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Racist anti-ethnic studies law upheld in Arizona

From Racist anti-ethnic studies law upheld in Arizona.

Racist anti-ethnic studies law upheld

in Arizona


Decision highlights need for continued

struggle against racism

JANUARY 7, 2012

Student sit-in protesting Ariz. anti-ethnic studies law, May 12, 2011
Photo: Creative Commons/Steev Hise

An administrative judge ruled Dec. 27 that the Tuscon Unified School District’s Mexican-American Studies courses violated state law. Judge Lewis Kowal’s ruling stated that “teaching in such a manner [presenting material in a biased, political and emotionally charged manner] promotes social or political activism against the white people, promotes racial resentment, and advocates ethnic solidarity, instead of treating pupils as individuals.”

The ruling provides legal support to the claimed findings of Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal, who began investigating the TUSD in January 2011, and in June made the same allegations. The TUSD appealed the findings. Students in the district made national headlines by disrupting a Tuscon school board meeting and militantly locking themselves to the chairs of the board members, chanting: “Our education is under attack! What do we do? Fight back!”

The state law referred to by Huppenthal and Kowal is known as HB 2281. This bill was signed into law in May 2010 by the infamously racist Governor Jan Brewer, who did so on the heels of signing the equally racist law SB 1070.

As a senator who voted for HB 2281, Huppenthal appeared on national television along with former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne to adamantly support the new state law, which “prohibits public schools from including courses or classes, which promote the overthrow of the U.S. government or resentment towards a race or class of people.”

Horne went as far as to cite Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream speech,” in which King refers to his dream of having “children be judged, not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” in order to smear ethnic studies programs. Horne cynically used one of the most memorable speeches of a Black leader who sought to bring dignity and justice to Blacks and the poor in order to discredit an educational program that was itself a result of the Civil Rights movement.

The ruling on ethnic studies comes at the end of a year marked by the passage of numerous anti-immigrant laws, the most blatant one being Alabama’s HB 56, parts of which were passed in September 2011. This law requires schools to verify the immigration status of students and penalizes companies that employ undocumented immigrants. The year 2011 also marks the highest number of deportations in U.S. history. Under the Obama administration, over 400,000 people were deported in 2011 alone. There have been more deportations during Obama’s unfinished presidential term than in George W. Bush’s two terms combined.

As the economic crisis is set to deepen in 2012, those in power are resorting to all possible strategies to maintain their control. Under U.S. capitalism, racism has been used to divide the vast majority of people—the working class, in order to protect the interests of the small but highly organized capitalist class.

Understanding the function of racism is important for at least two reasons:

First, it exposes the hypocrisy of racists like Horne. They accuse the oppressed of being “racist” for revealing the true history of a country whose ruling class to this day continues to perpetuate and profit from discrimination on the basis of race.

Second, it points to the need of all the oppressed (the majority of which in the capitalist U.S. belong to the working class) to unite in the fight against racism. We need to rid ourselves of the reason why racism exists in the U.S.: the profit-driven economic system that thrives on racism and discrimination and is run by a tiny minority that dominates and exploits the vast majority of society.

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One thought on “Racist anti-ethnic studies law upheld in Arizona

  1. The reason the far-right of the Republican Party regards ethnic studies as implicitly racist is not because these courses and programmes have any racist content – of course they don’t. It is because even they recognise at some level that the colonial and neo-colonial experience has been devastating and the thought that this truth might be revealed causes a kind of “moral panic” for them. They will go to extraordinary lengths to prevent anything other than a Fox News narrative of history and current affairs from being taught.

    The fight for dissenting, more honest voices to be heard is nothing less than a fight for truth itself to prevail. “The truth must not only be the truth: it must also be told”.

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