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Help fight Ariz. bill to ban ethnic student groups like MEChA, Black Business Students Assoc.

Multiculturalism is a basic American concept. We value the beliefs, traditions, customs, arts, history and folklore of the diverse cultures reflected throughout our nation. All this is being put at risk in Arizona, where last week the Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to a routine homeland security bill, SB 1108 that would prohibit students at the state’s public universities and community colleges from organizing groups based on race. (Ie: groups such as MEChA, the Black Business Students Association, Native Americans United, etc).

Please take action today. This bill could reach the Arizona House floor as early as this week. To take action go to:

According to newspaper reports, Rep. John Kavanagh, (R-Scottsdale), a supporter of the measure called these campus organizations, "'self-defeating' and 'self-destructive' for students."

Self-defeating? Multiculturalism doesn’t limit students. It gives them pride in who they are and enhances their being fuller people by fostering the concept of America being the land of opportunity. As Cesar Chavez said, "Preservation of ones culture doesn’t mean contempt for others."

These student groups are like any other school club or fraternity. They bring students together so they can achieve academic success. They offer a place to meet, make friends and support one another. Their goal is to help students succeed. For example, the members of the University of Arizona's MEChA chapter visit high schools to encourage students to attend college. They hold events and fundraisers to spread the message that education is the key to success.

The bill goes one step further. It also would ban public schools or colleges from including race based classes or school sponsored activities. Officially the language says it would ban any activity "deemed contradictory to the values of American democracy or Western civilization". However, the language is so broad, who knows what could be prohibited? Certainly Chicano studies, African-American studies & other ethnic studies programs will be put at risk.

Studies show that students who learn about their race and culture have a lower drop out rate. In truth, if this bill passes it could cause a huge set back in our educational system.

Please take immediate action. If you live in Arizona, e-mail your representatives immediately as well as the Speaker of the House.  If you live outside Arizona, please e-mail the Arizona Speaker of the House today and let him know the eyes of the nation are on Arizona.

To take action go to:

Originally posted to ufw on Thu Apr 24, 2008 at 08:25 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  White supremist groups (0+ / 0-)

    I understand your argument here, but I think it's worthwhile to note that allowing public schools to create 'race based' groups and activities would also allow for white supremist/"white pride" type groups.  To be honest, I don't have much of a problem allowing public institutions to say 'no' to all of these groups.  I realize it would restrict some good or benevolent groups and activities but it would also prevent a lot of repugnant ones too.

    I do have a problem with this:

    Officially the language says it would ban any activity "deemed contradictory to the values of American democracy or Western civilization".

    It's very broad and I have no idea what it means really.

    Personally, I'm not much of a fan of identity politics and ethnically based identity organizations anyway.  I realize there are good ones that do public service.  I just wish we could find other ways to achieve common ground and do good works without fixating on ethnicity so much.  Ethnicity is interesting and enjoyable to explore, but it's only a part of who we are as people. Identity politics is so divisive and often somewhat destructive.

    "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Ghandi

    by Triscula on Thu Apr 24, 2008 at 08:37:19 AM PDT

  •  Multiculturalism is defenitely not (0+ / 0-)

    a basic American concept.  At one time groups like these may have been a good thing.  As an African-American I can see the value, but I think the issues behind race are changing and eliminating student groups based on race or ethnicity is a good thing.  Kids are evolving and I think it is dangerous for adults to project their issues onto what young people are facing.  

    A much better idea would be for the kids to form groups based on values.  Race is a social construct anyway created by racist individuals to oppress others.  Creating groups based on race just continues that horrible tradition.  

    •  You Don' Understand Arizona (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ufw, mariachi mama
      This state has a lot of people who moved here to get away from having to deal with ethic or racial diversity.  They believe that America is still the white, Anglo enclave that they saw it as back in the 1940s and 50s.  There is kind of a conservative cult here that is very virulent about this.

      Another layer here that probably is hard to relate to anywhere else is that there are some 22 indian tribes that mostly live in ancient homelands.  That ended up happening because there was so much land out here and so much of it was arid and non-productive from the point of view of the nineteenth century east coast whites who decided where to put indian reservations.

      As the nineteenth century turned into the 20th, there were more people looking for ranch land and then there were discoveries of the value of oil, uranium and other resources.

      The racist attitudes towards native americans from the nineteenth century have not gone away.  There has not really been a civil rights movement out here.  

      The border was never a line but kind of a region, where traditionally family ties and the ability to trade back and forth were ubiquitous.

      This amorphous interrelatedness that is very ancient is running into the hysteria over terrorism which is mixed right in there with the old hatreds for "savages."

      Like I said, you probably don't believe it.  This situation in Arizona isn't like anywhere else in the US.

      But you can relate to racial and ethnic hatreds from the pre-civil rights 1950s and 1940s.  That's where it is at, at least to the so-called conservatives who are pandering to this layer of backward thinking.  

      I would urge you to write the email, sign the petition, whatever.  This should  not be supported by default by progressives from urban settings who live in a more fortunate circumtance.

      •  I probably don't understand Arizona (0+ / 0-)

        but I would still have to say the same thing.  The point being what I believe is less important than what I believe in.  The post mentioned black business groups which defenitely mean a urban setting to me and I just don't think that is neccessary.  

        I am not interested in anything that is crushing someones culture but at the same time I think those that want to continue to group themselves by race on all sides minority or not do so at their own peril.

    •  Probably not constitutional (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      freedom of association is encoded in the Bill of Rights

  •  The underlying problem (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a routine homeland security bill

    In that very concept alone, that of a "routine" "homeland security" bill, are a multiplicity of evils, of which these sorts of limits on freedom of association are only one.

  •  Do they allow religious clubs? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Hmm, I suspect the answer is "yes".

    Interesting bit of hypocrisy.

    I wonder what would happen if some students started a "Junior Minuteman" club.  Bet that would be approved too.  Because, you know, shooting illegal aliens extrajudicially is an American value.

    We're pro-choice on everything! - Libertarian slogan

    by CA Libertarian on Thu Apr 24, 2008 at 08:51:07 AM PDT

  •  Identity group v. Supremacy group (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unterhausen, ufw

    I don't think white supremacy gets a pass if you allow ethnic identity groups, nor does banning ethnic identity groups neccessarily even ban white supremacy.  White supremacy is an ideology, which in theory anyone may believe in.  Being ethnic is a status which you cannot change.  Groups are allowed to form based on ideologies, but the legislation purports to prohibit organization based on status.

    I think the bill is terrible.  IMHO, the way to deal with the apparent contradiction of allowing ethnic identity groups and prohibiting ethnic discrimination is inclusiveness.  At my university, there are jewish groups, south asian groups, black groups, etc. but they are required to allow anyone to be a member and to attend events.  As a result, plenty of people belong to these identity groups and get to express their identities in this way, but there also are people who do not belong to the (ethnic or cultural) group but participate nonetheless, either because of an interest in or tie to the culture, or because they have friends in the group.

  •  Arizona has a problem with diversity (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ufw, mariachi mama
    It happens that I live on the Navajo Nation, on the campus of Dine' College, the nation's first tribally funded and controlled college.

    One of the programs that has the greatest breadth and depth and from which the core of the college's purpose arose forty years ago, is that of teacher education.  

    From the nineteenth into the twentieth century, the Federal government or missionary goups ran the only schools out here.  They were dedicated to eradicating Navajo language and culture, and to the propositin that indian kids could never be considered to have potential above menial labor.  

    Since the college, and other tribal colleges began, there has been a lot of progress is assuring that students gain confidence in themselves and that their potential is essentially limitless by grounding them in their native language and culture.  The school's stated educational philosophy is
    Sa'a N'gai Bikeh Hozhoon.  It is pretty much untranslatable sacred phrase that is meant more as an emblem of pride in the most profound cultural wisdom.  This is a culture, after all that is much older than the US.  

    This educational philosophy has been working.  There are now quite a few kids that have gone on to Harvard law, to become outstanding in medical practice and into business.

    For some reason, there are state legislators in Arizona who want to go back to the days when students who spoke their own language and expressed their own cultural pride had their mouths washed out with lye soap.

    I would urge everyone to send this racism back to the nineteenth century where it belongs.  It has no place in the 21st.  I think this is well worth every single blogger's time.

    And send it on to everyone you know.

  •  Against it, but now for it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unterhausen, ufw

    I used to oppose much multiculturalism in the classroom because I thought it was to rigidly PC. Some still is, but that is not my point.

    The more I researched, the more my opinion changed and the more I saw multiculturalism as a positive thing rather than a negative.

    Multiculturalism, I have learned, is not the problem. The problem is how White Americans are clinging to outdated notions that they are the majority and this is a White, Christian nation, etc. Our population and ethnicity has never been static and new immigrant groups change this every few decades.

    IMO this will be even less of a problem for future generations, because children are much more tolerant than their parents.

    The best way to fight this kind of b.s. is to expose jerks like Kavanaugh for the bigots that they are. Ironically, Irish immigrants were subject to stereotypes and outright abuse by Americans, thus the need to form their own immigrant associations, as many ethnic groups did later.

    •  "Multiculturalist" argument misses the point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ufw, DMIer

      This isn't about multiculturalism.

      This is about freedom of association.  Freedom of assembly.  Freedom of speech.  Other unenumerated rights under the 9th amendment.  This is about constitutional rights.

      If students want to freely associate - and it that association happens to be along ethnic lines - that's their right as Americans.  That's a core value of American democracy.  This is what makes this bill so incredibly hypocritical.

      Just take it right back to the First and Ninth Amendments - and the Fourteenth for that matter should the government be using these rules in a discriminatory fashion.

      We're pro-choice on everything! - Libertarian slogan

      by CA Libertarian on Thu Apr 24, 2008 at 10:12:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is really interesting on so many fronts (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CA Libertarian

    I remember being a student doing a double BA: English and a homemade degree called "Cross Cultural Arts." I was the only non-African-American student in an African American Literature course. The professor had come to the US from British Virgin Islands, she seemed excited to get into the course work; I sat in the front.

    We head into the second hour, after a break, and Prof asks me, in front of the class, "So, R ... why are you here?" I thought it was odd she asked me that question but told her, "Because I am interested in African-American literature." She then alluded at me potentially being uncomfortable in the class (I wasn't until then). I told her that I grew up in a housing project in NY and have seen more racism, on both sides of the color line, than one person should in a lifetime. I then asked the Prof, "Are you uncomfortable that I am here?" Of course she said, "No." My classmates applauded.

    When I studied Jazz in American Culture, there was more of the same. What's the white boy doing here? I had to justify to more people that I was friendly with the Davis family, the Mingus family and was a bass player who planned to study with another well-known name, ironically (or not) a black guy.

    I can go on with these examples of "reverse racism" or whatever the keywords are today. I can tell you what it was like to learn about the Spanish Jews and  the Hassidim while having an Italian last name. & equally I can tell you about my Italian film course, and how it all depicted Italians as members of the Costa Nostra.

    The reason for this comment is because I can tell you all these things because there were programs for me to study in, groups to hang out in (including a Rastafarian soccer club, where I was affectionately known as "Casper") If there is any reason for these programs to exist it is for more people to get in there to open people up, not only to one another, but to the community as a whole.

    You should have seen the reactions on the face of academics when I would sway our discussions from race and ethnic differences to class similarities. If I were still a student I would form the "Group for the Working Class." I am willing to bet we'd have a very colorful room of people with different shades of pigmentation, accents from the newly arrived, and accents from those born in Brooklyn, claiming to be third generation American.

    Thanks for this post, very interesting indeed.

  •  I wish the majority would understand (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That there culture is everywhere and that it is absolutely necessary for people to identify differently to create their own spaces.  Great diary and thanks for alerting me to this.


    The U.S. "immigration debate" has lost sight of justice.

    by kyledeb on Thu Apr 24, 2008 at 12:29:27 PM PDT

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