Denying In-State Tuition for Arizona’s DACA Students

On December 7, 2006, Proposition 300 passed in Arizona with the approval of 71.4 percent of the voters. According to the state’s Attorney General,

The enacted measure requires verification of immigration status of persons who are applying for state-funded services . . . [which include] in-state tuition and financial aid for college students.

From the point of view of an Arizona state representative, the measure was necessary because “illegal” immigration was having catastrophic effects:

Arizona has been overwhelmed with illegal immigration and all the negative things that follow — crime, increased public service costs, especially education, and depression of our wages — and the federal government seems barely capable of doing much. . . . Denying the in-state tuition . . . deters illegal immigrants from coming here.

In 2015, recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in Arizona were allowed to pay in-state tuition following a judge’s ruling that

DACA recipients were considered legally present in the U.S. and therefore qualify for state benefits.

Arizona’s Attorney General appealed the decision and this month a federal appeals court ruled that

federal immigration law allows each state to decide on optional benefits for DACA recipients [and] Arizona law [i.e., Proposition 300] bars in-state tuition for anyone who doesn’t have a legal status.

The consequences for the education of Arizona’s DACA youth are substantial. For example, at the Maricopa Community Colleges that operate in the larger Phoenix area, the cost per credit hour is $86 for Arizona residents and $241 for non-residents. At Arizona State University the current undergraduate basic tuition is $10,792 for residents and $27,372 for non-residents.

Some students intend to persist. Belen Sisa a junior at Arizona State University who came from Argentina when she was six-years old, said “I can’t let this stop me. I’m so close to give up now.” Oscar Hernandez was brought from Mexico when he was 9-years old and has lived in Arizona ever since. He has one year left to get his degree but it may take him three years to finish if he has to pay out-of-state tuition but said that “he is determined to finish.” Their resolve is admirable, because they will unjustly confront new obstacles in the pursuit of their education.

Karina Ruiz, board president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group that advocates for undocumented young children brought to the U.S. as children, criticized the state for taking away in-state tuition from DACA recipients. “This is all hate,” Ruiz said.

There is nothing else. There is no reason for the state to be fighting students that want to get educated. This is wrong.

It is difficult to disagree with her. What rational purpose would it serve to deprive the DACA students who have been in Arizona since they were very young of in-state tuition? How just is it? Doesn’t a state benefit from an educated citizenry? How will it discourage undocumented migration?

Arizona has a long history of white racism. In recent times the undocumented have become the target. This is the state where Sheriff Joe Arpaio, according to the U.S. Department of Justice,

Oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history.

Arpaio is currently on trial for allegedly

defying a federal judge’s orders that barred [him] from enforcing federal immigration law.

I wish I could be optimistic and hope for a quick solution. But with Donald Trump in the White House, racists in Arizona and elsewhere will find fertile ground for their odious plans.

Racism and Sexism Online and OffLine

Dylann Roof discussed his motivations for killing nine in a Black Church in Charleston, North Carolina. He answered the FBI investigator’s question by stating: “It’s pretty much the internet…. All the information is there for you.” His statement refers to a larger trend of online hate speech being directed towards offline violence. This also occurred when Arnita Saarkesian cancelled an event because someone emailed her, saying that they would commit a mass murder if she spoke at Utah State University. Yet the police there felt there was no risk to students. This assumption changed when the posting involved a black man and police in Ferguson. The Supreme Court ruled that online threats are not necessarily illegal when deciding a case where a husband wrote he would like to see his wife’s “head on a stick” on Facebook. Most recently, as hate-type violence rises in the offline world, there are critical questions we must ask about the connection between online communities and offline violence. Trolling and trolls are a type of collective behavior that satisfies the emotional desires of racists or sexists.

The common assumption that internet activity is “fake” is also not helpful or an accurate analysis of the internet. According to Pew Research Center, 68% of adults are Facebook users. While on Facebook, a person can tag a friend in a picture, post on a person’s wall for their birthday, consider adopting a pet, donate to a charity, or let someone know you are graduating. This time can be filled with meaningful details that are shared within social networks; it can involve scanning news sites as I do on Twitter, or catching up with your favorite sports teams. The internet provides a different element than radio or television does: social interaction. This interaction can be positive or can be negative. It is the intention behind actions that often is not discussed when trolling is covered by media outlets, bloggers, and even academics. I do not deny that, to a degree, anonymity gives commenters a sense of freedom, which can result in certain behaviors.

Specifically, the belief that anonymity and computers change behaviors has been held by academics as well as online news media. The suggestion often goes “Don’t Read the Comments.” In many ways, this assumes that online behavior is radically different than offline behavior. Without face to face confrontation, it’s assumed that behavior is more uncivil. It is argued that in situations of anonymity on the internet, instead of breaking down boundaries, interaction is based on an “us versus them” expectation. This can also be thought of as “me” versus “them” in which the perception of users is that they are part of a social group. This is a common explanation for why the comments sections are racist, sexist, homophobic or anti-Semitic, which is theorized by Tom Postmes, Russell Spears and Martin Lea in their article “Breaching or Building Social Boundaries? SIDE-Effects of Computer-Mediated Communication.” In short, many users go from perceiving the interaction as being based on “me and you” to being “us versus them.” It is the “them” that is a placeholder for a man’s girlfriend, a black woman (see Southern Poverty Law Center’s reports from 2016 and 2017) or a feminist. This behavior can also be done by marginalized individuals, such as Hotep culture (See “Hotep Explained” by Damon Young). I do not deny that, to some degree, technology can influence behavior, but there is a stronger connection to offline reality. This behavior can be analyzed as more purposeful and fostered by offline language, political setting, structures, and institutions.

Trolling is a contested concept; just read the various definitions in the Urban dictionary. The Global Assessment of Internet Trolling (GAIT) provides a survey in which a person can indicate identification with trolling culture. Trolling often relies on attacking someone, usually based on their physical identity or social identification–e.g., race, gender, or sexual orientation. The normalization of trolling assumes that categorization is natural. Whether or not social differentiation is “natural,” the larger point is what we do with categorization. This historically has legitimated slavery, segregation, and even now legitimizes the gender pay gap.

The belief that racist, sexist, or homophobic language is done because individuals are online ignores the offline reality of these behaviors. This could also be reduced to “locker room talk” although this language occurs in many settings. This behavior in fact takes place because of social cues or who is in the room, i.e. men only. Thus, this language is tolerated, even expected, and excused in a variety of places and spaces. Therefore, the language used in the comment section of media reports is learned and encouraged as being “boys will be boys” or other euphemisms that protect the privileged. These euphemisms often legitimize rape culture and racist jokes. Those who teach this discriminatory behavior toward “others” use a space that is free from people of color to teach racism, free from women to teach sexism, free from others who are “out” to teach homophobia.

Some of this racist action is defined as backstage racism by Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin in their book Two-Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage. The idea that we whites act differently in certain spaces is not especially radical, as how you act at work and with a group of friends on a Saturday night is usually understood as different. It does not mean we are “less authentic” at work or “more authentic” with our friends. This also means that those who mean to foster racist sentiments that whites are superior, or men are superior, or both simultaneously, can create communities. Rather than seeing racism as part of a mental illness, or as someone being irrational, there is a clear intention and goal in people engaging in most such racist behavior. This also in part illustrates that there is not a clear transition from the “me and you” to the “us and them” behavior. Many online users perceive themselves as part of an “us,” e.g. white and male, and the “them” as substantially less than them in social status. At times this is heightened when group members that are historically oppressed reach a point of higher status, or if those in the dominant group fear diversity. This emotional response is also associated with voting for Trump as Trump voters often “fear racial diversity.”

This emotional satisfaction has been tested by computer-mediated studies. In a study authored by Erin E. Buckels, Paul D. Trapnell and Delroy L. Paulhus called “Trolls just want to have fun,” they found sadistic behaviors were associated with trolling. Thus, many trolls want to inflict pain, which is more than what is often included in articles about trolls. This should not be surprising as emotional defenses of racism are part of the dominant white racial frame theorized by Joe Feagin. Some argue that this behavior is maintained by certain internet platforms, such as Reddit, or by video games that have an “inherent” culture that includes sexism and racism. That is where the interjection that there is nothing “inherent” or “natural” about racism or sexism comes in. They are aggressively taught from a young age and can be unlearned (with great effort). If it is not clear by now, this also illustrates that there is a choice made in trolling, and all forms of harassment online and offline.

The “locker room talk,” which has been criticized by athletes, includes bragging about “moving on her like a bitch.” Thus, locker room talk is an extension of the larger rape culture and relies on men bragging about their actions. Sure, in many situations this could be bragging without any action, but given the consequences of this type of behavior in the case of Roof and Jeremy Joseph Christian, the most recent suspect in a hate crime or act of terrorism, this should be taken seriously. Locker room talk illustrates that the performance of masculinity is important in collective spaces, as is the practice of white supremacy. Such beliefs are part of a practice that is reaffirmed by others in communities. It’s important to recognize that key element of trolling as trolls often are encouraged by very powerful members of the white elite. Some elite white men encourage trolling of marginalized people, which is committed by their followers, such as in Gamergate. The negative behavior of specific white individuals, many being white Christians, is often removed from US culture, institutions, and society, thereby reducing it to an individual’s actions. Thus, white groups online, who are often white males, are mostly referred to as trolls, not “mobs”. Either people frame them as acting that way because of the anonymity allowed on the Internet or it is just “locker room talk.” These two frames leave whites to be innocent or at least do not recognize that the behavior is learned, happens offline, and is part of systemic white racism.

Gamergate is an example in which masses of men were attacking a few outspoken women like Zoe Quinn. Although Quinn characterizes it as mob behavior, others do not. In fact, of the 258 references on Wikipedia for Gamergate, only one website explicitly uses mob in its headlines. Only two people are quoted referring to the harassment in Gamergate as mob behavior, Quinn the target of the harassment, and Anders Sandberg, a University of Oxford research fellow. Even those critical of trolls such as Telegraph journalist Allison Pearson may describe them as a swarm, but still do not describe them as a mob. Pearson states that one troll “invited his unmerry men to join in the fun.”

Additionally, a somewhat lighthearted, or only modestly critical, framing of internet trolls is not isolated to Pearson, but part of the racial grammar of the internet. This racial grammar implicitly teaches children and adults negative racial stereotypes about people of color, while allowing whites as a group to be virtuous and innocence.

Trolling is indeed mob-like behavior, especially when encouraged by a leader online. The behavior is filling some psychological desire to inflict pain. Why else would individuals engage it for hours? Like hate groups and activist groups, the distinction lies in understanding if they aim to be constructive or destructive. This performance of toxic masculinity and whiteness online through online discussions or trolling is part of an emotional satisfaction that users use to perpetuate racist and sexist systems. The intent behind much trolling is part of a larger system of racism and sexism. It is an integral part of offline structures, institutions, and places; and this reality negates the naïve argument that you need to either reach out to a troll to “reform them” or that they would not be racist or sexist offline. The reform should come in organizations and communities with the recognition that trolling is verbal violence which can inspire physical violence. This important general point is articulated by terrorism expert Ehud Sprinzak in his book Brother against Brother: Violence and Extremism in Israeli Politics from Altalena to the Rabin Assassination. We need to ask ourselves if this trolling racist/sexist language does not benefit democratic dialogue and results in violence, why should it be tolerated in a democratic society?

Juneteenth: Why Celebrate?

“By putting on their very best clothes, the black people were signaling they were free,” historian Jackie Jones relates. “It enraged white people. They hated to see black people dressed up because it turned their world upside down.” Sartorial display is woven into resistance and celebrations of the African American holiday Juneteenth.

Emancipation Day, Austin, Texas, 1900 (from Wikipedia)


Today marks the anniversary of the original  Juneteenth, a celebration marking the end of slavery. What began as a regional celebration in Galveston, Texas has grown to a national commemoration that people celebrate in a variety of ways. NPR’s Code Switch has been collecting stories of how people celebrate at the hashtag #WouldntBeJuneteenthWithout, but I there is a pall over the usual celebratory mood of this Juneteenth by recent events in Seattle, where Charleena Lyles was killed by police after she called them to report a burglary, and in Minnesota, where the police officer on trial for killing Philando Castile, was acquitted on all charges.

Indeed, after the ongoing police-murder of Black people, the celebration of Juneteenth and the struggle behind it, take on a renewed sense of urgency and poignancy. Why celebrate it at all? It wasn’t always a widely recognized holiday, and it was a struggle to get it recognized.

The Struggle to Make Juneteenth a State Holiday

Juneteenth hasn’t always been recognized as a holiday, and in the family I came from it was often scoffed at (lots of derision about the name of the holiday).  So the fact that Juneteenth is now an official state holiday in Texas and many other communities across the US, is significant and is only possible because of a political struggle waged by one Houston Democratic legislator, (former) state representative Al Edwards.  It seems impossible now to mention a black, Democratic state representative and not call to mind, Rep. Clementa Pinckney, gunned down while leading that Wednesday night service in Charleston.

Former Texas State Rep. Al Edwards

Former Texas State Rep. Al Edwards

Edwards was born in Houston in 1937, the sixth of sixteen children, and was first elected as a state representative in 1978 from Houston’s District 146, the area known as Alief. A year later, in 1979, Edwards authored and sponsored House Bill 1016, making June 19th (“Juneteenth”) a paid state holiday in Texas.

Everyone, it seemed, opposed the idea. In a recent interview about this bill, attorney Doug McLeod, a conservative Democratic representative from Galveston at the time said of Edwards, “He really had an uphill battle. He had opposition from the left and the right.” Mostly white conservative Democratic majority viewed the bill as a hard sell to their constituents and many of Edwards’ 14 fellow black legislators saw it as a diversion from securing a holiday for Martin Luther King.

House Bill 1016 appeared to be headed nowhere when Edwards, a Democrat who was new to the legislature, originally filed it. Eventually, he got McLeod to sign on to the bill and Bill Clayton, then speaker of the Texas legislature.

Then-Gov. Bill Clements, a Republican, declined to endorse the Juneteenth bill, but he agreed to sign it if passed. Through a series of negotiations and brokered deals over votes, Rep. Edwards eventually prevailed and got the bill through the legislature.  When the bill passed, white conservative opponents urged the governor not to sign the bill, but Clements kept his word and signed the bill on the Texas State Capitol steps. This prompted other states to follow suit. Now 43 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth in some way or another.

History and Struggle Behind Juneteenth

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, but people remained enslaved within the state of Texas.

This happened for two reasons.

First, Texas slave owners refused to release the people they were holding as slaves.  They basically just wouldn’t acknowledge that the Emancipation Proclamation or Lee’s surrender had happened or had any bearing on them (cf. “States Rights,”  see also Texas is a Whole Other Country).

Second, slave owners from neighboring states in the south looked on Texas as a haven for slavery, so they poured into Texas with an estimated 125,000-150,000* enslaved people  from surrounding Confederate states (*historians debate the precise number).

In a recent interview, Jackie Jones,a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin.”The idea was Texas was so vast that the federal government would never be able to conquer it all. There is this view that if they want to hold onto their slaves, the best thing to do is get out of the South and go to Texas.”

This ended on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston and again declared the end of the Civil War, with General Granger reading aloud a special decree that ordered the freeing of some 200,000 people still in bondage in Texas.

Today, some 43 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth in some way. This would not have been possible without the vision of Rep. Al Edwards and the struggle to make it a reality.

In times like these, what’s to celebrate?

With the official, legal end of chattel slavery — and the enforcement of that decree in Texas — there was much to celebrate in 1865. It was no longer legal for human beings to be sold on auction blocks as they had been. And, to be clear, the US didn’t just tolerate slavery as an economic system, it expanded and prospered on it.  The overturning of this dehumanizing system was a momentous victory for a multi-racial group of abolitionists who waged a decades long campaign to end slavery.

Reconstruction followed, creating new opportunities for African Americans who owned and profited from their own land and began to participate in local politics.

Most Americans remain confused about the period of Reconstruction, and many still subscribe toA false story of Reconstruction disseminated in popular culture through things like the film Birth of a Nation.  Although historians including Columbia University’s Eric Foner have shown the extraordinary political, economic, and legal gains of Reconstruction, as Gregory P. Downs notes at TPM.

One historian, C. Vann Woodward, has called the period of “the forgotten alternatives.” During the period between 1870 and 1900, there was some racial integration in housing and privately-owned facilities. Black people could travel on public transportation, vote and get elected, get jobs, including on police forces, and enjoy many public facilities.

But. the gains of Reconstruction were short-lived.

This “alternative” approach to race during Reconstruction ended when what Woodward calls the “strange career” of Jim Crow segregation, began — first by whites in the North, and expanded with a vengeance by Southern whites. Within thirty years of emancipation, laws were instituted that stripped African Americans of their rights, making celebrations like Juneteenth a distant memory. A prison-labor paradigm developed. White jail owners profited from the hard labor of their black inmates who were incarcerated for petty crimes like vagrancy, which carried long sentences. White landowners replaced chattel slavery with a deceptive practice called debt peonage, a new form of bondage continued for many blacks for decades. It wasn’t until 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Circular No. 3591 which strengthened the Anti-Peonage Law of 1867, making it a criminal offense.  Roosevelt launched a federal investigation, prosecuted guilty whites and effectively ended peonage in 1942.

So, why celebrate Juneteenth if white supremacy re-emerged with such a bloody return thirty short years later? Because celebration, commemoration and community are how we gain strength for the larger struggle.

Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery by Another Name land co-executive producer of the documentary film by the same name, said this about Juneteenth:

“It’s important not to skip over the first part of true freedom. Public education as we know it today and the first property rights for women were instituted by African-American elected officials.”

Even as there is terrible news of continued police killing of Black people, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on other times, other struggles and other victories on this anniversary of Juneteenth.




Imposed Identities: Perils of Racial-Ethnic Identifiability

In Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, Beverly Tatum describes racial identity development as an ongoing, continuous process comparable to climbing a spiral staircase. Building on the theory of William Cross, she chronicles the journey arising from encountering the beliefs of a dominant white culture, recognizing one’s own devalued position, exploring the multiple facets of one’s own identity, and emerging to affirm a positive self-identity and support diverse others in their exploration. Intersectionality complicates the picture even further as the multiple dimensions of social identity that include race, gender, and sexual orientation among others combine to create what Patricia Hill Collins calls multiple jeopardies or interlocking systems of oppression.

As a biracial individual with a strong physical resemblance to my father who immigrated from Mainland China and much lesser resemblance to my German-American mother, I have repeatedly encountered the question: “Where are you from?” and when I answer, “New York,” the questioner invariably probes deeper to “Where are you really from?” or “Where are your parents from?” or even sometimes, “Where are your grandparents from?” Even with friends I have known for years, I will be asked questions about the culture, customs, and society of mainland China, although I have not lived or visited there and have only been to Hong Kong when it was a British colony. The irony even extended to my mother, who although white, was sometimes mistaken for being Asian due to her last name and asked what part of China she was from.

Frank Wu identifies the invisibility of Asian Americans in serious public discourse and their high visibility in popular culture that has led to powerful stereotypes such as the notion of the perpetual foreigner. In Yellow: Beyond Black and White, he underscores the way that context operates to create forms of exclusion:

Race is meaningless in the abstract, it acquires it meanings as it operates on its surroundings (p. 22).

The conflation of race with citizenship has led to the common experience among Asian Americans that he so aptly describes:

More than anything else that unites us, everyone with an Asian face who lives in America is afflicted by the perpetual foreigner syndrome. We are figuratively and literally returned to Asia and ejected from America (p. 70).

This outsider syndrome and the stereotypes it perpetuates have consequences. In The Myth of the Model Minority, Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin highlight research revealing that Asian Americans are less than one percent of the boards of Fortune 500 firms and are generally described as technical workers and not executives. Despite extensive qualifications, Asian Americans are only rarely considered for management roles and have frequently chosen scientific professions due to the subjectivity that can accompany non-technical careers in other professions.

Perhaps to Native Americans or African Americans who have suffered enslavement and even efforts at extermination, the persistence of the perpetual foreigner syndrome and other stereotypes that Asian Americans face might seem like less serious concerns. But what is deeply troubling to all Americans of color is what Joe Feagin refers to as “imposed identities.” As he points out, the hundreds of published research papers on racial and ethnic identity are almost always devoted to questions of how individuals seek to define their own racial or ethnic identities personally (typically on check-off lists) instead of how they must deal with the racial or ethnic identities imposed upon them by white employers, police officials, and others with decision-making power in a highly racialized society. Indeed, Derald Wing Sue identifies the nature of contemporary oppression as involving the imposition of identity upon marginalized groups that can take place through acts of overt and covert racial-ethnic exclusion–a range of acts including micro-aggressions, micro-assaults, and micro-invalidations. And exclusionary racial-ethnic stereotyping and other racial-ethnic framing can occur literally in seconds as the results of many Implicit Association Tests have regularly demonstrated.

Even more than ever in the context of a deeply divided society, we are called upon on a daily basis to nurture a community in which interpersonal interactions resist the simplicity of such imposed stereotypes and other framing, bridge the divides of physical identifiability, and assert the underlying connection between our diversity and our common humanity.