The Proposed ‘Mexican American Heritage’ Textbook in Texas: Promoting Offensive Racial Stereotypes

by Dan Quinn

failcoverNumerous news articles have been pointing to some of the problems with the offensive and factually flawed Mexican American Heritage textbook submitted for adoption by Texas public schools. One of the most jaw-dropping problems is how the textbook promotes stereotypes about supposedly “lazy” Mexicans. Prof. John Mckiernan-Gonzalez, a historian at Texas State University, noted the problematic passage in his review of the textbook for the Texas Freedom Network. Here’s the key part of that textbook passage (page 248), which is in a section discussing issues that arose when foreign businesses sought to add operations in Mexico:

“Stereotypically, Mexicans were viewed as lazy compared to European or American workers. Industrialists were very driven, competitive men who were always on the clock and continually concerned about efficiency. They were used to their workers putting in a full day’s work, quietly and obediently, and respecting rules, authority, and property. In contrast, Mexican laborers were not reared to put in a full day’s work so vigorously. There was a cultural attitude of ‘mañana,’ or ‘tomorrow,’ when it came to high-gear production. It was also traditional to skip work on Mondays, and drinking on the job could be a problem. The result was that Mexican laborers were seen as inferior and kept in low-paying, unskilled jobs that did not provide a pathway upward.”

So right after (weakly) acknowledging the offensive stereotype, the textbook’s authors actually reinforce it. How is it possible that those authors — and the textbook’s publisher, former Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar — didn’t realize how outrageously offensive that passage is? This failure can’t be explained simply by noting the fact that none of them has any expertise in Mexican-American studies. Do they actually think the stereotype is accurate?

The State Board of Education will likely hold public hearings on the textbook in September and November, with a final vote set for that November meeting. You can add your name to a petition calling on the state board — as well as local school districts — to reject the textbook and ensure that it never makes it into Texas classrooms.

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