic Studies was born from the efforts and struggle of groups of Color. Assigning Ethnic Studies to social studies further demonstrates a lack of understanding at OSPI about the scope of Ethnic Studies. Additionally, there is concern that several members of the committee don’t have a basic understanding of anti-racism and/or Ethnic Studies. At least one member has made statements regarding Ethnic Studies epistemological ideology stating that it’s “problematic” and “divisive” and called Tracy a racist for demanding voices of Color be centered in this work. It is disconcerting to us that someone who makes these statements is involved in creating a model Ethnic Studies curriculum for the State, and this is a reflection of the systemic racism that prevents authentic, anti-racist intitiatives from succeeding.
Tracy and Amanda have repeatedly asked for these issues to be addressed in committee meetings, and though Nasue and Jerry conducted one-on-one interviews with all involved, we feel that our concerns were largely unheard and dismissed. At that point, we sent our concerns as WAESN to Jerry. After we initially shared our concerns with Jerry Price, Nasue Nishida, and Kathe Taylor in April, Jerry and Nasue created learning opportunities for members of the committee. Unfortunately, not every member took advantage of the opportunities, including those who need the most help. Tracy had a phone conversation with Kathe, who indicated she would “circle back,” but we have yet to hear from her. Additionally, it is problematic that OSPI is taking time to “train” white members instead of recruiting experienced and highly qualified BIPOC members. This is an example of institutionalized racism where unqualified white educators are privileged over qualified BIPOC educators. Institutionalized racism is also at work when BIPOC experts are expected to teach white committee members instead of being part of decision making. This is the antithesis of the tenets and goals of Ethnic Studies and anti-racism.
We are supporting Tracy and Amanda’s call for better outreach to:
- BIPOC students
- BIPOC families
- BIPOC educators, including BIPOC Ethnic Studies professors
- BIPOC CBOs
who meet these minimum requirements:
- proven experience in leading discussions on anti-racism and/or Ethnic Studies
- documented work on creating and/or implementing Ethnic Studies curriculum
- proven advocacy of Ethnic Studies programs.
WAESN formed to advocate and support Ethnic Studies programs Statewide, and part of that advocacy is protecting the integrity of Ethnic Studies in its creation and implementation. We are available and prepared to assist you in this effort. Our organization has members from across the State of Washington who have created a network of critical, anti-racist educators. Please reach out to us for any assistance you may need.
Demand a BIPOC-centered Ethnic Studies Committee and Model Curriculum for Washington StateRead or edit the petition