By Josué Peralta de Jesús, High School Senior • IDRA Newsletter • September 2022 •
When people think of U.S. History, their minds often jump to the founding fathers, the American Revolution, the British Empire and many more events that one can consider “white history.” Although these pieces are undeniably crucial to our story, the term “U.S. History” often tends to overlook the role non-white populations or immigrants played in the advancement of our nation.
As a second-generation American with a strong bond to my Mexican heritage and identity, I never really found history in high school enriching. I learned about the American Revolution and the birth of our nation over and over, but I always wondered how my ancestors were doing and what role they had in the development of our country.
I remember looking at my schedule where it says “American History” and questioning why people like me or other Mexican Americans were never taught about, as if we are not Americans ourselves.
Luckily, over the years I have taken a big interest in the expansion and accessibility of ethnic studies, which includes Mexican American Studies (MAS). It can exist in every educational level, from elementary to university and post-graduate studies. With such a large Mexican American population in our country and with high concentrations of Mexican people in many parts of the southwestern United States, it is important to be able to give historical perspectives and experiences that are apart from typical “white history.” Doing so enables young populations to build a better connection to their heritage and can put their relatives’ experiences and memories in this country into context. Often, the only connections to our people’s past are through our elders’ stories and tales, rather than historical documents.
However, this isn’t to say that MAS is designed only for Mexican Americans. I strongly believe that offering these courses to everyone, especially non-Hispanics, plays a key role in dissolving some barriers that currently divide ethnic groups by offering a deeper understanding of students and the people around them. The same logic applies to all ethnic studies, including Asian American Studies and African American Studies, as they all supply essential bits of the American story that a typical “American” history class, unfortunately, tends to censor or not cover.
Ethnic studies are incredible ways to unite large populations through education and supply enriching learning opportunities in order to diversify perspectives and communities.
A high school senior, Josué Peralta de Jesús is a member of IDRA’s 2022 Youth Advisory Board from San Antonio.
[©2022, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]