In October, we examined the missionary progressive ideology underlying the birth of Ethnic Studies programs in the Anaheim Union High School District. It’s chief apostle in AUSHD is J. Paolo Magcalas, a former Loara High School history teacher who established the district’s first Ethnic Studies program in order to “liberate” students from the “oppression” of traditional U.S. history curriculum.
Magcalas also represents Area 3 (west Anaheim) on the Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education. He was elected in 2016 due to the good fortune of being the only candidate, and is running for re-election in 2020.
In the minds of its proponents, Ethnic Studies teaches “real” history, as opposed to traditional history curricula they view as white-washed and “Euro-centric.” In reality, they’re engaged in postmodernist myth-making of their own.
Thanksgiving is a favorite target for deconstruction by the identitarian Left. We’re all familiar with the near-mythic “First Thanksgiving” shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans, and President George Washington proclaimed a day of thanksgiving on Thursday, November 26, 1789. But celebration of Thanksgiving Day as we understand it really dates back to President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of an annual day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.
The radical Left, however, has seized on the First Thanksgiving as an opportunity to advance their narrative of America as racist and oppressive from the get-go – as Magcalas demonstrated with a series of Facebook posts depicting Thanksgiving as “really” being a commemoration of white supremacy and genocide.
Magcalas shared this Teen Vogue video featuring a group of Native American teenagers telling the “real” history of Thanksgiving:
These teens regurgitate the woke narrative that Thanksgiving is really about celebrating the killings of Native Americans during Indian wars of the early colonial era. At the end of the video, the girls act out their contempt for the holiday by physically overturning the Thanksgiving table while mockingly wishing viewers “Happy Thanksgiving!”
Magcalas shares a New Yorker article deriding Thanksgiving as a white supremacist myth – a celebration of early settlers killing Native Americans:
Typical of identitarian Left deconstruction of Thanksgiving, it employs a very-one sided recounting of the earliest conflicts between colonists and Native Americans, such as The Tidewater War and King Philip’s War – inaccurately presenting them as unprovoked genocidal colonial wars of aggression.
The Tidewater War was the first real armed conflict between English colonists and local Indian tribes. In 1622, Chief Opechancanough, leader of the Powhatan Indian confederation in the Tidwater area, launched a coordinated series of brutal surprise attacks on the Jamestown colony, massacring 347 men, women and children. In a matter of hours, the Indians wiped out a quarter of the population of the Virginia colony.
The colonists thought they were at peace with the Powhatans. A few months earlier, Opechancanough told them “he held the peace so firme,the sky should fall [before] he dissolved it.”
What ensued was a decade-long, mutually exhausting conflict in which, as historians Allan Millet and Peter Maslowski put it, “ferocity, savagery and barbarous behavior were common to both sides.”
During the 1636-1638 Pequot War between the powerful and ferocious Pequot tribe and English colonists, virtually every other Indian tribe in the area sided with the colonists.
In other words, they engage in historical cherry picking, leaving out facts and events that undermine their narrative.
One could go on. The point is the identitarian Left engages in deeply dishonest historical revisionism in its attempt to use early conflicts like these and others as talismans to debunk Thanksgiving and de-legitimize the early founding of our country. Their causes were complicated, and like any war, brought out savagery on both sides. Their history ought to relayed honestly, not reduced to cartoonish “evil Europeans conquer Native American Eden” stereotypes that exclusively indicts the early settlers while ignoring instances of Native American atrocities and aggression. What social justice warriors like Magcalas present as the “real” history of Thanksgiving is really their preferred mythology.
Which brings us back to Mr. Magcalas. We know from his own writings that he considers traditional U.S. history as “Eurocentric” and oppressive. His declared mission is to “liberate” his students’ minds with an Ethnic Studies curriculum based on the false conviction that the United States was racist in its founding, and that racism, genocide and oppression are hallmarks of our history.
Magcalas obviously agrees with the radical Left’s antipathy toward Thanksgiving – he even posted tips for “decolonizing” Thanksgiving – a guide to help left-wing teachers take the fun out of Thanksgiving and use it as an opportunity to radicalize the young minds in their charge:
All this is the sort of politically correct nonsense ordinary people are sick and tired of.
And as we’ve seen, Magcalas – like many radical progressives – seems to harbor admiration for the murderous revolutionary Che Guevara. If he puts up Che Guevara portraits in his classroom, its reasonable to wonder if he teaches his students his radical views about Thanksgiving – which is not an alternative viewpoint but a false historical narrative.
We live in a free country where everyone has the right to espouse their political viewpoints – even when it entails denigrating and distorting the founding and history of the nation that guarantees that liberty. But Anaheim Union High School District residents ought to be concerned – if not disturbed – when someone entrusted with teaching young students about American history embraces such a skewed, inaccurate and overwhelmingly ideological understanding of that history.
Next year, Magcalas is running for re-election to the AESD Board of Education. He may even have to contend with an actual opponent this time. Area 3 voters are entitled to take in consideration his fringe beliefs about Thanksgiving. When there is such a chasm of beliefs between Magcalas and ordinary voters on a good and venerable tradition like Thanksgiving, they’re entitled to wonder how far his radicalism extends on matters of education and values that are important to them.