Legislators in Arizona are pursuing a white supremacist campaign to erase Mexican American presence from teaching
The onslaught in Arizona of reactionary and immoral racially-based laws has managed to attract worldwide attention. The brown peoples of this state are being relentlessly persecuted by a majority population that wants to forcefully remove us and suppress our rights and deny our humanity. Here, the state has even gone so far as to, via HB 2281, to prohibit the teaching of ethnic studies in Arizona schools.
Unquestionably, the brown peoples of this state are treated as less than human. Not everyone treats us this way – just the majority: mostly conservative Republicans, many of them with a supremacist ideology. Their general attitude is: if you're brown (read Mexican), get the hell out of our God-given country. And for those of you who remain, either assimilate and abide by our [contrived and unconstitutional] laws or face the full wrath of the state.
There is embedded hate against brown peoples in Arizona – the kind associated with the 1800s, a time when the United States forcefully annexed half of Mexico. All of it is thinly veiled under the guise of opposition to "illegal immigration" and "border enforcement". However, the battle here is actually civilisational: brown peoples, many of whom have been here for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, represent the unfinished business of Manifest Destiny. For conservatives, we represent a return to a past in which we are viewed as a conquered, subhuman species. This brazen attitude informs all the recent anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant bills, proposed laws that long for a return to an idyllic past, which, in fact, never existed.
Aside from HB 2281, other bills include : SB 1070 – the racial profiling law; SB 1097 – the proposed law that will require children to identify the immigration status of their parents; and HB 2561/SB 1308 and HB 2562/SB1309 – bills that seek to nullify birthright citizenship (guaranteed by the 14th amendment ) to children whose parents cannot prove their legal status.
And now, state legislators have introduced the most reactionary bill of them all: SCR 1010 (pdf). This bill seeks to exempt Arizona from international laws. With this bill, these legislators are acknowledging that all their anti-Mexican laws are also outside of international law.
The most onerous and under-reported of all of these bills has been HB 2281; its key component is thought control and the enforced teaching of a master narrative. The former state superintendent of schools, Tom Horne, crafted an Inquisition-style law in 2010 that forces Arizona school districts to eliminate their ethnic studies departments. Despite the rhetoric of claiming that these programmes teach hate, racial separation and the overthrow of the US government, the actual target is the highly successful Mexican American studies K-12 programme in Tucson because its philosophical foundation is a 7,000-year maíz-based curriculum. Students are taught indigenous [Mayan] concepts such as: In Lak Ech (you are my other self); Panche Be (to seek the root of the truth) and Hunab Ku (we are all part of creation). Students are taught to see themselves in all human beings, to be critical thinkers, and that they are all equal to other human beings. Not coincidentally, this programme boasts a 97.5% high school graduation rate.
Horne, whom is now attorney general and so in charge of determining the legitimacy of the law he wrote, believes that such indigenous concepts are unAmerican and anti-western civilisation. Instead, he believes that only Greco-Roman concepts should be the basis for Arizona schools and that the nation's narrative should begin with the pilgrim fathers.
And so the civilisational clash.
As a result, a 2010 lawsuit by 11 educators against the state charges that HB 2281 interferes with their ability to teach. There is also a strong possibility of filing a court case with the Organisation of American States (OAS) and/or with the UN, charging Arizona with attempted cultural genocide. All these bills violate virtually every international human rights treaty and covenant, all of which protect the rights of peoples from discriminatory treatment and forced assimilation, and their rights to education, history, language and culture.
This international showdown is long overdue.
Rodriguez is a professor at the University of Arizona and can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com
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