Arizona Does It Again — This Time Banning Ethnic Studies!

May 12th, 2010 · 28 Comments

The Grand Canyon state has done it again. Just weeks after passing the controversial SB 1070, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer today signed into law a bill that targets ethnic studies programs.

The bill that Brewer signed today “prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.”

The Tuscon School district offers a Mexican-American studies program, in addition to courses in Native-American and African-American studies. The  focus is on ethnic history, literature, and information about the influences of these particular groups. However, law makers who promoted the bill believe that these courses teach students that they are oppressed by whites.

I’m a product of public schools that did not have ethnic studies, but I remember as a young high school student that I was always eager to read books by Hispanic authors such as Rudolfo Anaya, Ana Castillo, or even the great Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez and was ready to immerse myself in the studies about my culture. I sought it out on my own, and fortunately, my parents encouraged it. But many students don’t have those resources or parents who encourage discovery and learning about their culture in addition to exploring other ethnic groups and traditions.

Regardless of what one thinks about ethnic studies and whether it is a valuable discipline or not, completely shutting these courses down may do more harm than good. I was able to speak with Cindy Mosqueda, a Ph.D. student in higher education and blogger at Loteria Chicana. Mosqueda was a Chicano studies student at UCLA as an undergraduate, and she indicated that in her experience ethnic studies was not about teaching ethnic superiority nor was it a continual lesson in being oppressed.

Mosqueda expressed, “In fact in fact, we were encouraged to take classes outside the department, and I got to know students of other ethnicities better that way.”

While I have never formally immersed myself in ethnic studies from an academic perspective, I can appreciate the teaching of different ethnic traditions and the notion that there should be multiple points of view taught in the public schools. We have never been a ‘one curriculum fits all nation’, and completely shutting down these ethnic studies courses might turn off students who are marginal students — the ones who might benefit from learning about their history and reading the works of authors from their ethnic group. The generic public school curriculum is boring enough as it is. The history books already censor and omit so much that shutting down ethnic studies is a small minded solution for Arizona’s public school children. With the signing of this bill, Governor Jan Brewer ratcheted up the level of scrutiny her state will face from all who care about diversity and equitable policy.

Tags: African-Americans · Books · diversity · Education · Latino History

28 responses so far ↓

  • 1 rm // May 13, 2010 at 10:59 am

    they are correct. no one group should be chastized or singled out, period. why dont we teach, American studies. Not latino, black, white or whatever studies. We have become a culture, that should be taught. the ethnic studies group does not see the forest through the trees. As long as these groups isolate themselves and demand equal rights (they already have by law) they continue to say about themselves” I need help” I’m not equal” it appears as though they are pointing out a deficiency of their group

  • 2 RAMON // May 13, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    With the passage of HB 2281, governor brewer (lower case, for emphasis) has pulled back the veil behind the recent events in Nazizona. There can be no pretense now. SB 1070 and now HB 2281 are clearly attacks on the Chicano and indigenous peoples of Arizona. The state has for all intents and purposes declared war on nuestra gente. I have long been involved with ethnic studies and have never known any such program to promote the overthrow of the US government or racial hatred. One can only hope that these attacks only to serve to mobilize our community in the same way that Prop. 187 did in California. Message to the GOP, remember Prop. 187!!!

    Don’t agonize, raza, organize!!!

  • 3 Chicano future tense // May 13, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Native American,Chicano,Black,Asian studies are American studies!!
    What racists and xenophobes don’t want is the true history of America being taught to their kids out of fear they will reject,damn and carry a burden of historical shame and guilt from the foul deeds of their forefathers who rob,stold,murdered and swindled Native Americans out of their lands,Africans into slavery,Mexicans robbed of territory and Asians being put in concentration camps and Chinese being excluded from the USA..
    No wonder racists and xenophobes are scared to death of true”American” history being taught to their kids..after all who would feel pride in a legacy of cruelty,theft,murder and robbery???
    “American history”-the biggest dirty little secret buried deep under ground where to be seen..out of sight ..out of mind..

  • 4 What the ... // May 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    All true Chicano future tense, I guess its time for all Mexicano’s to back to our perfect country, Mexico, as if they don’t have any skeletons…

  • 5 Reyfeo // May 14, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Have you even seen the curriculum on these studies? Probably not…!
    …they are not targeting the typical Black, Latino studies etc, they are targeting courses that teach principals on overthrowing the US GOVERNMENT! What part of that is okay? You keep spreading false accusations. I assure you you would have issue with Islam teaching a course on bombing the US. There are courses being taught that say California, NM, AZ and Texas should be given back to Mexico and the “how to” help push that agenda…that’s wrong and if you can’t see that your freaking crazy! They are not targeting social studies of the varying heritages.

    Also, RM makes a good point…we keep putting ourselves in the “we’re a minority” class…please grow up. Any racial injustices can be taken care of in court; we’re not in the 60s anymore folks. People need to see themselves as Americans first, period.

  • 6 Benito Camela // May 14, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Monchito & Chicano Future tense:
    Que par de tontos, ustedes viven en el mejor y mas generoso pais del mundo. Pero ya veo que estan enfermos con tanta rabia…si este pais esta tan lleno de odio y racismo y maltrata a “la raza” porque creen que tanta de “nuestra gente” hasta ponen en peligro sus vidas por vivir aqui, y ser “america”….

    I hope your ethnic studies taught you a little spanish and you can understand……

    Benito Camela Paloma

  • 7 Chicano future tense // May 14, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    @>>> What the …
    No…Mexico is far from perfect..
    I don’t live in Mexico..I live here in the USA..
    by struggling for democracy,justice and self-determination for La Raza here in the USA I am doing the same thing for the La Raza in Mexico..

  • 8 Reyfeo // May 15, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Futre lost tense: Why would you care about “La Raza” in Mexico? They give a rats a$$ about you here. Truth be told, you’re not an American if you think saving the “Latino Race” is your primary concern…saving the American way of life should be your #1 goal. If you served a day of service to this great country you’d get that, but you won’t…you’re just another confused, “viva la raza” fanatic who has no clue about being an American first. And I assure you that has nothing to do with giving up your heritage.

  • 9 What the ... // May 16, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Future tense. If you consider yourself American, you need to consider the fact that that as American’s we are a melting pot of races working together for the same goals. Being Latino is just culture, your nationality and loyalty should be to the American way of life. That should be your struggle. Affiliating yourself to the struggle of one ethnic group, while claiming to be American, could be construed as racism…

  • 10 Mr. Spock // May 17, 2010 at 3:30 am

    Have they( the people who claim these classes teach kids to overthrow the government) provided any links to where in the ethnic classes they say something along the lines of “We came unarmed, this time” or something like “Obama is a facist” or “we need to take our country back”? I’m just wondering

  • 11 RAMON // May 18, 2010 at 8:01 am

    We have always considered ourselves as Americans and nothing else. The problem was that other “Americans” didn’t see us such. The Treaty of Guadalupe granted US citizenship and other rights to those Mexicanos who chose to remain in the Southwest after the conquest. Over time, Mexicanos lost their lands to Anglos through deceitful means and, in some cases , murder. Mexicano and Mexican Americans were lynched and subjected to discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity. In spite of this, Mexican Americans demonstrated their loyalty to this country. Witness the large numbers of Mexican American servicemen who volunteered or were drafted during WWII, Korea, Vietnam. Witness the large number of them who have been recipients of the Medal of Honor and other military awards. Yet, when some WWII veterans returned home from the war they could not get served in restaurants (“No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed”) or could not get buried in a public cemetery because whites would not allow that. Witness the story of Pvt. Felix Longoria. Racial covenants in may areas prevented Mexican Americans, including veterans, from buying homes in certain areas of town.

    Chicano (and other ethnic) studies teach students about this and other facts. This is not done to promote racial hatred, resentment, or the overthrow of the US government. Ethnic studies were created to present students with a more complete history of American history. An American history that did not omit the contributions of people of color to the development of this country.

  • 12 chalan // May 18, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I always thought I am an American, first and foremost. Served in the military, pay taxes, never got in trouble with the law, and went to college and graduate school; Yet it was white racist Americans who called me Mexican, dirty Mexican, greaser and more. Few called me American. As one who helped to pioneer ethnic and Chicano studies in American Higher Education, no where do I recall in the curriculum the call for the over throw of the United States Government nor the exodus of the border states to Mexico. What I do remember and still find it true today is that ethnic studies promotes pride in being who you are by high lighting the contributions of people like you and the contributions of your communities to the American Culture. My ancestors were in the Southwestern United States since the late 1600’s and contributed as much or more to the development of the western half of this country and yet they receive very little recognition for their efforts. According to history books and classes we didn’t exist. Ethnic studies supplements those courses by providing a view from the other perspective. I see nothing wrong with that. There are people like Reyfeo who only wants one side promoted — the conservative white side.

  • 13 irma // May 18, 2010 at 2:22 pm


    Put up or shutup. I ask you to provide proof that”there are courses being taught that say California, NM, AZ and Texas should be given back to Mexico and the “how to” help push that agenda…that’s wrong and if you can’t see that your freaking crazy!”

    Reyfeo, I must say that I don’t think you are a Hispanic American. Even your name is strange,
    I wonder whether it is a real name.

    Further, while I doubt that the overthrow of
    the United States is being taught in Chicano studies classes , there is nothing wrong in discussing the idea . Are you familiar with the concept of academic freedom?

  • 14 irma // May 18, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    What the…,

    Define the American way of life.

    Prior to 1865, selling and buying black people was the American way of life.

    Prior to 1935, Mexicans weren’t allowed to go to school in Kaufman, Texas. My grandfather enrolled my mother and her siblings that year.
    The next day, the rest of our community followed their lead.

    Prior to the 1960s, there were quotas on the
    number of Jews being admitted to Ivy league schools. Good grades weren’t enough , you see.

    Genocide of the American Indian.

    Invading Iraq based on a lie.

    Yes, all of this was/is the American way.

  • 15 Reyfeo // May 19, 2010 at 7:24 am

    @ chalan: News flash dumb ass, if you were born here, you are gringo. You put race over citizenship first and so that’s the difference between us. If you’re willing to admit that we might atleast agree to disagree on this and move on. Do you know how many of my White friends I hear were called honky, white supremist (when they weren’t)? And yours is the reason for a great cause?…like I said, get over it…our youth need you to start teaching them that this is America where education and a will to succeed get you places NOT your sympathetic and pathetic “poor me” crap.
    @ irma: my kid brought a history book on “chicano” studies…in it you’ll find statements like “occupied America” and how we “stole” the Southwest from Mexico and that perhaps in the future we “may” give it back. Are you okay with this…bet you are? And so again, that’s the difference between you and I.
    In your world you pretend this doesn’t happen, but we’re living it everyday here in AZ…You’re clueless to this because all you know is books. Get out of your office and off that comfy leather chair and learn something. A little research in Google (after all the New York Times rhetoric) will show you the rest of the story.

  • 16 webmaster // May 19, 2010 at 9:12 am

    “@ chalan: News flash dumb ass, if you were born here, you are gringo. ”

    Reyfeo, consider this your warning. If you can’t articulate yourself without using “dumb ass,” then I will not approve your comments.

    As for being called a gringo, I was born here, but all the time, I get people asking me “what nationality are you?” When I tell them that I was born in the United States, they tend to want more and ask about my name, whether I eat tacos, whether I had a quinceañera, etc. It is never good enough to just be American in the eyes of some.

  • 17 chalan // May 19, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Reyfeo…, even my new entering freshman at the University are better informed then you. Having traveled the planet, I am convinced this is the best place on the planet…, but I am also able to look at its faults and try to correct them and teach my students to work to make this a better place for future generations. You on the other hand are a total loss, a clueless bore and ashamed of who you are. Pobrecito, tu no vales la pena!

  • 18 irma // May 19, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    So again, Reyfeo – give me the title and publisher of the one book you claim exists.

  • 19 Reyfeo // May 20, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Ok Irma, I’ll prove my point to you on this very website.
    Chalan, in all your teachings at the college/university level, do you believe that we stole the Southwest from Mexico and if so you believe we should return it to them and pay them some type of severance for it, perhaps in the form of total amnesty and or open borders?
    You see Irma, the same person who thinks I am promoting a “White” conservative agenda (which is a VERY racist comment on its own) won’t answer the question because he believes this crap and it makes my point. His Chicano studies have a foundation rooted in being American but only if it rights a perceived wrong. He and many like him have a “revolutionary” mentality very dangerous to the country I love, the same one he says he proudly served…and yet he and many teachers in our institutions like him undermine her existence through personal beliefs we can never change.
    BTW Chalan, its not a “white” conservative agenda I’m resonating…if you got out of your tenured leather chair, you’d realize most of your students come from “white” conservative homes…its filled with Abuelitos, Tio, Tias, Madre y Padre who are by and far conservative. Por favor, amigo, enséñate ha escuchar antes de enseñar.

  • 20 Noel // May 21, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I hate when someone latino comes up to me and asks me something in spanish. wtf? and if i don’t speak it i’m called a gringo, so what……..I speak english! they’re being racist towards me. I careless about whats being taught in school, isn’t welfare enough?

  • 21 chalan // May 21, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    reyfeo..,. no I don’t believe we stole the southwest from mexico. We beat them out of it and claimed the rest which is the way it was. I do know and thewre are records to back me up on this, that some whites did steal property from mexicans who were left in the new United States and it happened large scale. “Tenured leathered chair” Where did you dig that up, on Google? My students come from all backgrounds and the majority do not come from “white” conservative homes. They come from the many Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin , and African cultures represented on our campus. And, they represent the totality of the political spectrum which makes it fun to teach and learn from. Finally, you are so busy defending your biased “white” conservative crap that you have stopped listening and learning… and you have become a clueless bore. Que lastima que tu no entiendes lo que dices.

  • 22 irma // May 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    So again, Reyfeo – give me the title and publisher of the one book you claim exists.

  • 23 irma // May 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

    “Por favor, amigo, enséñate ha escuchar antes de enseñar”

    Reyfeo, this statement is not proper Spanish.
    No Hispanic would express themselves this way in Spanish- even if they couldnt speak Spanish. Sir, you are misrepresenting yourself.

  • 24 The Battle Over Ethnic Studies in Arizona // Sep 26, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    […] in May, I wrote about how the state of Arizona codified in law a bill, HB 2281, banning ethnic studies curriculums […]

  • 25 Jose Arevalo // Nov 9, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Racial tensions again….. Did we forget abbot proposition 187 of 1984?

  • 26 Felix Jaure // Mar 28, 2011 at 8:29 am

    “WE must all stand and applaud the marvelous work of this patriotic man and woman who we all credit for their devotion to the cause of freedom, and defence of the state of Arizona.

    These citizens of valor who against all odds, and without regard for their own lives, have single handedly managed to stop a revolution, with the potential, to over throw the government of the United States of America.

    There are no words to describe the courage of this two Americans. Now we must honor them with the highest decoration that some of the people (70 percent) of Arizona feel obligated to bestow upon them.

    The citation reads as follows: Governor Jan Brewer, and Superintendent of public instruction Thomas Horne, knowen for their courage among fellow politicians, have without regard for their own lives, abolished Ethnic studies, and averted a take over by highly skilled revolutionist, all of whom are of Hispanic decent. Who threw the study of their culture, posed a threat to the American way of life, and national security.

    The radical group calling themselves the Tucson unified school district was dismantled.

    Governor Brewer, and Thomas Horne, were quick to point out that Arizona is the state of one culture, the people of one language, and no others will be accepted as a part of their curricular, in the their state, of Arizona.

  • 27 HenryM // May 19, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Chicano Clubs and Chicano Studies are part of American History, like it or not… many have contributed to the freedom and liberties of everyone.
    Fact , not fiction.

    this is Republican Hate and Disparity policies ~ mere cultural warfare… what i love about it? is it is bleeding over to class and group warfare on all the people…more big republikkkan regime fascist policies aimed at the people from the bottom up. anything to dilute their vote and control them to abuse their power on those who they plan to socially engineer to oppress, segregate them with voter districting and voter suppression with re districts. all discrimination illegal and unconstitutional. can you say flip flop gop? double standards? a set of one for you and another for themselves? cutting education and health care funds , and not cutting the health care costs and the price gouging of medicine , is part of the ongoing problem , not the solution to balance the budget , while they deliberately stuffed both stimulus bills full of piggy back bills to later say theres too much spending, while using jobs and saying the president should not have the full power to do anything he wants to get elected to congress and where are the jobs, and not do anything to vote yes on any single job creation policy or help create a legislation policy to help the economy or the rest of the nation , they get paid and wont work with the rest of the country , that is a dangerous Corporatist favored Coup for ongoing kickbacks for corporate favored policies for donations of their ongoing campaigns. that is the GOP the Republikkkrats. remember this when they collect their checks and vote no for political payback and for political positioning to say the economy is Obamas fault for something they deny any accountability to help the people themselves. time for a new Congress… Time for a New Governor, and a New Senator, time for a message to be sent to the Republicrats.

  • 28 HenryM // May 19, 2011 at 11:59 am

    There seems to be alot of backhanded illegitimate efforts to get anything done or accomplished with the Republikkkcrats involved in any of the efforts in fear of losing power to the people in Arizona, regardless of their cultural warfare upon the people. More importantly its bleeding over to their own base with cutting education and health care to all classes and groups from the bottom up, which is not addressing the underlying problem of the cutting costs of the high costs of health care and insurance and price of consumer products and medicines that are mostly poisonous to the people , seems to be another illegitimate effort to appear as if they are doing something about the economy , when targeting the people they plan to social engineer out of power of helping themselves with re districting, which amounts to voter suppression and voter segregation. Racism, Hate and Fear is alive and well in the Republikkkan Party. they want another Civil War era.
    Any violation of human rights and civil rights is an act of violence… and the people have a right to match force with force to protect themselves in their persons , property and liberties.
    in that regard everyone is mutually

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