Cultural Critique / Politics / Pop Culture / The Color Line

American 21st Century Tyranny: Arizona Immigration and other Ethnic Issues

Without fail, the wantonly foolish of this country create and invent new reasons that make other countries that are not the United States look more and more appealing for relocation.

As if the passing of the immigration reform law last week by Arizona was not enough, and the criticism from the White House of an entire state legislature was not enough, less than a week later the Arizona House thought it was okay to pass a bill that now would ban ethnic studies programs in the state.

The new bill would make it illegal for a school district to teach any courses that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment of a particular race or class of people, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

The bill stipulates that courses can continue to be taught for Native American pupils in compliance with federal law and does not prohibit English as a second language classes. It also does not prohibit the teaching of the Holocaust or other cases of genocide.

Schools that fail to abide by the law would have state funds withheld.

State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Horne called passage in the state House avictory for the principle that education should unite, not divide students of differing backgrounds.

“Traditionally, the American public school system has brought together students from different backgrounds and taught them to be Americans and to treat each other as individuals, and not on the basis of their ethnic backgrounds,” Horne said. “This is consistent with the fundamental American value that we are all individuals, not exemplars of whatever ethnic groups we were born into. Ethnic studies programs teach the opposite, and are designed to promote ethnic chauvinism.”

Horne began fighting in 2007 against the Tucson Unified School District’s program, which he said defied Martin Luther King’s call to judge a person by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Horne claimed the ethnic studies program encourages “ethnic chauvanism,” promotes Latinos to rise up and create a new territory out of the southwestern region of the United States and tries to intimidate conservative teachers in the school system.

But opponents said the bill would prevent teachers from using an academically proven method of educating students about history. They also argued that the Legislature should not be involved in developing school curriculum.

Yes, you read that correctly the state’s superintendent has said that this law was necessary to keep the Latinos from rising up and taking back what was theirs in the first place.  I mean honestly, can you get more hegemonic than to go on record as to say that?  I mean God forbid you instill some heritage into the descendants of the people’s who’s land you stole in the name of Manifest Destiny because God told you to do it.  Which makes me wonder just how was your reaction when Texas’ governor made mention about secession from the Union?  Did you support that type of secession, but to see non-white Latinos do it would be too much.

The fact that the state legislature thought this was enough of an issue to pass a law against it further proves the ideal that “knowledge is power” and the old United Negro College Fund saying that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  These folk, the elected officials in power are more than aware that to teach history in this manner could possibly cause.

Work with me, I’m going somewhere.

It was illegal to teach slaves to read and write prior to 1865 and post-Reconstruction in 1877, the chokehold of the educational process of the Negro was stifled like kudzu plants taking over a barn in southern Mississippi.  And for the Negroes that could read, textbooks included a paragraph maybe two about slavery in the United States.  There was always the fear during slavery that if slaves ever united that slave revolts were going to happen.  That’s why after Nat Turner in 1831 most states passed the laws that made it illegal to teach slaves how to read.

Even as the U.S. entered the 20th century, the level of cultural history that was included in textbooks in the classrooms did not begin until after “Roots” aired on television.  Sad to say, I’m among the first generation of public education students that actually had textbooks with whole units on the antebellum South!  But even then, in the 1990-1991 school year, my mother told a story to me that when the teacher talked about slavery that I came home asking my mother why didn’t the slaves just run away to America?

So, does it matter that this teacher was about as white as they come teaching to a class of about 26 black kids, two Latinos and one white kid?

Oh, and this was the same teacher that had us sing to a recording of “My Country Tis of Thee” every single morning.

But, I laugh because next year, our second grade teacher, a preacher’s wife, made us sing “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing” every single morning before the school day started.  I’m quite convinced this was on purpose.

Nonetheless, we’re seeing the same practices rearing their ugly head again nearly a century later.  We now have a state legislature instilling fear in the “real Americans” having them think that if you teach ethnic diversity in the classroom that soon all the non-whites are going to take up arms and go on a rampage.  Hell, I wouldn’t blame them, especially for the way that they’ve been treated–it’s absolutely inhuman.

So now, in addition to banning classes on ethnic diversity, they’re saying that teachers who don’t speak English fluently enough need to be removed from classrooms of students learning English.  This reeks of slave-owners removing the drums from newly enslaved Africans because they realized that our ancestors communicated via the drums.  And many slave owners forbade slaves to speak in their native tongue because they were “in Amerrrica now.”  I can’t help but see parallels in the same legislative practices today.  Arizona seems to be leading the legal charge that has been put forth by Tea Party ideals around deep-seated xenophobia.  I’d even level a charge of paranoia.  As if Ms. Rodriguez and her kindergarten class are going to lead the next revolucion because they were all communicating in Spanish and Mr. Smith the principal didn’t take it upon himself to learn two languages.

But, even this “we speak English here in America” mindset is national because an Alabama gubernatorial candidate published a whole campaign ad about the money wasted on driver’s license forms in other languages–as if the state’s budget will suddenly be rectified.

Look, I’m just as frustrated when I go to a fast food joint and the language barrier is more than apparent to the point that communication requires a third person, but damn, to start firing folks in the midst of a recession?  The level of xenophobia that’s going around in this country is absolutely appalling.  Between the Tea Partyers who have been dominating the political scene to hearing about Arizona dropping the ball on immigration issues is dismally disappointing.

Using the logic of teachers not speaking fluent English that means that everyone except midwestern and West Coast states should begin firing teachers, because using a broadcaster standard of “midwestern” accent as a barometer, there is a distinctive Northeastern accent from Baltimore and north, don’t get me started on these mush-mouthed people down here in the South, the one’s from Dallas and St. Louis and honestly, even northern Plains states of the Dakotas and Minnesota and some of Wisconsin have a distinctive accent–but does that mean that they’re not qualified to teach under Arizona law?

My third grade Chicagoan teacher said “li-berry” for half the school year–should we have fired her?

With Republicans comparing to immigrants as “grasshoppers” now and even potential U.S. congressional candidates suggesting that we “microchip an illegal” as though there were a wild bear that was tagged for tracking purposes and comparing them to his damn dog, I think we’ve passed the idea “silly season” in politics.  I’m not going to lie, but I seriously thought that after Sarah Palin went back to her cabin in Alaska that this would be the end of it, but apparently not.  This brand of politics is here to stay. Sadly.

I don’t think this brand of politics is the American way–or maybe it is.  Because these ideals run roughshod over that of everyone who’s not white.  But seeing as how conservatives totally dismiss the notion of “white privilege” essentially there’s not much else that’s going to change their mindset.  But Frederick Douglass put it quite simply:

Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to,
and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.  The limits of tyrants are presribed by the
endurance of those whom they oppress.

How long are you willing to endure your oppression?

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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8 thoughts on “American 21st Century Tyranny: Arizona Immigration and other Ethnic Issues

  1. You bring up some excellent points. I think we are in one of those periods where America is on the threshold of major change. I’m not speaking necessarily about Obama, but about societal change. With the advent of the “browning of America”, some people perceive this as a threat to the status quo. Their “way of life” is coming to an end, heaven forbid! People with this type of mind-set lash out in all kinds of ways. This situation can become very volatile if everyone involved aren’t careful.

    • “I think we are in one of those periods where America is on the threshold of major change.”

      And that worries me because I don’t think we’re prepared to handle it this time. Emotionally or intellectually. We have become a very irrational, incoherent bunch that can’t take any news about ANYthing without freaking out. We’re at a crossroads, and I don’t like the direction we’re facing towards.

      • @ Marbles

        We survived the 1960’s man.

        I’m more than convinced we can handle this tumult. And people aren’t getting hosed down in the street from peaceful protests, mayors aren’t ordering police men to “shoot to kill” when dealing with riots, and we haven’t had a race riot in this country and at least five years, we’re not spitting on Vietnam Iraq soldiers when they get off the planes, and did I mention the president is black?

        There will always be DUMB people out there, but I’m confident we’ll survive whatever change will happen.

  2. It’s really all coming to the surface now, isn’t it?

    Maybe I’ve missed it, but have there been any reports examining just what was IN these banned courses? Even removed from context, it’s difficult to see how teaching the history of a region would be equivalent to inciting ethinc hatred or rousing people to “take back” the land. Especially to kids under 11. But then, this is a climate where Obama talking to kids about the importance of studying is viewed as communist indoctrination, so, yeah.

    But it’s amazing how audacious these Arizona legislators are. You almost have to admire them. To be THAT brazen takes….oh, I was gonna say “cajones,” but they wouldn’t like that very much.

    I don’t fault people for being fearful about crime. Violent gangs are a growing problem. But it’s a problem that people’s prejudices on both sides prevent them from fighting effectively. Only cooperation and communication can sooth the rifts between citizens and illegals, but people are either too passive or too bigoted to try building bridges.

    “Even as the U.S. entered the 20th century, the level of cultural history that was included in textbooks in the classrooms did not begin until after “Roots” aired on television.”

    It’s only been occurring to me recently that my experience may have been unusual. I was in a weird experiemental school from 1st thu 3rd grade—mostly Hispanic, some black and white—that taught us about apartheid (this was 1989-90), MLK and Harriet Tubman—almost to the exclusion of everything else (the rest we were expected to basically teach ourselves). I always knew the school was an odd one, but I never stopped to think about the possibility that that extended to normal schools’ not teaching much about slavery. I have no idea either way, honestly, but I’ve been surprised to hear experiences like yours.

  3. good post uppity…i was reading it all serious until you described your teacher using the word “li-berry.” that’s when i lost it and started laughing.

  4. I heard there is actually a Kudzu salad…but I digress… My drum that I’m going to continue to beat is the fact that corporations looking for cheap labor made it easy for these folks to risk life and limb to work for scraps. The same corporations that have jobs in their countries that pay them scraps. But when we talk about the problem it’s as if illegals just decided to piss American’s off and they came over here for a vacation at Six Flags and Kings Dominion and never left. I’m for reform but a reform that is logical and doesn’t involve rounding up people and marching them back to Mexico like the “Trail of Tears.” As far as the ethnic classes go, if you have noticed there is this new thing in America where they are trying to make tragic events that happened to people of color look um……light. The Civil War had nothing to do with Slavery foolishness. The slaves were happy foolishness. The numbers of slaves killed on the boats to get here can’t really be accurate foolishness. The thank God we brought you to America because Africa just wasn’t working out for you so you should be happy foolishness. This revisionist history is enough to make a person throw up twice. Ever since they announced that white folks would be the minority in 2050 some of them have been acting like damn fools. I wish they had of waited until 2049 to mention that. We would have only had a year of craziness….ha ha ha

  5. Interested in continuing the discussion on how the new Arizona immigration law is affecting communities of color across the nation? This week on Basic Black, we’ll take a look at the recent passage of a controversial immigration law in Arizona: the impact of the law on communities of color, the potential for racial profiling, and the moves towards immigration law reform on the federal level. We’ll also discuss the current state of African American & Latino relations. Join our panel: Latoyia Edwards, New England Cable News; Phillip Martin, senior investigative reporter, WGBH Radio; Kim McLarin, writer-in-residence, Emerson College; Marcela Garcia, editor, El Planeta; and Patricia Montes, Executive Director, Centro Presente, tonight at 7:30 on LIVE on Channel 2 in Boston or streaming on the web at http://www.basicblack.org!

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