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Latinos Under Siege in Arizona: Ethnic Studies Attacked

Updated on May 19, 2010

Barely a month after SB1070, Chicanos are being targeted on another front

Here we go again.

Just after rendering that desert state's Latino population as targets for racial profiling by passing SB1070, which forbids illegal immigration and gives police officers more power in rooting out those suspected of being there illegally, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed a bill that intends to censor the Tucson Unified School District's ethnic studies program.

According to Tom Horne, Arizona's chief of schools, Tucson's K-12 program, which includes the history and literature of Mexican Americans and other Latinos, favors "ethnic chauvinism" and reverse racism toward whites, indoctrinating Chicano students to the notion that  Caucasians of European descent hate and oppress them.

To be blunt, Horne and Brewer just don't get it.

Academic programs that focus on ethnic groups of color do not seek to separate students on the basis of color or culture, nor do they seek to paint a picture of whites as evil devils. Ethnic studies programs serve to teach children belonging to underrepresented minorities the importance and influence of their race to society, which has been ignored for many decades in the mainstream curriculum.

As Malcolm X, the radical civil rights activist, stated in his 1965 autobiography:

"...history has been 'whitened' - when white men had written history, the black man (and Hispanics in this case) simply had been left out."

In other words, it was only in a fleeting and stereotypical way that people of color were covered in class lessons. As an example of this, according to his autobiography when Malcolm X was in his history class in junior high, the Black section in the textbook "...was exactly one paragraph long...(talking) about how the Negroes had been slaves and then were freed, and how they were usually lazy and dumb and shiftless."

Mexican Americans were given the same treatment in school lessons for as long as Blacks were, which is why in the case of Tucson's school district, their studies program that focuses on that population is essential not only in the education of students of Latin descent, but all youngsters; the same goes for any program whose curriculum centers on an ethnic group of color.

Horne and Brewer have stated that kids should not be taught to have any animosity towards anyone; they feel that Tuscon's program does just that. According to Paul Senseman, a spokesman for Governor Brewer, "...students should be taught to ...value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent...other races..."

I'm sorry, but if students were taught to value each other regardless of race, culture or ethnicity in American schools during the past 125 years, there wouldn't have been a need for any kind of ethnic studies program; Latino, African American, Asian or otherwise.

Various human rights groups from the United Nations have already moved to condemn this bill. Having experience in education, I fear that this new law will water down this program that Tucson's 32,000 Hispanic students - which consists of 56% of the district - need in order to learn, understand, and develop pride about their heritage.

All of this is quite unfair, really; first Arizona passes this anti-immigration law that effectively declares open season on anyone with a Spanish surname, now this bill becomes law. If the Hispanic population of that state with the 115 degree temperatures on a regular basis aren't being targeted with this legislation, then I have no idea what being targeted means.

It is clear that just like SB1070, this bill needs to be nullified by the courts, so that Arizona's children of Latin descent do not cheated out of a vital part of their education.



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