Amidst attacks on culturally inclusive curriculum, New Mexico Public School votes to place equity at the forefront

by Kat Sánchez, Policy Manager — Reproductive Healthcare
Bold Futures NM

“What? Are you and your muscle going to kick me out? Isn’t that what you people do?”

Nearly verbatim, this was said to me and one of my dearest friends and colleagues at the recent Las Cruces Public School (LCPS) board meeting. My colleague and I are both Latinx women, both parents, and just moments before, I had openly self identified as queer. We knew whom he was referring to with his accusatory “you people.”

That blatantly racist, gendered, and homophobic statement caught me off guard. It surprised me because we were in the middle of a meeting where policy about equity for children and young people in public schools was being discussed. The primary focus of Policy JBC, LCPS’ equity policy, is to address decades-long educational disparities for students in our communities who are impacted the most.. The policy affirms the LCPS’ Board’s commitment to equity in education and incorporates a framework with a holistic view of promoting cultural diversity.

My encounter with this man and his vile words is not new. The reality is that everyday we see new social media posts, TikTok videos, or Tweets directed towards Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) where “you people,” and far worse racist utterances, are flung around. We see situational escalations, where law enforcement is called on BIPOC people for merely existing. I am constantly reminded that I am not part of the dominant culture.

A couple of years ago, impacted families, education advocacy organizations, legal organizations, and other advocates sued the state of New Mexico alleging it had not provided sufficient education and support to the state’s at-risk, Indigenous, English-as-a-second-language learners and low-income students. The case was won, and the Yazzie-Martinez decision was born. According to the court, New Mexico’s education system has been failing our most impacted young people. The state Public Education Department, local school districts, and advocates were mandated and have been working on steps to move our state forward ever since. LCPS’ new policy would support the district’s commitment to fulfilling the obligations of Yazzie-Martinez.

In New Mexico, the struggle young people face is compounded by our largely rural, socioeconomically-challenged, and ethnically diverse landscape — all the more reason for the Yazzie-Martinez court decision and LCPS’ JBC policy.

Dredging up old Cold War relics, blaming an invisible and inaccurate enemy, has become commonplace for opponents of culturally-inclusive curriculum, including in LCPS where opponents of the policy have made repeated references to its basis in Marxism. As these false talking points are amplified and shared online, a growing number of school districts and states are moving to ban critical race theory and any policy that tries to advance steps toward equity and inclusion.

Blaming a former ideological foe is easier and requires less responsibility and accountability than creating real change that benefits future generations. Why would those who have benefitted from the status quo for centuries fight to change it now for the sake of equity?

As for me and my colleague, we and “our people” of leaders, forward thinkers, and equity advocates will continue to call out white supremacy and make lasting change for our children for generations to come.

I applaud the LCPS board for seeing past loud rhetoric and moving toward rectifying the existing failures of our education system. As for me and my colleague, we and “our people” of leaders, forward thinkers, and equity advocates will continue to call out white supremacy and make lasting change for our children for generations to come. As school boards across the country face racist rhetoric and violence, they must stay the course on pursuing these policies. Advocates must continue to center the lived experiences of BIPOC young people and parents in the policy-making process. The education and lives of young people depend on it.

Kat Sánchez, Policy Manager — Reproductive Healthcare
Bold Futures NM