Arizona Legislators Take on Ethnic Studies — as Subversive

Well, if the Arizona legislature’s autocratic approach to its large immigrant-worker population was not enough, last night the wild-west legislature’s white legislators decided to take on first amendment rights to freedom of speech in the form of courses being taught in the schools. Of course, the attack once again is centered on its Mexican American population, and other people concerned with the histories and racist realities faced by Americans of color, and with creating pride in groups resisting oppression. One news report by Capitol Media Services today puts it this way:

HB 2281 would make it illegal for a school district to have any courses or classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity “instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” It also would ban classes that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people.”

So I guess an honest discussion of the history of whites’ racial oppression targeting Mexican Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, and other Americans of color in the southwest and elsewhere will be out of the question when and if this legislation goes into effect. Truth-telling about our white-racist history, and resistance to it by Americans of color, that gives people honest understandings (and/or group pride) will actually be illegal, as seen in this legislation of the folks in the Arizona legislature. They clearly fear that such a history might create resentment toward the oppressors. Will other states soon follow up on this lawmaking?

One Tucson state senator, Democrat Linda Lopez, has pointed out that an immediate cause of this white attack seems to be an academically successful program by the school district’s Mexican-American studies department that

simply provides historical information, which conflicts with state School Superintendent Tom Horne’s assessment the program is promoting racial hatred and “ethnic chauvinism.”

Senator Lopez has also pointed out just how serious is this attack on honest discussion, indeed pointing to its absurdity:

To make her point, she proposed schools be prohibited from teaching about the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor because that would promote hatred of people of Japanese ancestry. The proposal was rejected. She had no better luck with a measure precluding teaching about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Lopez said the 700 incidents targeting Arab-Americans in the nine weeks after the incident prove that teaching about the event promotes resentment toward a class of people.

The courses actually being taught seem to be rather modest in orientation, yet they are stimulating this type of white supremacist reactions. Freedom of thought and honest discussion of the U.S.’s racial history are once again considered to be dangerous. (Here is one honest history of white-on-Mexican oppression by the major social scientist Rodolfo Acuña, which will not likely be seen in Arizona public schools if this becomes law.) Arizona seems to be pioneering in this police-state approach to U.S. polity and society. It is interesting that those who say they fear government and oppose government intervention in regard to things like federal health care legislation are often the first to push government intervention when it comes to their often reactionary notions about society.