Theresa Montaño, a professor at California State University Northridge, appeared to call the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) a white supremacist organization during a February 2 webinar.
The webinar, titled “The Fight for Ethnic Studies” and hosted by the Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), featured various ethnic studies advocates voicing their displeasure with the current draft of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC). Montaño, who was one of the authors of the original ESMC draft, accused the California Department of Education of caving to the whims of “white supremacist, right-wing, conservative organizations” and listed several organizations such as the Hoover Institute before stating, “and yes, even the ADL.”
This prompted the Stop Antisemitsm.org watchdog and European Leadership Network West Coast Director Siamak Kordestani to tweet that Montaño had called the ADL a white supremacist organization.
However, Montaño denied calling the ADL a white supremacist organization, telling the Journal that she was taken out of context. When pressed by the Journal, Montaño pointed to a press release stating that the original authors of the ESMC want their names taken off it and urging the state Department of Education “to not cave to right-wing interest groups.” The press release links to a longer statement that has Montaño as a signatory similarly urging the state “not to give in to the pressures and influences of white supremacist, right wing, conservatives (‘Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies’, ‘Educators for Excellence in Ethnic Studies’, Hoover Institute, etc.).” Montaño did not respond to further inquiries.
Several Jewish groups denounced Montaño’s comments in statements to the Journal.
“[Progressive Zionists of California] and dozens of Jewish organizations across the political spectrum continue to work together to keep the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum free of bigotry like that espoused by Prof Theresa Montaño,” the Progressive Zionists of California said in a statement to the Journal. “By prioritizing a deep-seated desire to denigrate the most respected Jewish civil rights organization in America, rather than confronting her own role in perpetuating antisemitism, Montaño has perfectly demonstrated why people who espouse such hatred must never be allowed anywhere near any official Ethnic Studies board or document in California, or anywhere in the country.”
Max Samarov, executive director of Research & Strategy at StandWithUs, similarly said, “This is exactly the type of hate and misinformation that we must keep out of California’s ethnic studies model curriculum (ESMC). Jewish people are among the most commonly targeted by white supremacy, which thrives off of antisemitic conspiracy theories. For CSUN Professor Theresa Montaño to suggest that one of the leading organizations fighting against antisemitism and white supremacy worldwide is white supremacist is dishonest and abhorrent. Such efforts to discredit meaningful education around Jewish studies and antisemitism must be strongly combated. CSUN should firmly condemn this professor’s statement and California education officials should take note of what to guard against as they finalize the ESMC.”
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of the AMCHA Initiative, also said in a statement to the Journal, “Theresa Montaño is a leader in the Critical Ethnic Studies scene which, unlike the broader discipline of ethnic studies, is deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist. Critical Ethnic Studies is firmly rooted in ideologies that divide society into oppressed and oppressor groups, and it views Jewish Americans as ‘white’ and ‘privileged’ and on the oppressor side of the race-class divide.”
She added that Montaño also said during the AROC webinar that “that the group she had co-founded with fellow drafters of the first ESMC — the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Coalition — was launching a major campaign to vigorously promote their “liberatory model curriculum” in school districts throughout the state. “And this is what is truly alarming about AB 101, a bill before the California legislature, that would make ethnic studies courses rooted in Critical Ethnic Studies, like the one promoted by Montaño and her educator-activist colleagues, a graduation requirement for students at each and every California public and charter high school.”
A spokesperson for CSUN told the Journal, “CSUN is aware of comments made by a faculty member during a recent webinar. This was not a CSUN event, and the faculty member was not speaking on behalf of the university. As a university, CSUN champions inclusion, respect and equity for all, rejecting all forms of exclusion, racism, bigotry, intolerance and hatred. CSUN also fosters an academic environment that upholds our essential freedoms and exchange of ideas and speech.”
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