It occurs to me that it’s been too long since we actually had an actual “report” here, rather than rabid opinion piece. To that end, we’re going to be examining the state of Arizona’s recent assault on its Mexican-American ethnic studies programs. This story isn’t the freshest (or a full-on report; baby steps, people), but with relatively new developments, and how little attention the story was given in general, it’s worth reviewing.
In spring of 2010, Arizona decided to ban ethnic studies classes in its public schools for grades K-12 (HB [House Bill] 2281). Of course, by “ethnic studies”, the state of Arizona meant “Mexican-American/Chicano” studies, and as Tuscon school board member Michael Hicks clarified:
“Honestly, this law won’t be applied to any other of our [ethnic studies] courses. It was strictly written for one course, which is the Mexican-American studies program.”
The Tuscon Unified School District, on which Hicks sits, caved to pressure from the Arizona state government in 2012 to cut its Mexican-American studies program or lose funding. Since that time, books used in teaching Mexican-American studies, such as “Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years”, “Occupied America”, and, for some weird reason, Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” have all been removed from classrooms and be stored in the state’s textbook depository until further notice.
Now of course Michael Hick’s comments earned him fairly universal ridicule- just check this local coverage of the fallout…
…but as that news clip above states, there is hope by some (none more so than Hicks) that this will “blow over” and the blunder, and the fairly blatant bigotry, will be forgotten.
Let’s not let that happen.
Now a complaint cited by Hicks was that the curriculum being taught in these courses was “radical.” That kids were being told that “this was their land” and that “it had been taken from them by the white man.”
So what could be so radical about these courses as to get the state of Arizona to actually ban books from the classroom? Well, the argument being touted by the advocates of HB 2281 have asserted that such classes advocated the overthrow of the US government and “resentment” towards white people. In fact, one of the actual criteria for prohibition listed in HB2281 is if the text-
“Promotes resentment toward any race or class (e.g, racism and classism)”
Any sane person can tell you that whether or not you feel resentment is entirely up to you. These texts document the general treatment of Mexican-Americans since the acquisition of the West by the US government (hint: it was some pretty ****** treatment). Whether or not you take issue with a whole race of people for some bad things some of their distant ancestors did is entirely up to you. If we’re going to claim that teaching the facts about history might start some kind of race-war, then we might want to also consider banning any book that references:
The ban on these texts was lifted in October of this year, though HB2281 continues to exist as a law. Clearly, there is something going on in Arizona, and I’m not so sure the run-o’-the-mill racism the state’s increasingly associated with is the explanation for it (According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, AZ continues to serve as base to 28 different hate groups, the vast majority of them white supremacist organizations).
Answer me this, readers-
What do you know of the history of Mexican-Americans?
I’m a huge history buff- I can tell you about the private lives of our founding fathers, the lifestyles of various native tribes; I can name every major Black figure from Phillis Wheately to Cornell West. What I cannot tell you much of anything about is Mexican-American history. Sure, I’ll tell you all about the generals who fought in the Mexican-American war, but after that…
The soon-to-be majority in this country, and present majority in the Southwest, seem to be pretty much told that they just materialized out of the blue one day (or worse, that whites were there before them and their ancestry begins and ends with the border fence).
Isn’t that messed up? That we’re not just not teaching such a huge part of American history, but there are people trying to actively suppress it?
And to what end?
This isn’t the sanitizing and whitewashing we see with African-American history, this is a utter and wholesale erasing. But why?
Is there really some great and terrible fear that the Southwest is going to secede? Are Governor Brewer’s cronies lying awake at night waiting for Latinos to come marching up the streets with torches and pitchforks? Are these people really so xenophobic that ****ing Shakespeare is getting pulled from the classroom?
Does anyone actually think that the abuelita picking up her grandkids from school is still bent out of shape by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo?
I don’t think so.
But my government banning books? Trying to gloss over a couple centuries of oppression and bigotry? Erasing the memory of the struggle of countless men and women?
Now that would tick me off…
If you’re interested in a good book about the history imbedded in a novel, Michener’s “Texas” is a great place to start. Admittedly, it’s a brick but he is dedicated to tracking all of the various influences in Texas history and really makes it clear how different patterns and people groups emerged and changed over time. I think the narrative of “sneaking into OUR country” is a perfidious lie that needs to be verbally and consistently corrected. It’s easy to rewrite an invasion when you ban all of the other books.
This really stems from the core problem with education in the U.S., which you touched on in a recent post. Our schools aren’t teaching our kids HOW to think, they’re teaching them WHAT to think. The only way to do that effectively is to manipulate the facts, and that’s exactly what’s happening here. That’s why Columbus has to be a brave man who fought against the “predominant” idea that the earth was flat, rather than a self-promoting exploitative maniac who gave 13-year-old American girls to his officers as sex slaves.
I am so angry right now.
Also, I kept thinking of things to comment but then you said them in your post. So now all I can say is that I’m angry.
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