Post Academic

Myths about Ethnic Studies, the Theory

OK, now we’ll get a little more serious about this AZ Ethnic Studies ban, digging into some of the assumptions and misconceptions about race and the study of race that the whole thing and debate is based on.  Though maybe I’m spending too much time offering an intellectual perspective, because, as Talking Points Memo suggests, the ban is probably just a cynical political ploy by the man behind it all, Tom Horne, who’s running for even higher office as Attorney General of the state.

1. “Reverse discrimination”: One of the common arguments against Ethnic Studies and Affirmative Action is they promote “reverse discrimination” that favors minorities and disadvantages non-minorities.  “Reverse discrimination,” as the name suggests, presumes a one-to-one correspondence between individuals and a zero-sum game between them: anything that benefits me, hurts you, never mind what aspects of our lived experiences and social backgrounds make up our identities.  The basic “logic” behind this line of attack is spelled out in the AZ law when it “declares that public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals,” with the premise being that all individuals should be treated equally and appreciated for their individual merits.

To pursue this line of argument a little further, the false claim being made here is that an Ethnic Studies class undermines the respect for the “individual” because it’s about race, ethnicity, and group identity–never mind that any civics class that’s about national community or class about U.S. history also depends on some notion of group identity.  This model of “group identity vs. individualism” is also the assumption behind anti-Affirmative Action positions that suggest any reference to race as a group identity infringes on individual rights.  OK, all this seems (falsely) “logical” enough, right?

See how the myth of “reverse discrimination” is debunked below the fold...