Tucson's ethnic-studies program violates Arizona law, judge rules
Tucson's Mexican American studies program violates state law, an Arizona administrative law judge ruled Tuesday, paving the way for the program's possible demise.
Judge Lewis D. Kowal affirmed a prior decision by the state's schools chief that the Tucson Unified School District's program violates a new law prohibiting divisive ethnic-studies classes.
John Huppenthal, the state superintendent of public instruction, had deemed the program in violation in June. Among other things, the law bans classes primarily designed for a particular ethnic group or that "promote resentment toward a race or class of people."
Richard Martinez, attorney for Save Ethnic Studies, issued a statement in response to the ruling:
No one should be surprised by the ALJ decision released today affirming John Huppenthal’s Finding against the TUSD Mexican American Studies program.
Notably, the ALJ dodged the constitutional questions that HB 2281 presents; this is a state statute that intentionally treats Mexican Americans different from any other group. Latinos are essentially the victims of a statute that imposes a frontal lobotomy on Latino history and culture, as if neither exists, is of no value and certainly not an integral part of the history of the United States.
I wrote about this in Latinos in the U.S.: the assault on Chicana/o studies. What I want to stress today is that this disturbing example of open bigotry cannot and should not be ignored by any of us who call ourselves progressives, liberals or Democrats.
You don't have to be Mexican American.
You don't have to be Chicano/a.
You don't have to be Latino/a or Hispanic.
You don't have to be a person of color.
You don't even need to be a student or a teacher.
For decades, we have all fought to change the outmoded "canon" of his-story to no longer be a closed, ivory-towered bastion of white/male/elite faradiddles. Most of us have ascribed to Howard Zinn's vision in A People's History of the United States.
We have fought for pride and people's power under many banners: Black Pride, Gay Pride, Women's Power, The 99 Percent.
We know the adage from Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Imagine a school curricula stripped of blacks, Jews, gays, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and women. We have fought too long to establish (with great difficulty) cracks in the ivory tower with programs like Black Studies, Women's studies, Gender studies, Queer Studies, Ethnic and Cultural studies to ignore the erosion of those victories (and they were victories we can all claim) to now pay little or no attention to what is happening in Arizona: state sponsored and judicially endorsed slamming of the door on what we've earned.
It is almost laughable that in a state with the name Arizona, "derived from the O'odham name alĭ ṣonak meaning 'small spring,'" and a population that is almost one third Latino, which is also "home to the largest number of speakers of Native American languages in the 48 contiguous states," the idea of ethnic studies has been distorted into somehow being racist.
I didn't grow up in an area with any Mexican Americans. The Spanish I learned was New York Puerto Rican (Nuyorican). I didn't meet any Mexican Americans until I spent some time in California and in Texas as an adult. Thankfully I had, and took, the opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of Mexican Americans, Chicanos and Tejanos. I am still learning.
How can any person who wants to consider themselves "American" remain ignorant about one of the largest ethnic groups in our nation? How can we deprive any group of the right to embrace their history and culture?
Hispanophobia is on the rise in the U.S. So is hate—of all kinds. Just check the Southern Poverty Law Center for examples. Along with the rise of hate crimes, is the right-wing pushback against education and educators. Key in all of this is our willingness to fight for more than just our own particular interest group. We must see the danger in allowing the right wing to win against any of us.
Today I am black. Today I am female. Today I am LBGT.
Hoy soy Chicana.