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Texas Textbook 'Dripping With Racism' Opposed at Hearing, Awaits Vote

A Texas textbook described as 'dripping with racism' is being considered for Texas schoolchildren as the country prepares to celebrate its Hispanic Heritage.
Texas State Board of Education Secretary Rueben Cortez, Jr. speaks at a rally for Mexican-Americans outside the State Board of Education. Ralph Barrera / AP

Just as the U.S. is about to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, the Texas' elected education board is facing whether to send to its schoolchildren a Mexican American studies textbook that has been called "dripping with racism" and has been found by a state committee to have many mistakes.

The Texas State Board of Education gave the textbook a full hearing, putting it through the same process as other state textbooks, a process that lacks any earlier filter for a problematic book. The board held the hearing on the book on Tuesday, taking public comment including that of Mexican American studies scholars, legislators and a couple of young people. About 100 people signed up to speak and the book drew a busload of protestors to Austin.

The book, Mexican American Heritage, published by Momentum Instruction, was found to have 68 factual errors and 73 interpretive and omission errors by an ad hoc committee of scholars assembled by board member Ruben Cortez Jr.

The book says that "stereotypically" Mexicans were viewed as lazy, that "drinking on the job could be a problem" and that Chicanos "opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society."

The country's celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month begins Thursday.

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Texas' Hispanic population is the second largest in the nation at 10.4 million, about 19 percent of the entire nation's Latino population. According to Pew Research Center, 87.5 percent of the state's Latino population is of Mexican descent.

Ruben Cortez Jr., a board member who has spearheaded efforts to keep the textbook from moving forward, said after Tuesday's hearing that he expects a supermajority of board members to reject the textbook in the vote scheduled for Nov. 18.

"Imagine Donald Trump or David Duke writing a book about African American studies, that's what Cynthia Dunbar has done on Mexican American studies," Cortez said. Dunbar heads the publishing company that produced the textbook and is a former member of the state's education board. The book, he said is "dripping with racism."

He added that the book has "so many shocking similarities to the conversation that you hear on national news," referring to the presidential election." "This book seems like it's written by the Trump campaign."

The board's vice chairman, Thomas Ratliff who is Republican, told the Houston Chronicle the book's prospects were dim. "There is now way in the world that book gets passed by the State Board of Education," he told the newspaper.

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As the book has been going through the state's textbook process, the state's education commissioner and governor are withholding comment on the book.

"He's not going to have a comment. He's going to let the state board finish the process," said Lauren Callahan, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency and Education Commissioner Mike Morath who became commissioner in January.

Pressed for his reaction on the textbook's contents and mistakes, Callahan would only say that the board is an elected board and it's the board's duty to decide.

The governor's office did not respond to email and telephone requests for comment Tuesday afternoon. However Abbott previously declined comment.

"In a state where a majority of people are Hispanic, you want to say no comment to a book that is dripping with racism?" Cortez said.

His silence has drawn some scrutiny in the state's media:

"Any other public official should have spoken out. When the governor was asked he should not have said no comment. He has a duty to Texans," Cortez said. "This particular topic should not be a partisan issue ... He should have been proud and said I'm married to a Hispanic woman. I will not accept anything that disparages Mexican Americans."

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