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“All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic”: The Presence of Anti-Latinx Political Rhetoric and Latinxs as Third World Threats in Secondary U.S. Citizenship Curriculum


by Christopher L. Busey, Alvaro J. Corral & Erika L. Davis - 2021

Background/Context: Anti-Latinx political discourses have long positioned Latin America and, by extension, U.S. Latinxs as economic, sociocultural, and political threats to the general welfare of the United States. In formal school curricula, this threat narrative has become one of the many political curricular discourses for codifying citizenship as White, and noncitizens as Other (read Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American).

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this study was to illustrate how collapsible Latin American tropes and current anti-Latinx sentiments are reproduced in social studies curricula across the United States. Drawing from and expanding upon Leo Chavez’s notion of the Latinx Threat Narrative as a framework, we analyzed secondary social studies curricular standards across all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine how anti-Latinx and anti-Latin American political rhetoric is reified in U.S. civic and citizenship-based curriculum. The following research question guided our study: In what ways do secondary U.S. civic and citizenship education curricular standards situate Latinxs and Latin America within the Latinx Threat Narrative and current anti-Latinx political sentiment?

Research Design: To carry out our study, we conducted a critical content analysis of secondary social studies curricular standards with a particular focus on U.S. history, civics, and economics content standards and benchmarks across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Situating our theoretical framework as an analytic tool, we systematically extracted and analyzed all standards with explicit or implicit references to Latinxs and Latin Americans.

Findings/Results: Findings indicate that Latin America and, by extension, Latinxs are regularly situated as social and political dangers to the overall welfare of the United States, suggesting the presence of what we refer to as the Latinx Third World Threat Narrative. We argue that this hemispheric homogenization of Latinx peoples in curricular standards flattens important historical and cultural distinctions, thereby facilitating exchange of anti-Latinx stereotypes present in contemporary political rhetoric. We also show how U.S. Latinx civic agency is encoded as an illicit, corrupt, and destabilizing force.

Conclusions/Recommendations: In light of our findings, we suggest that educators pay specific attention to the political amalgamation of Latinx subjectivities. Additionally, policy advocates and educators must move beyond understanding curricular representation as just an impediment to students’ heritage knowledge and begin to understand state-backed curricular standards as part of a larger political apparatus.

Although considered a recent political fixture, the use of racist- and nativist-charged rhetoric has long been both a feature and strategy of presidential campaigns and administrations (Soto-Vásquez, 2018). Much, even perhaps most, of this rhetoric and subsequent policy has been directed toward Latinx immigrants. More recently, an indelible moment representative of anti-Latinx political rhetoric occurred during a 2016 presidential debate with Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. During a segment of the debate that focused on immigration, former President Donald Trump conjured false narratives of Latinxs, mainly that Central American migrants are violent, “bad hombres” (C-SPAN, 2016 [Presidential Candidate Debate]). Following this moment, we have seen continuing references to long-standing tropes about Latin America that use foreign affairs to address domestic and social life in the United States relevant to U.S. Latinxs (e.g., assertions that Mexico will pay for a border wall). Discursive associations between U.S. Latinxs and Latin America are consistent with Huntington’s (2004) “Hispanic Challenge” trope whereby immigrants from Latin America bring political, social, cultural, and linguistic traditions that are irreconcilable with the American “creed.” The purpose of these attacks has been to position Latin America and, by extension, U.S. Latinxs as economic, sociocultural, and political threats to the general welfare of the United States—what Chavez (2013) referred to as the Latinx Threat Narrative.


An invocation of the Latinx Threat Narrative superimposes a racialized line of demarcation that excludes Latinxs from civic and national citizenship identity in the United States, both politically and socially (de la Torre, 2018). In hindsight, this active boundary-making positions Latinxs as a foreign menace and primes the general public for the steady stream of anti-immigrant and antirefugee policies that follows. In education settings, the Latinx Threat Narrative has become one of the many political curricular discourses for codifying citizenship as White, while the Other (read Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American) are noncitizens who lack “the mental capacity, character and temperament to engage in democratic affairs as full citizens” (A. Brown & Urrieta, 2010, p. 65). Perhaps more than any other subject area, the social studies communicate to students knowledge such as who contributes to nation-building projects, the meaning of U.S. citizenship, and what universally qualifies as accepted civic action (A. Brown & Urrieta, 2010; Hess & McAvoy, 2014; Journell, 2019; Journell et al., 2015; Ladson-Billings, 2004; Urrieta, 2004; Vickery; 2017; Woodson, 2017). Thus, how ethno-racial groups are framed or obfuscated in the social studies curriculum is crucial to whether or not students come to view themselves, their communities, and their peers as citizens and civic actors (Bondy, 2017; Busey & Walker, 2017; Ladson-Billings, 2004; Woodson, 2016, 2017, 2019).


The purpose of the present study was to illustrate how collapsible Latin American tropes and current anti-Latinx sentiments are reproduced in social studies curricula across the United States. Drawing from and expanding on Chavez’s (2013) notion of the Latinx Threat Narrative as a framework, we analyzed secondary social studies curricular standards across all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine how anti-Latinx and anti-Latin American political rhetoric is reified in U.S. civic and citizenship-based curriculum.1 More specifically, we focused our analysis on secondary U.S. history and civic (e.g., American government, economics, and politics) curricular standards, which, along with textbooks, are often deemed “official knowledge.” The following research question guided our study:


In what ways do secondary U.S. civic and citizenship education curricular standards situate Latinxs and Latin America within the Latinx Threat Narrative and current anti-Latinx political sentiment?


In this article, we first describe how extant literature has addressed Latinxs and Latin America in U.S. social studies curriculum through state-specific curricular analyses. We add to this body of literature by conducting a nationwide analysis of standards within the backdrop of rising anti-Latinx nativism. Second, we explicate our extension of the Latinx Threat Narrative to include Latin America and therefore advance the Latinx Third World Threat Narrative as more representative of the ideological flattening of Latin America and U.S. Latinxs vis-a-vis political tropes present in curricular standards. Third, we explain key findings from our analysis along the lines of foreign, domestic, and social policy—political axes used to circulate discourses about Latin America and U.S. Latinxs as a foreign threat (Chavez, 2013; Haney Lopez, 2014; Santa Ana, 2002; Santa Ana et al., 1998; Soto-Vásquez, 2018). Although other historical references exist (which we detail in our theoretical framework), to illustrate the currency of Latinx Third World Threat Narrative in our findings, we align our explication of the standards with comments made by former U.S. president Donald Trump. We conclude our study by drawing attention to how civic and citizenship curriculum functions as a purveyor of racist nativism, which works in tandem with broader political discourses about Latin America, Latinxs, and various racialized ethno-racial groups.


WHY STANDARDS? WHY LATINXS? A CONTEXTUAL NOTE


Although content standards are only one of numerous multimodal forms that constitute school curricula, they are often treated as official instructional guides. However, given that standards should be understood as tentacles of state politics (Heilig et al., 2012; van Hover et al., 2010), we begin from a place that recognizes standards not only as politicized forms of knowledge but also as policy. In some cases, state boards of education assign greater influence to standards by making it lawful or unlawful to teach critical issues beyond the established standards (Heilig et al., 2012; Vinson & Ross, 2013). Likewise, the influence of political and corporate entities behind high-stakes testing and teaching licensure exams allows for standards to act as mechanisms of surveillance (Au, 2013; Evans, 2015; Polikoff et al., 2011; van Hover et al., 2010). State content standards also guide textbook authorship, further linking them to the joint political and capitalistic endeavor to control processes of civic knowledge socialization (Apple, 2000, 2001; Heilig et al., 2012; Loewen, 2007). Hence, curricular standards warrant scholarly attention precisely because they are legitimated by a political and economic apparatus that mutually determines what we know to be official knowledge.


Although we understand that anti-Latinx and anti–Latin American sentiments existed in U.S. education before the 2016 election, the current sociopolitical context of increased targeting of, and violent assaults against, Latinx populations, coupled with the incarceration of Latinx adults and children on the border, clearly demonstrates the need to emphasize this conversation relevant to curriculum. Additionally, Trump was a populist president, and populist leaders have a documented history of using extant and newly formed school curricula for the purpose of inculcating their ideas (de la Torre, 2017). We therefore agree with Rosa and Bonilla (2017), who asserted that researchers “deprovincialize Trump by connecting his election to long-standing histories of domination” (p. 205). Our theoretical and methodological approach allows us to locate current anti-Latinx sentiments not only historically but also economically and globally as part of an extremist movement rooted in anti-Blackness, anti-Latinidad, anti-Indigeneity, Islamophobia, homo/transphobia, xenophobia, and racist nativism. In that same vein, we use the term “Latinx” in this article as symmetrical to the United States’ historical positioning of Latin America and, by extension, Latinxs as Black and/or Indigenous (Dache et al., 2019; Hooker, 2015; Urrieta & Calderon, 2019). Thus, our employment of the term “Latinx” and subsequent references to anti-Latinx sentiment reject a panethnic connotation, instead indicating racialized Latinxs who are not considered White and who do not pass as White.


LATINXS AND LATIN AMERICA IN U.S. CIVIC AND CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION CURRICULUM


The designation of a particular group’s personhood and status in civic and citizenship-oriented curriculum is drawn along ethno-racial lines (An, 2016; K. D. Brown, 2011; K. D. Brown & Brown, 2011; Busey & Walker, 2017; Ender, 2019a, 2019b; J. E. King & Swartz, 2014; L. J. King, 2014; Ladson-Billings, 2003, 2004; Love & Duncan, 2017; Rodríguez, 2018; Sabzalian, 2019; Shear et al., 2015; Urrieta, 2004; Vickery, 2017; Woodson, 2016, 2017, 2019). However, Urrieta’s (2005) notion of dominance encapsulates how Latinxs and Latin America are peripherally situated in curriculum related to citizenship and nation-building. Research illustrates that curricular projections of Latinxs and Latin America mirror larger hegemonic sociopolitical discourses tethered to the Latinx Threat Narrative (Davis, 2019; Díaz & Deroo, 2020; Noboa, 2012). Davis’s (2019) examination of Latinxs in Florida social studies standards found that “there is not only a serious under-representation of Latinxs based on frequency, but also profound misrepresentations of Latinxs and Latin Americans that perpetuate stereotypes and suppress their experiences and contributions to the nation” (p. 11). Moreover, Davis (2019) identified two tropes about Latinxs and Latin America that are recurring discursive features in the employment of anti-Latinx and anti-Latin American political rhetoric that we saw from Donald Trump: immigration and conflict (New Jersey Department of Education, 2014, p. 31). Standards tend to contextualize Latinxs and Latin America within narratives of conflict with the United States, political instability, and immigration to the United States. Davis (2019) noted that curricular discourses of Latinxs in Florida standards were similar to findings from Noboa’s (2012) analysis of Texas standards, which found that Texas world history standards omit Mexican and Mexican American historical narratives, while distorting broader histories relevant to the role of U.S. imperialism in Latin America. This should come as no surprise given that standards—and curriculum in general—are generated under the influence of state-level government and/or political subsidiaries (e.g., state boards of education) that are known to express racist, nativist, and discriminatory views about Latinxs, and racially diverse groups in general (Apple, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2012). The racist and nativist reasons used to ban Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program epitomize this political relationship that considers Latinx- and Latin American-based curriculum as a threat to “overthrow the United States government” and “promote resentment toward a race or class of people” (see Arizona House Bill 2281; Gutíerrez, 2014, p. 310).


Davis’s (2019) analysis of Florida standards and Noboa’s (2012) analysis of Texas standards present findings consistent with examinations of Latinxs and Latin America in textbooks. Cruz’s (2002) analysis of secondary textbooks found a tendency to represent Latinxs as “violent, passive, lazy, and unwilling to assimilate into mainstream U.S. society” (p. 323). Díaz and Deroo (2020) conducted a systemic functional linguistic analysis of three recently adopted high school history textbooks in the state of Florida to determine how Latinxs and Latin America were represented. Díaz and Deroo’s (2020) linguistic analysis of relevant textbook passages found that the use of saying verbs (i.e., declared, proclaimed, and announced) legitimated U.S. authority over Latin American countries; sensing verbs (i.e., resented and recognized) acknowledged Latin American resistance to U.S. imperialism but also centered the locus of power on U.S. whims; and relating verbs (which indicate sequence) characterized Latin American countries as in a constant state of internal conflict. Their analysis of action verbs (i.e., captured, overthrew, and landed) framed U.S. Latinxs and Latin Americans as adversarial aggressors, which are hallmarks of the Latinx Threat Narrative. Further studies show that these anti-Latinx and anti-Latin American narratives also persist in textbook portrayals of Mexico (Field et al., 2012), along with anti-Black curricular narratives of race, ethnicity, and Afrolatinidad in Latin America (Busey, 2019; Godreau et al., 2008; Novoa, 2007).


In some cases, because these geopolitically flattened tropes become commonly accepted as part of a larger majoritarian narrative about civic and citizenship identity (Solórzano & Yosso, 2002), or because they result from colonized understandings of citizenship (Ladson-Billings 2004; Urrieta 2004, 2005), teachers can pedagogically reproduce incomplete curricular narratives about Latinx citizenship (Santiago, 2017; Urrieta, 2004). Moreover, Latin America and Latinxs are viewed without complexity. That is, the region is homogenized into one unstable geopolitical category, and Latinxs are transnational conveyors of disorder with little to no legitimate civic agency of their own in the United States (Ender, 2019b; Santiago, 2019). Overall, research shows that, as a result of these truncated and inaccurate narratives, teachers and students must often intentionally work through state-mandated curriculum to discern truth about Latinx citizenship (Adams & Busey, 2017; Bondy, 2016, 2017; Santiago, 2017, 2019; Santiago & Castro, 2019; Urrieta, 2004; Urrieta & Reidel, 2008). When considered alongside the persistent employment of anti-Latinx rhetoric, the need to challenge the socioeducational curricular function of citizenship othering becomes more burdensome and equally crucial. Thus, a relational and national analysis of citizenship education curriculum is imperative in this political moment.


THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: LATINX THIRD WORLD THREAT NARRATIVE


Multiple narrative elements characterize Latin America as posing a “third world threat” to the United States, implicating Latinxs by association. Leo Chavez’s (2013) Latinx Threat Narrative functions as a theoretical point of departure for our study; however, we propose a Latinx Third World Threat (LTWT) theory that serves as an extension and elaboration of the narrative and broadens the concept. We sketch the contours of our theoretical framework, the LTWT Narrative, by (1) explaining how racist and nativist political rhetoric about Latinxs and Latin America originates in government institutions and the media, and (2) how such ideas trickle down and are ultimately reflected in the school curriculum. The tenets of this LTWT Narrative are socially constructed in a way that is multilayered and multi-sited, with U.S. curricular standards as a major propagator of these ideas.


The thrust of Chavez’s Latinx Threat Narrative is predicated on how political actors and thinkers exploit derogatory tropes about Latin America and anti-Latinx stereotypes to position Latinx culture as incompatible with the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant mainstream. Yet, we contend that the LTWT Narrative allows for educators and scholars to see how anti-Latinx sentiment is expressed in specific and especially current discourses related to foreign, domestic, and social policy. In these discourses, Latinxs are often positioned on the margins, and sometimes entirely outside U.S. civic and national identity on the basis that their presence represents a sociopolitical hazard. Current iterations of anti-Latinx stereotypes are grounded in misguided and anachronistic conceptions of Latin America (Rosa, 2018) and thus offer a space for curricular standards to either correct or embrace such ideas.


A major element of our theoretical framework fills a gap in sociological understandings of Latinxs in the United States by arguing that Latinxs are perceived as threatening because Latin America itself is understood as threatening (De Genova, 1998; De Genova & Ramos-Zayas, 2003; Santa Ana, 2002). It is here that we can see the incubation of anti-Latinx and nativist ideologies that have been under way for decades (Obasogie, 2020). For example, in 1983, President Ronald Reagan drew an ominous connection between the threat of Communist regimes in Latin America and the specter of an uncontrollable border in the following statement:


The security of our country, of course, depends on more than weapons. We must have the will to meet the challenges of an adversary who is constantly testing our resolve to defend our vital national interests. And this is exactly what is happening in Central America. I appreciate the sincere motives of many who point to the faults of our friends and ask for reforms. I agree with those who insist on economic as well as military assistance. Nevertheless, there is no excuse for not providing those under attack the weapons they need to defend themselves. We must not listen to those who would disarm our friends and allow Central America to be turned into a string of anti-American Marxist dictatorships. The result could be a tidal wave of refugees. And this time, they'll be “feet people” and not “boat people” swarming into our country, seeking a safe haven from Communist repression to our south. We cannot permit the Soviet-Cuban-Nicaraguan axis to take over Central America.


A few years later, Reagan reiterated his claim that political instability in Central America would set off a migration crisis for the United States. In remarks at the White House in 1986, President Reagan pressed Congress to provide military aid for Nicaraguan Contras. In addition to characterizing Central American countries in paternalistic terms as “those small and fragile democracies,” Reagan collapsed the geographical distance between Nicaragua and the United States for dramatic effect to make the specter of prospective migration more alarming. Through a rhetorical flourish, Reagan stated that a failure to supply the Contras with military aid would ensure the establishment of a “privileged sanctuary for terrorists and subversives just two days' driving time from Harlingen, Texas.” A natural interpretation of Reagan’s Communist fear-mongering among immigration restrictionists was that “open borders” would allow for the third world threat of Latin America to enter the United States. This rhetoric now serves as the justification for unprecedented levels of militarization at the U.S.–Mexico border to capture, detain, and deport immigrants in fulfillment of the mission of the “War on Terror” (Sampaio, 2015).


The notion that the United States becomes ever more susceptible to the encroachment of Latin America’s perceived social, economic, and political ills as the Latinx population increases has also influenced political leaders across multiple levels of government. In 2014, then attorney general of Texas Greg Abbott (now governor) referred to instances of law enforcement corruption in the majority-Latinx area of the Rio Grande Valley as resembling “third world country practices that erode the social fabric of our communities” (Planas, 2014, para. 2). The suggestion that malfeasance by Latino elected officials in the United States is the manifestation of a northward creep of Latin American-style corruption insinuates that Latinxs in positions of power should be treated with suspicion. Like Reagan three decades before, Abbott transmitted the idea that Latinxs are subversive carriers of all of Latin America’s perceived problems. This essentialization of Latinos was also at work in 2016, when then candidate Trump called into question the legitimacy of Judge Gonzalo Curiel hearing a case against Trump University because Curiel’s Mexican heritage, in and of itself, constituted a conflict of interest. Such logics hold that Latinxs have predispositions for a range of beliefs and behaviors that are incongruent with purported U.S. political, social, cultural, and economic values.


Although the Latinx Third World Threat Narrative is often used in the service of hardening borders, it emerges, somewhat paradoxically, with the collapsing of borders. This is clearly demonstrated in two statements made by Donald Trump. The first remark, from June 16, 2015, stated, “They’re sending us not the right people. It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably from the Middle East.” The second is the false claim that “unknown Middle Easterners” were “mixed in” with a migrant caravan from Central America (Qiu, 2018). Both statements exemplify how Latinxs come to represent an amorphous third world threat by a process of homogenization. Thus, for all of the Trump administration’s obsession with the sovereignty of borders, the anti-Latinx sentiment that bolsters these messages is predicated on a lack of borders. This novel connection between Latinx immigration flows and Middle Eastern terrorism represents the emergence of new anti-Latinx and Latin American tropes. We suggest that a similar flattening is present in the reductive presentations of Latinxs and Latin America in the curriculum.


The LTWT Narrative holds that Latinx bodies are themselves treated as Trojan horses—harbingers of a weakened United States that is made vulnerable by Latinxs’ supposed predilections for political subversion, crime, and corruption. Thus, under the conception of Latinxs as a “third world threat,” racist political rhetoric and similarly problematic curricular standards work in tandem as two powerful social forces, one compounding the other. The product, we argue, is that the average citizen or student who might have once seen Latinxs as maybe-citizens may now simply see a “bad hombre.” Overall, our use of the LTWT Narrative implicates education as a political benefactor to the racial project (Omi & Winant, 2014) that seeks to racialize Latinxs as noncitizens and demerit their civic engagement. Much of the literature to this point has made it incumbent on the teacher to challenge these narratives in a post-Trump era, however, it seems equally imperative to point to the educational structures that furnish LTWT Narratives. The social studies curriculum serves as the quotidian educational structure where these narratives of nationhood, citizenship, and belonging formally enter the classroom. Therefore, the onus is on educators and authors of curricular standards to offer a humanizing counter-narrative of Latinx peoples that accentuates following the United States’ role in exacerbating legacies of racial capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism in the region. A failure to do so capitulates to these anti-Latinx narratives.


METHOD OF ANALYSIS


To carry out our study, we conducted a critical content analysis of secondary social studies curricular standards nationwide. Critical content analysis is a methodological approach that employs “a critical lens to an analysis of a text or group of texts in an effort to explore the possible underlying messages within those texts, particularly as related to issues of power” (Short, 2017, p. 6). We began our initial search for social studies curriculum by navigating to each state’s department of education website to access their social studies content standards.2 In particular, we searched for U.S. history, civics, and economics content standards and benchmarks across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Our choice to examine these content areas for our analysis—instead of geography and world history, for example—aligns with our focus on curricular representations of Latinxs and Latin Americans in the context of United States citizenship and civic education. We found that 42 states and the District of Columbia had clear content standards publicly available. The rest did not dictate social studies content standards at the state level (instead, they may dictate academic competencies absent of specific content) and thus could not be included in the analysis (see Table 1 for a complete list of states with or without data). For those states for which standards were available, we migrated the links to their standards and document details (i.e., year most recently updated, courses and pages numbers where U.S. history and civics standards could be found) into a spreadsheet with one tab per state.


Table 1. Complete List of States and District of Columbia With Corresponding Content Standards†

State/Territory

# Relevant Standards/Benchmarks

Total # Standards/Benchmarks (secondary U.S. history, government, civics, and economics)

% Relevant

Alabama

8

59

13.6

Alaska*

n/a

n/a

n/a

Arizona

5

89

5.6

Arkansas

4

127

3.1

California

15

154

9.7

Colorado*

n/a

n/a

n/a

Connecticut

5

56

8.9

Delaware*

n/a

n/a

n/a

Florida

15

212

7.1

Georgia

7

281

2.5

Hawaii

4

55

7.3

Idaho

5

123

4.1

Illinois*

n/a

n/a

n/a

Indiana

1

181

< 1

Iowa

1

55

1.8

Kansas

7

22

31.8

Kentucky

2

43

4.7

Louisiana

1

88

1.1

Maine

0

28

0

Maryland

9

263

3.4

Massachusetts

5

188

2.7

Michigan

10

180

5.6

Minnesota

8

125

6.4

Mississippi

4

72

5.6

Missouri

1

141

< 1

Montana*

n/a

n/a

n/a

Nebraska

3

80

3.8

Nevada

2

110

1.8

New Hampshire

2

58

3.4

New Jersey

6

298

2.0

New Mexico

4

85

4.7

New York

9

152

5.9

North Carolina

9

105

8.6

North Dakota

1

22

4.5

Ohio

2

82

2.4

Oklahoma

4

81

4.9

Oregon*

n/a

n/a

n/a

Pennsylvania

0

85

0

Rhode Island

2

88

2.3

South Carolina

5

89

5.6

South Dakota

0

81

0

Tennessee

12

237

5.1

Texas

20

210

9.5

Utah

5

53

9.4

Vermont*

n/a

n/a

n/a

Virginia

3

161

1.9

Washington

19

176

10.8

West Virginia

4

132

3.0

Wisconsin

0

48

0

Wyoming*

n/a

n/a

n/a

District of Columbia

22

221

10.0

Based on search of state standards documents publicly available and in use in May 2018.

* These eight states did not have content standards decided at the state level and instead listed academic competencies absent of specific content.


To identify relevant standards, we created a fluid list of search terms to capture explicit and implicit references to Latinxs and Latin Americans for further analysis. We began with broad search terms, such as specific references to Latin American countries or regional terminology (e.g., Central America). We added specific historic events and programs, such as the Spanish-American War and Bracero Program, in addition to terms and events that implicitly reference Latinxs or Latin Americans and required further contextual analysis, such as immigration and Manifest Destiny. With an initial analytic frame established, each researcher was assigned a group of states and read through all the high school U.S. history, government/civics, and economics standards, and extracted all standards that included any of our search terms. Additionally, we each identified standards that implicitly and explicitly referenced Latinxs or Latin Americans beyond our initial frame of reference. We added to the list of terms and historical references as we discussed our individual analyses, which allowed us to notate events, concepts, and themes otherwise overlooked (see Tables 2 and 3 for an exhaustive list and frequency of terms).


Table 2. Exhaustive List of Searched and/or Found Terms (Frequency)†

1959 Cuban Coup (1)

Legal and illegal immigration/immigrant(s), legal status (in reference to immigrants) (8)

Adams Morgan (DC Neighborhood) (1)

Lionel Sosa (1)

Alberto Gonzales (0)

Manifest Destiny/Westward Expansion (with references to Mexico/Mexicans) (14)

Alien(s) (in immigration context) (1)

Mendez v. Westminster (2)

American GI Forum (0)

Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) (1)

Annexation of Texas (or Texas Annexation) (3)

Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) (1)

Antonio Villaraigosa (0)

Mexican Americans (4)

Bay of Pigs (Invasion) (13)

Mexican War/Cession, Mexican-American War, United States-Mexican War, War with Mexico (14)

Big Stick (Diplomacy) (10)

Mexico/Mexican(s) (13)

Bilingual (education) (2)

Migrant(s)/refugee(s) (migrant and refugee groups) (migrant workers) (4)

Bracero Program (3)

Minority-majority (1)

Brazil(ian)(ians) (1)

Miranda v. Arizona (6)

Brown Berets (1)

Monroe Doctrine (14)

Brown Power (2)

Moral Diplomacy (Missionary Diplomacy) (9)

Caribbean (5)

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (in reference to Mexico) (5)

Carlos Rosario (1)

National Council of La Raza (NCLR) (1)

Central America(n)(ns) (8)

National Puerto Rican Coalition (1)

César Chávez (Cesar Chavez, “Caesar Chavez”) (10)

Nelson A. Castillo (1)

Chicano(a) (movement, mural movement) (6)

Nicaragua(n)(ns) (1)

Chile(an)(ans) (1)

Nuyorican (0)

Colombia(n)(ns) (1)

Panama(nian)(nians) (5)

Cuba(n)(ns) (21)

Panama Canal (Treaty) (Zone) (18)

Cuban Missile Crisis (22)

Panama Revolution (3)

Delia Pompa (1)

Pancho Villa (1)

Dollar Diplomacy (12)

Peru(vian)(vians) (1)

Dolores Huerta (“Delores Huerta”) (3)

Plyler v. Doe (1)

Edgewood ISD v. Kirby (1)

Puerto Rico (Rican) (9)

English-only (1)

Raul Yzaguirre (1)

Federico Peña/Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña (4)

Raza Unida (Party) (1)

Fidel Castro (1)

Regents of University of California v. Bakke (7)

Good Neighbor (Policy) (1)

Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales (0)

Guatemala(n)(ns) (1)

Ronald Blackburn-Moreno (1)

Héctor P. García (1)

Roosevelt Corollary (to the Monroe Doctrine) (15)

Hernandez v. Texas (4)

Rough Riders (2)

Hilda Solis (0)

Raul “Roy” Benavidez (1)

Hispanic(s)/Hispanic American(s) (15)

Salsa (dance) (1)

Immigration Act of 1965 (INS Act of 1965) (3)

Salvatierra v. Del Rio ISD (0)

Immigration Act of 1990 (1)

Saúl Solórzano (1)

Immigration and Naturalization (agency) (1)

Sonia Sotomayor (1)

Immigration Reform and Control Act (1986) (2)

South America(n)(ns) (3)

Immigration/immigrant(s) (in reference to Latin Americans and/or “contemporary immigration”) (51)

Spanish-American War (Cuban-Spanish-American War) (30)

Iran-Contra (Affair) (3)

Teller, Platt, and Foraker Acts (1)

Jane Delgado/Delgado v. Bastrop ISD (2)

Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1)

Janet Murguía (1)

Unauthorized (0)

Jose Martí (1)

Undocumented (0)

Keyes v. Denver (1)

United Farm Workers (Union) (UFWOC) (9)

La Raza/Viva La Raza (2)

United States v. Lopez (0)

LA school walkouts (0)

Viva Kennedy Clubs (0)

Latin America(n)(ns) (29)

Voting Rights Act of 1975 (0)

Latino/a/x(s)/Latino American(s) (8)

Yellow Journalism (6)

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) (2)

Zoot Suit Riots (1)

Based on search of state standards documents publicly available and in use in May 2018.



Table 3. Most Frequent Terms in State Standards†

Term(s)

Total freq. of term in all 50 states and D.C.

Total # of states (and D.C.) in which term appears

List of states (and D.C.) in which term appears

immigrant(s)/immigration

(acts) (debate) (reform)

(legal and illegal)*

64

26

AL, AZ, CA, CT, FL, HI, ID, KS, KY, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NV, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, TX, UT, VA, WA, DC

Spanish-American War (or Cuban-Spanish-American War)

30

23

AL, AZ, AR, CA, FL, GA, ID, MD, MA, MI, NH, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WV, DC

Latin America(n)(ns)

27

21

AL, AZ, AR, CA, CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MN, MS, NV, NY, VA, WA, DC

Cuban Missile Crisis

22

19

AL, AZ, AR, CA, FL, HI, KS, MD, MN, NE, NJ, NM, NY, OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, DC

Cuba(n)(ns)

21

12

AL, AR, FL, GA, HI, KS, MD, MI, NY, OK, TN, UT

Panama Canal (Treaty) (Zone)

18

15

AZ, CA, FL, GA, KS, MD, MA, MI, NM, NY, OK, TN, TX, WA, DC

Hispanic(s)/Hispanic American(s)

15

9

CA, FL, IN, MA, MS, NC, TN, WV, DC

Roosevelt Corollary (to the Monroe Doctrine)

15

15

AL, GA, IA, KS, MD, MA, MI, NH, NM, NY, NC, OK, TN, UT, WA

Mexican War/Cession, Mexican-American War, U.S.-Mexican War, War with Mexico

14

12

AL, AZ, GA, ID, MA, MI, MN, NJ, NY, NC, SC, WV

Monroe Doctrine

14

12

AL, GA, ID, IA, KS, MA, NJ, NM, NY, NC, SC, WV

Bay of Pigs (Invasion)

13

12

AL, CA, FL, HI, KS, MD, NM, OK, TN, UT, WA, DC

Manifest Destiny/Westward Expansion**

13

9

AL, GA, ID, MA, NH, NJ, NY, SC, WV

Mexico/Mexican(s)

13

8

CA, CT, MA, NV, NY, TX, WA, DC

Dollar Diplomacy

12

12

AL, CA, HI, MD, MA, NM, OK, SC, TN, TX, WV, DC

Big Stick (Diplomacy)

10

10

AL, CA, HI, NM, OK, SC, TN, UT, WV, DC

César Chávez

10

10

AZ, GA, KS, NE, NM, NY, OK, TN, TX, ND

Moral Diplomacy (Missionary Diplomacy)

9

9

AL, CA, HI, MD, OK, SC, TN, WV, DC

Puerto Rico (Rican)

9

7

FL, KS, MI, TX, UT, WA, DC

United Farm Workers (Union) (UFWOC)

9

9

CA, MD, NV, NM, NY, OK, WA, WV, DC

Latino(s)/Latino American(s)

8

7

CT, FL, MD, MI, MN, NC, DC

Based on search of state standards documents publicly available and in use in May 2018.


DATA ANALYSIS


Our analysis of the relevant standards was conducted in two stages. First, we extracted the relevant content standards that we identified and migrated them into the aforementioned individual spreadsheet tabs by state in Microsoft Excel to create an analytic review template. Within each spreadsheet tab, we also migrated contextual data tied to each individual standard or benchmark (i.e., era, theme, timeline), and all key terms were highlighted. By referencing the contextual data tied to each standard, we were able to analyze ambiguous terms and implicit references. This required all three authors to read each extracted standard or benchmark and discuss any deemed as ambiguous in wording or irrelevant on further examination. For example, a Georgia standard that states, “Evaluate how westward expansion impacted the Plains Indians and fulfilled Manifest Destiny” (Georgia Department of Education [GADOE], 2016, p. 60, see SSUSH12) was initially extracted for analysis because of the terms “westward expansion” and “Manifest Destiny”; however, on intercoder agreement, it was removed because of its explicit reference to the Plains Indians and not Mexico or Mexicans. In another example from Washington, a standard that states, “Explain how the Roosevelt Corollary helps to define the early 20th century as a time when the United States was emerging as a world power” (Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 2013, p. 102, see USH 4.1.2) was included because the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine held important foreign policy implications for all of Latin America. Through this closer analytic process and agreement among all three researchers, we removed all standards that did not directly implicate Latinxs or Latin Americans, leaving us with our final list of relevant standards. Here, we noted the stark absence of explicit or even implicit references to Latinxs and Latin Americans in U.S. citizenship and civics curricular standards nationally; 12 states had either no content standards dictated or zero relevant content standards, while 21 states’ relevant standards made up less than 5% of the total standards in the subject areas addressed (see Table 1 for a complete list of states and their number of relevant standards).


Once the list of relevant standards was finalized, we used axial coding to situate our framework as an analytic tool. In this stage, each researcher coded about a third of the 42 states with data and coded each standard as falling under foreign policy, domestic policy, or social policy—all relevant themes to the LTWT Narrative. Additionally, we coded each standard to note how it either perpetuated or challenged the Latinx [Third World] Threat Narrative. To provide further intercoder reliability, we examined each other's standards and codes, and added our own edits, comments, and/or challenges for discussion. In such discussions, again all three authors considered any disagreements or incongruencies and decided by majority which codes to keep. For instance, a standard that referenced migrant workers and their impact on agricultural labor in the United States was initially coded as both social policy and foreign policy, but on further discussion, it was changed to foreign policy and domestic policy because there was no explicit connection to social movements or rights for migrant workers. Finally, we collapsed these codes into larger subthemes and constructed a summary for each encoded political domain, drawing on contemporary anti-Latinx political rhetoric as relational points of conjecture. These subthemes were used to draw connections and reconstruct our findings across foreign, domestic, and social policy, so as to remain consistent with the political nature of our research.


FINDINGS


Overall, conceptions of Latinxs in state curricular standards indicate that, regardless of citizenship status, Latinxs are projected as perpetual foreigners because of commonly accepted political thought that situates proximity to racialized transnational markers and cultural practices that are perceived as un-American or a direct threat to perceptions of Americanness. We present our findings within our framework but recognize the intermestic and interdependent nature by which the constructions operate. We use examples of current political rhetoric to further substantiate the relevance of our framework to the current moment.


FOREIGN POLICY


The worst elements in Mexico are being pushed into the United States by the Mexican government. The largest suppliers of heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs are Mexican cartels that arrange to have Mexican immigrants trying to cross the borders and smuggle in the drugs. The Border Patrol knows this. Likewise, tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border. The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico and, in fact, for many other parts of the world. (tweet, Trump, 2015, cited in Bump, 2015)


As suggested by Hooker (2017), racial ideas and racialization do not develop in geographical isolation but are instead by-products of hemispheric political relations that emerge through policy, commonly accepted thought, and the proliferation of political ideologies. Anti-Latinx political rhetoric is grounded in fluid geopolitical ideas whereby politicians often draw on misguided majoritarian narratives about Latin America (and the Global South) in their discursive framing of Latinxs in the United States. Because curriculum standards function as tentacles of the state, it is unsurprising that our analysis of curricular standards revealed reciprocal pejorative discourses that emerge in everyday anti-Latinx racist political rhetoric. With regard to the presence of the LTWT Narrative relative to U.S. foreign policy in the standards, curriculum bolstered two subdiscourses: Latin America as politically unstable, and the subsequent necessity for U.S. intervention.


Our analysis revealed that Latin America was rarely, if ever, discussed as a region whose political ideas and contributions are significant to broader geopolitical development. Similarly, our analysis demonstrated that Latin America was also geopolitically positioned alongside other non-European regions and continents in standards coded as foreign policy. In sum however, political systems in Latin American countries were often touted as illegitimate. Take, for example, the following standards from California and Washington, D.C.:


Identify the forms of illegitimate power that twentieth-century African, Asian, and Latin American dictators used to gain and hold office and the conditions and interests that supported them.” (California Department of Education [CADOE], 2000, p. 58, see 12.9.5)

Identify the successes of relatively new democracies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the ideas, leaders, and general societal conditions that have launched and sustained, or failed to sustain them. (CADOE, 2000, p. 58, see 12.9.8)

Identify the forms of illegitimate power that 20th-century African, Asian, and Latin American dictators used to gain and hold office and the conditions and interests that supported them. (District of Columbia Office of State Superintendent of Education [DCOSSE], n.d., p. 81, see 12.12.5)


We noted that California and Washington, D.C., have similar and, in some cases, verbatim curricular standards. For example, the aforestated curricular standards are both listed within an umbrella curricular mandate to have “students analyze the origins, characteristics, and development of different political systems across time, with emphasis on the quest for political democracy, its advances, and its obstacles” (CADOE, 2000, p. 58, see 12.9; DCOSSE, n.d., p. 81, see 12.12). These standards exemplify the tendency for curricula to homogenize outsiders and other countries and to present discussions of democratic, economic, and political stability in a dichotomous U.S. v. others fashion. To situate democracy as “new” to Latin America and other non-Western continents paints a politically diverse and multinational region with one broad brushstroke of political turmoil, while simultaneously implying through a comparative frame that legitimate democracy is practiced solely in the United States. The monolithic grouping and representation of Latin America also negate how democracy manifests throughout multiple political systems and, more important, through the people, which numerous social movements have demonstrated in the history of Latin America. Moreover, these standards reify tropes of Latin American dictatorship that are often politically marked by curricular discussions of Fidel Castro in the curriculum (Davis, 2019); he is typically the only named and appointed bearer of Latin American dictatorship. On the other hand, curricular standards do not ask that students consider the U.S. role in supporting certain dictators, such as Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic or Augusto Pinochet of Chile, who suppressed democracy. Also, the standards fail to mention U.S. occupation in Latin America as a contributor to political instability in particular countries throughout the region.


Similar to current political realities, the hemispheric positioning of Latin America eludes notions of imperialism and instead justifies U.S. meddling in Latin American affairs. Interventionist aims, especially for capitalistic purposes, were absent from curricular standards. U.S. attempts to intervene in Latin American political affairs were often framed as “involvement” and, in the case of one Georgia standard, a debate: “Describe how the Spanish-American War, war in the Philippines, and territorial expansion led to the debate over American imperialism” (GADOE, 2016, p. 61, see SSUSH 14.a). As Heilig et al. (2012) suggested in their analysis of racism in state standards, researchers must examine the standards for both their substance and their task. These mentioned standards only require that students identify or describe, which offers little depth or exploration of the content mentioned in the standard. Inasmuch as these standards are linked to state assessments (van Hover et al., 2010; Polikoff et al., 2011), students will only be asked to know which countries or dictators are vaguely referenced in the standards mentioned earlier.


When viewed through our framework, the LTWT Narrative, the relationship between standards specific to Latin America and current anti-Latinx political rhetoric becomes clearer. We defer to the numerous comments about Mexico that can be provided from Donald Trump as examples of how systemic issues related to corruption become grounds for direct threats to the United States. In one instance, he tweeted on July 10, 2014, “When will the U.S. stop sending $'s to our enemies, i.e. Mexico and others.” In a series of later tweets on February 24 and March 5 of 2015, he wrote, “The Mexican legal system is corrupt, as is much of Mexico. Pay me the money that is owed me now-and stop sending criminals over our border,” and that “Mexico's court system corrupt [sic]. I want nothing to do with Mexico other than to build an impenetrable WALL and stop them from ripping off U.S [sic].” The notion that the United States is more susceptible to the encroachment of Latin America’s perceived social, economic, and political ills because of the presence of Latinxs is evident in these statements. The logical conclusion of anti-Latinx sentiment when contextualized within the LTWT Narrative is that Latinxs have predispositions for a range of beliefs and behaviors that are incongruent with purported U.S. political, social, cultural, and economic values. Moreover, these ideas have been weaponized by political theorists to represent Latin America (and the Global South in general) as unstable, corrupt, and in a perpetual state of development, and therefore, people native to these countries who live in the U.S. embody these perceived threats of instability and corruption (Chavez, 2013; see Huntington’s The Hispanic Challenge).


An examination of political history curricular standards suggests that the frequent presentation of Latin American countries as politically unstable serves to frame U.S. involvement in Latin American affairs as necessary. This default logic was often used in curricular standards to justify U.S. omnipresence in Latin America. For example, a Washington D.C., history standard requires that students be able to “Describe U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America, as it concerns the drug trade and the spread of U.S.-style democracy” (DCOSSE, n.d., p. 75, see 11.4.8). The use of drugs in this example marks Latinx bodies as harbingers of a foreign threat, a trope used to justify state-sanctioned racialized policing policies in the United States (e.g., Arizona Senate Bill 1070) and U.S. involvement in Latin American political affairs. To associate drugs with Latin America and, subsequently, U.S. Latinxs works in tandem with official curricular narratives (and pop culture representations) to reify current racist political rhetoric. As we will explain in the following subsection of our findings, discourses about drugs, crime, and violence that have roots in U.S. foreign policy are used to influence domestic and social policy regarding Latinx populations in the United States.


In summary, our analysis of foreign policy standards brings into stark relief the power differentials between Latinxs and the state. Whereas the United States' long history of meddling in Latin America affairs is cast as mere “involvement” (euphemism), the presence of Latinxs and Latin American immigrants is described as a threatening “invasion.” This duality of involvement/invasion blurs the boundaries between foreign and domestic affairs. Thus, according to the LTWT Narrative, content standards regularly suggest that to negate the “threat,'' the United States must intervene in social and political affairs, not out of genuine humanistic concern, but because geographic proximity to the United States might result in a Latin American invasion.


DOMESTIC POLICY


When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They are not sending you. They are not sending you. They are sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. – Donald J. Trump, Presidential bid announcement, June 16, 2015 (see TIME Staff, 2015, for full transcript)


As we make clear in the preceding section, defective thought about U.S Latinxs is informed by accepted beliefs about Latin America that drive the U.S. foreign policy agenda. Standards were also coded as domestic policy if they included discussions of Latin America and Latinxs from the perspective of economics and immigration. Standards in this field discussed the economic impact of immigrants on the domestic economy or the effects of admitting new immigrants by way of alterations to domestic immigration policy. Insofar as the role of Latinxs is implied by standards asking students to evaluate contemporary issues related to immigration, we observe a tendency in the standards to view all immigrants, immigration flows, and, by extension, Latinxs, as harbingers of economic decline. In the domestic policy domain, standards often characterize immigration as a social process that brings economic uncertainty and immigrants as economic threats that introduce instability to economic arrangements, which we believe places students on a path toward intolerance. If immigrants in the U.S. economic system are presented as sources of volatility and insecurity, this typically means the topic of immigration is consistently connected to negative outcomes for native-born domestic workers (read: predominantly non-Latinxs and nonimmigrants). Indeed, the presence of a threat narrative in the standards in this set of codes ranges from subtle forms of phrasing that have the effect of biasing views of Latinxs and immigrants by association with negative consequences, to extreme examples in which they are paired with destructive and fear-inducing concepts such as terrorism (Hilburn et al., 2016). We note that this tendency reflects a broader pattern identified by Sampaio (2015), who stated that the post-9/11 security regime has increasingly positioned Latinxs as “not just foreigners but potential terrorists” (p. 8).


Efforts to arrive at adequate assessments of the economic effects of immigration are complicated. Whether immigration is a net positive for a receiving state’s economy is a subject of fierce debate among economists (Greenstone et al., 2012) as they grapple with separating the impacts of immigrants (authorized and unauthorized) on economic indicators with regard to business (effects on GDP, growth, trade deficits/surpluses, etc.) and labor (unemployment rates, wages, working conditions, etc.). Yet, despite the vast uncertainty about the topic of immigration and economics, some state standards skew their discussion of immigrants by framing them as threats to native-born workers. For example, a standard from Minnesota explicitly associates “demographics” and “immigration” as factors that contribute to “types of unemployment” (Minnesota Department of Education, 2011, p. 115, see 9.2.5.9.3). For its part, a New Jersey standard content statement for U.S. history asks students to discuss immigration in a way that approaches the issue from division and conflict. By stating that immigration is one of the few issues that is characterized by “masked growing tensions and disparities,” the standard signals that immigration necessarily strains social relations. Although we acknowledge that forms of social discord emerge from immigration, we note that its positive dimensions are rarely considered. The tendency to neglect immigration's ability to create a more capacious form of citizenship presents immigration solely through a threatening lens.


In other instances, immigration is conflated with violent and damaging social and political forces. A standard labeled as domestic policy from Michigan describes immigration as one of many “issues challenging Americans” (Michigan Department of Education, 2007, p. 45, see 8.2.2). From the outset, the standard essentializes all immigrants as non-American because immigrants are discussed in opposition to “Americans.” This constitutes a form of citizenship othering that Urrieta (2004, 2005) argued is formally operationalized through the curriculum. Moreover, in the same Michigan standard, the arrival of immigrants, rather than being perceived as an economic boon, is cast alongside various scourges such as “poverty” and “domestic anti-communism (McCarthyism).” In other standards, such as those found in Kansas (and, to a similar degree, North Dakota), “immigration debates” are situated alongside issues such as the “war on terrorism,” “economic crisis, domestic terrorism” and “natural disasters” (Kansas State Department of Education, 2013, p. 99; North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, 2007, p. 32, see 9-12.2.11). Although not categorically anti-Latinx, the cumulative impact of this framing of immigration and immigrants is to have students greet the topic from the same starting point as they would terrorism and disaster—from a place of suspicion, fear, and anxiety.


We note that these negative immigration narratives contribute to the anti-Latinx rhetoric that characterizes much of the attacks levied against immigrants by President Trump at rallies and press conferences. Whether it is Trump responding with laughter to the suggestion that migrants should be shot by the Border Patrol, or referring to Latinx immigrants as animals who infest and “invade” the country—language that would go on to appear in the racist manifesto written by the man who murdered 23 people at an El Paso, Texas, Wal-Mart in 2019—the statements are part of a pernicious narrative of immigrant inferiority (Baker & Shear, 2019; Farzan, 2019). Ideas that normalize panic and alarmism about Latinx immigrants, whether present in explicit or implicit terms, serve to steadily dehumanize the broader Latinx community.


SOCIAL POLICY


I, as President, want people coming into our country who are going to help us become strong and great again, people coming in through a system based on MERIT. No more Lotteries! #AMERICAFIRST (Donald J. Trump, January 14, 2018, 9:19 a.m., Twitter)


Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics? (Donald J. Trump, September 16, 2019. Political rally in New Mexico; see Baker, 2019)


Relevant standards were coded and analyzed as related to social policy if they focused on social movements, the expansion of civil rights/civil liberties, or race relations in the United States. We identified two subthemes relevant to Latinxs and Latin Americans within curricular discourses of social policy: the demeriting of Latinx civic identity and essentialized citizenship. Each points to how several states portrayed Latinx civil rights struggles and social movements as debatable or negative, but nearly always controversial. They also demonstrate how minoritized ethno-racial groups and their struggles are aggregated for students to compare and contrast their status as full Americans.


The bulk of the discussion was centered on civil rights, an often discussed and represented topic in U.S. social studies curriculum (Busey & Walker, 2017; Ender, 2019b; Woodson, 2016, 2017). It is also often where domestic Latinx social movements appear in the curriculum (Ender, 2019b). Our analysis of curricular standards revealed that Latinx struggles for rights and representation—such as voting rights, language rights, citizenship, and affirmative action—are often portrayed as controversial or up for debate within social studies standards, with little to no supportive context about conditions that necessitated such mobilization in the first place. For example, a performance objective under Arizona’s American history standards asks students to “Describe aspects of post-World War II American Society,” including “protest movements (e.g., anti-war, women’s rights, civil rights, farm workers, Cesar Chavez)” (Arizona Department of Education, 2006, p. 15, see 9.PO3). First, the wording of this standard directly classifies all civil rights movements as “protest” instead of complex, sophisticated social justice movements that accomplished feats of organization and mass mobilization. This negative connotation primes students to interpret these movements, people, and leaders as violent, angry, and/or troubling rather than as peaceful, explicitly nonviolent (as in the case of Chavez), and engaged citizens exercising their rights to free political expression. One need not look any further than the media coverage of Black Lives Matter or immigrant rights protests to recognize that “protester” is often used in racist political discourses as a pejorative to describe unruly rabble-rousers rather than noble citizens. Second, by incorrectly listing Chavez and farm workers as protest movements rather than people exemplifies the lack of credible civic identity assigned to Latinxs in the standards.


In West Virginia, one history standard disturbingly suggests that students “Debate the role of activists for and against the Civil Rights Movement (e.g., KKK, Black Panthers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., SCLC, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, AIM, Chicano Movement and UFWOC)” (West Virginia Board of Education, 2016, p. 42, see SS.CS.23). Not only does this curriculum standard suggest that civil rights are debatable, but it also encourages—as debates often denote—students to argue the perspective of the Ku Klux Klan. A mandate as such establishes a base for the argument that hate groups have the same validity in social policy discourse as social justice groups, such as those involved in the Chicano movement or the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC). We see this stream of “good people on both sides” thought manifested contemporarily when White supremacist groups and historical figures who championed racist causes are positioned on the same moral plane as those who espouse antiracism.


Finally, another trend was the portrayal of minority groups within civil rights discourse as violent. For instance, an American history standard from Florida asks students to “Compare nonviolent and violent approaches utilized by groups (African Americans, women, Native Americans, Hispanics) to achieve civil rights” (CPALMS, 2021, p. 149, see SS.A.912.7.5). Similarly, a U.S. history standard from the District of Columbia encourages students to “Describe the birth and the spread of the Chicano Movement, from New Mexico to Denver to Washington, DC, and analyze its moderate and more militant arms (e.g., Brown Berets, United Farm Workers, Mexican American Political Association, and Raza Unida)” (DCOSSE, n.d., p. 72, see 11.11.2). The use of the term “moderate” implies location in the middle of a spectrum from “peaceful to violent,” when in fact the groups listed all practiced peaceful protesting. However, in direct alignment with our LTWT Narrative, tropes of Latinx civic agency as “militant” conjure narratives of fatigue-clad Latin American regime leaders. While these standards have the potential to portray Latinxs struggling for civil rights as inherently part of the U.S. civic fabric, the focus is instead shifted to violence or militancy. Again, we see an absence of any recognition of the violence, both physical and psychological, that Latinxs and other minorities faced in their daily lives.


As was common with representations of Latin America relative to the Global South, Latinx experiences and struggles within U.S. society are made homogenous by coalescing historical narratives of multiple minoritized groups within a single curricular standard to be compared and contrasted. There are certainly parallels in the struggles between minoritized racial groups, especially Black Americans, Indigenous peoples, and Mexican Americans, but their struggles are often politically conflated in curriculum (Santiago, 2017, 2019). Instead of encouraging students to develop a fuller understanding of individual social movements, the curriculum almost always lumps all social movements together. For example, Florida SS.912.A.7.9 requires that students “examine the similarities of social movements (Native Americans, Hispanics, women, anti-war protesters) of the 1960s and 1970s” (CPALMS, 2021, p. 150). We find it beneficial for students to understand the linkages between various social movements. However, these linkages can also bypass important discussions about diversity in thought and political strategies both between and within groups. This homogenization (present in similar standards nationally) prevents students from developing a full, nuanced understanding of Latinxs and their history in U.S. society, perpetuating stereotypes and essentializations (Busey, 2019; Busey & Cruz, 2015, 2017; Novoa, 2007; Santiago & Castro, 2019).


Relatedly, our analysis found that Latinxs are presented as a singular monolithic ethno-racial identity (Santiago & Castro, 2019), essentialized as farm workers, or presented without agency in the struggle for social justice. For example, Latinxs are referenced implicitly and explicitly in various terms: Hispanics, Hispanic Americans, and minority and immigrant groups. These representations of Latinxs gloss over their unique perspectives, contributions, backgrounds, occupations, discriminatory experiences, and forms of resistance, which are often specific to geography (Ender, 2019b; Giron & Vargas, 2020). Similar to political discourses, Latinxs were also ethno-racially equated to Mexican American or Chicanx identity (H. E. Brown, Jones, & Becker, 2018) and singularly embodied by Cesar Chavez. In numerous cases, Chavez’s name appears at the end of a list of non-Latinx civil rights figures as a sole Latinx representative, signifying not only that one Latinx can represent all—what Woodson (2016) considers a messianic master narrative—but also that Latinxs are an afterthought or late addition. A prime example is found in Georgia’s standard: “Investigate the growth, influence, and tactics of civil rights groups, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Letter from Birmingham Jail, the I Have a Dream Speech, and Cesar Chavez” (GADOE, 2016, p. 63, see SSUSH21.d). Likewise, in Maryland, the “Latino quest for civil rights” is solely contextualized by “the formation of the United Farm Workers Union” (Maryland State Department of Education, 2006, p. 19, see 5.5.4.d).


These trends contribute to the threat discourse by othering Latinxs and diminishing their citizenship status as full Americans. For example, only 14 states mention the presence of Latinxs in the United States (see Table 4), making it clear that Latinxs are largely written out of the narrative on citizenship in educational curricula (Santiago, 2017). Most states that actually include explicit references to Latinxs in their social studies curriculum standards do so superficially, emphasizing their “minority” status and reinforcing stereotypes of all Latinxs as Mexican farm workers. This encourages students to continue connecting Latinxs in the United States with Mexico, no matter where they trace their family origins or how many generations have passed. Again, as the LTWT Narrative notes, this positioning, or lack thereof, further contributes to the perception of Latinxs as perpetual foreigners. Subsequently, any effort to exercise civic agency leads to the demarcation of Americanness and Latinidad, which was evident in Trump’s question, “Who do you like more, the country [United States] or the Hispanics?” (Sorkin, 2019).


Table 4. Frequency of Terms by Theme†

Theme

(three most frequent terms)

Total freq. of terms in all 50 states and D.C.

Total # of states (and D.C.) in which terms appear

List of states (and D.C.) in which terms appear

U.S. intervention and imperialism

(Spanish-American War, Panama Canal, Roosevelt Corollary)

154

29

AL, AZ, AR, CA, FL, GA, HI, ID, IA, KS, MD, MA, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, DC

Geographic reference

(Latin America, Cuba, Puerto Rico)

83

27

AL, AZ, AR, CA, CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, NE, NV, NY, OK, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, DC

Immigration

(immigration, immigrant[s], legal and illegal immigrants/immigration)

74

27

AL, AZ, CA, CT, FL, HI, ID, KS, KY, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NV, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, DC

U.S. ethnic presence/social policy

(UFW, Chicano movement, bilingual education)

32

14

CA, KS, MD, NV, NJ, NM, NY, OK, RI, TN, TX, WA, WV, DC

U.S. group reference

(Hispanics, Latinos, Mexican Americans)

30

16

CA, CT, FL, IN, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, NY, NC, TN, TX, WA, WV, DC

Court cases (Regents of University of California v. Bakke, Miranda v. Arizona, Hernandez v. Texas)

27

8

CA, KS, MD, MS, NY, TN, TX, DC

Reference to Hispanic/Latino by name

(César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, Sonia Sotomayor)

25

11

AZ, GA, KS, NE, NM, NY, ND, OK, TN, TX, DC

Threat to democracy

(Cuban Missile Crisis, Latin American dictators)

24

19

AL, AZ, AR, CA, FL, HI, KS, MD, MN, NE, NJ, NM, NY, OK, SC, TN, TX, UT, DC

Violence/instability

(Bay of Pigs Invasion, Panama Revolution, 1959 Cuban Coup)

17

13

AL, CA, FL, HI, KS, MD, NM, OK, SC, TN, UT, WA, DC

Foreign group reference (Mexican, Latin American, Cuban)

13

7

AZ, CA, FL, NY, TX, WA, DC

Economics

(North American Free Trade Agreement)

5

2

WA, DC

Reference to Latin American by name

(Fidel Castro, José Martí, Pancho Villa)

3

2

FL, KS

Total frequency of terms

488

Total states represented

39

Based on search of state standards documents publicly available and in use in May 2018.


DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS


This study introduces three major contributions to the literature at the nexus of curriculum, Latinx citizenship, and civic education. First, findings illustrate the collapsing character of anti-Latinx political rhetoric in curricular standards with regard to Latinx citizenship. Whereas prior studies of Latinx citizenship in social studies curriculum point to either omission or incomplete portrayals (Cruz, 2002; Davis, 2019; Noboa, 2012), our study found that the LTWT Narrative is used in curricular standards to position Latinxs as transporters of Latin American political and social strife. This Trojan horse logic then manifests in singular projections of Latinx citizenship as monolithic and civic agency as militant. Thus, the curricular othering of Latinxs as forever foreigners assigns the Latinx subject a specific foreign address. Our study allows us to conclude that curricular references to Latinxs as not belonging or being un-American do not derive from an abstract source of xenophobia but are instead connected to a long-standing legacy of U.S. paternalistic relations with Latin America. Put another way, Latinxs in the United States are un-American because, regardless of origin, they are Latin American. Hence, the educational discourses regarding the racialization of Latinxs and their positioning as noncitizens must also be understood within its geopolitical domains. Rosa (2018) pointed to this very idea, stating,


Latinxs are often described as a highly racialized, culturally distinctive, and stubbornly unassimilable group that must be managed carefully to prevent it from undoing the nation’s cultural fabric. These framings simultaneously position Latinx as a distinctly American category and as a diasporic concept that potentially redefines Americanness by linking it to Latin America in newfound ways. (p.13)


Therefore, a constructed racist social reality about Latinxs is an extension of politically narrow projections of Latin America as a region rife with drugs, social strife, and political turmoil.


Second, our study offers examples of how current anti-Latinx political rhetoric is omnipresent in curricular standards across the United States. Moreover, we illustrate the reciprocation of anti-Latinx political rhetoric in curriculum across three political domains: foreign policy, domestic policy, and social affairs. It is beyond the nature of the study to prove that anti-Latinx political rhetoric used by politicians derives from the curriculum. Our study does demonstrate, however, that curricular standards do very little to dispute former and current political discourses used to cast Latinxs as perpetual foreigners who threaten the political, economic, and social fabric of the United States. Hence, the politicized rhetorical positioning of Latinxs as noncitizens, civic outsiders, and threats is legitimated by official curriculum, leaving opportunity for educators and students to reason public nativist and racist anti-Latinx viewpoints (Tirado, 2019). In tandem with our first point, the alignment between current anti-Latinx political rhetoric and curricular standards is abetted by the LTWT Narrative that consistently binds Latinxs to Latin America. Our findings show that this has a profound effect on how discourses of immigration are presented as an internal threat, and Latinx civic agency is disparaged in curricular standards.


Third, and relatedly, our study adopts a political frame for understanding projections of Latinxs and Latin America beyond cultural tropes. Prior research has found that terminology such as “lazy,” “dangerous,” “violent,” “immigrants,” and “criminals” has been used to characterize Latinxs and Latin America in both standards and textbooks (Busey, 2019; Cruz, 2002). However, our use of the LTWT Narrative revealed further discursive devices used to convey Latin America as unstable, full of vice, overrun by dictators, and in constant conflict with the United States when not subjected to U.S. intervention. Similar to Díaz and Deroo (2020), we underscore the need to situate curricular analyses about Latinxs and Latin America in proximity to larger political discourses that tend to reinforce nativist hegemony. Furthermore, our framework reveals the social and political function of anti-Latinx political rhetoric in a manner that has far-reaching implications for how we view citizenship and civic agency for Latinx peoples in the United States. As citizenship and civic participation become increasingly dichotomized along racial lines in the United States and reflected in curriculum, our analytic framework reveals the shift from cultural to political narratives used to determine and construct notions of Latinx belonging.


MOVING FORWARD: SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH


In addition to the aforementioned discussion points, we offer several suggestions for educational research and practice. First, our findings make it clear that a singular Latin American identity is linked to the racialization of U.S. Latinxs (de Genova, 1998), which curricular standards mirror in their projection of Latinxs as a single ethno-racial monolith. We suggest that educators pay specific attention to the political amalgamation of Latinx subjectivities. Namely, it seems imperative that educators discern how Latinxs can be universally connected to Latin America but also pay attention to how all Latinxs can be represented by a singular ethno-racial and civic identity (Beltrán, 2010). These consolidated narratives ensconce various forms of Latinx citizenship and civic agency. In our view, based on our data, educators should confront U.S. curricular narratives about Latin America that do little to illustrate the region as diverse, complex, and rich in contributions to political thought (Busey, 2019; Noboa, 2012; Novoa, 2007). Additionally, we believe that educators should challenge curricular standards’ failure to illustrate the multiplicity of Latinx identity because anti-Latinx political rhetoric impacts Latinxs of various ethno-racial and national backgrounds in myriad ways. Certainly more research is needed on how political rhetoric de-essentializes Latinidad and how Indigenous and Black Latinxs are especially impacted by these racist ideologies and policies in schools (Haywood, 2017; Urrieta & Calderon, 2019). Furthermore, research is needed that disrupts the unifying messianic civic model (Anderson, 2013; Woodson, 2016) of Cesar Chavez that reduces Latinx citizenship and civic agency to one man, one movement.


Moving forward, it is also paramount that further curriculum studies continue to point to curriculum as an ideological battleground in schools. What is especially taught as sanctioned official knowledge about Latinxs through the use of curricular standards can reproduce racist nativist sentiments (Pérez Huber, 2010, 2016). To take yet another example, in 2019, Donald Trump declared a national emergency at the White House Rose Garden, stating that a group of Central Americans seeking to migrate to the United States constituted a “monstrous caravan.” He went on to state that “we have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people and it’s unacceptable.” This rhetoric, which is also present in some curriculum standards, is replete with examples of the Third World Threat Narrative that dehumanizes Latinx migrants as scary beasts and equates people with dangerous narcotics. Unfortunately, state standards as a whole do little to challenge this form of racist nativism. To the contrary, they are written in such a way that students can successfully complete U.S. history and civics courses by reifying or rationalizing these anti-Latinxs discourses.


Finally, our study deals with anti-Latinx racist political rhetoric within its ideological domain. However, we recommend that future studies examine how anti-Latinx racist ideologies compound with material effects. This is not a benign matter of racism. Since Trump’s campaign and open espousal of racist rhetoric, Latinxs have experienced an uptick in racial violence and xenophobia (Berman, 2015; Farzan, 2019). In schools, Latinx students are subjected to racist nativist political rhetoric—from both peers and educators—resulting in emotionally, socially, and psychologically detrimental educational experiences (Castrellón et al., 2017; Costello, 2016; Dantley, 2017; Green & Castro, 2017; Matias & Newlove, 2017; Sondel et al., 2018). Regardless of future election outcomes, multiple studies also point to the political trauma that Latinx students, educators, and families must face as it pertains to fear, anxiety, anger, and distrust (Bondy, 2017; Bondy & Braunstein, 2019; Sondel et al., 2018; Wray-Lake et al., 2018). As evident in the August 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, racial violence directed against Latinxs within and outside school walls is state sanctioned by the discourse of presidential, state, and local administrations. It is also state sanctioned through official curriculum, which situates Latinxs as a threat that is both foreign and domestic in character and that consequently must be mediated. Policy advocates and educators must move beyond understanding curricular representation as just an impediment to students’ heritage knowledge and begin to understand state-backed curricular standards as part of a larger political apparatus.


Notes


1.

This analysis was conducted from 2018 to 2019. We recognize that certain states may have adopted different standards after our analysis was conducted.


2.

  Note that some states use different language for their organizing body that presides over education (e.g., state board of education, agency of education), and some even host their content standards on a separate site (e.g., CPALMS). Thus, the language around and organization of standards also vary greatly (i.e., standards, substandards, themes, objectives, benchmarks, essential questions, etc.). However, regardless of language and organization, we examined the full context of each item that specifically referenced content for each of these courses, as long as they were available for each state. Individual states decide how much (or how little) content is dictated by the state, and quite a few states did not list content in any of their social studies academic standards, citing freedom of each individual school district to set its own content.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 123 Number 2, 2021, p. 1-40
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23584, Date Accessed: 12/3/2021 1:25:10 AM

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About the Author
  • Christopher L. Busey
    University of Florida
    E-mail Author
    CHRISTOPHER L. BUSEY, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the School of Teaching & Learning at the University of Florida. He teaches courses for the Critical Studies in Race, Ethnicity, and Culture doctoral specialization, is affiliate faculty for the African American Studies program, and also coordinates the Education in the Americas specialization for the Center for Latin American Studies. His research focuses on critical theories of race, the Black Diaspora across the Americas, and negotiations of racialized citizenship in education. His scholarship has appeared in Race Ethnicity and Education, Educational Researcher, Urban Education, and Theory & Research in Social Education.
  • Alvaro J. Corral
    The College of Wooster
    E-mail Author
    ÁLVARO J. CORRAL, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of political science at The College of Wooster. He teaches courses in the areas of American politics, race and ethnicity in politics, and research methods. His research focuses on the public opinion and voting behavior of Latinxs in the United States, immigrant political socialization, and immigration policy. His scholarship has appeared in Social Science Quarterly and Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences.
  • Erika L. Davis
    University of Florida
    E-mail Author
    ERIKA L. DAVIS is a PhD student in the School of Teaching & Learning at the University of Florida. Her research focuses on the experiences of Latinx students in K–16 educational institutions in the United States, curricular representation, and critical theories of race in education. Her scholarship has appeared in Race Ethnicity and Education and Social Studies Research and Practice.
 
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