Edu-Wednesday: Outlawing Chicanos: An Alien Education

Guest post by Reynaldo Macias (@reynaldomacias)

“Yo soy Joaquín,
perdido en un mundo de confusión:
I am Joaquín, lost in a world of confusion,
caught up in the whirl of a gringo society,
confused by the rules, scorned by attitudes,
suppressed by manipulation, and destroyed by modern society.”
- I Am Joaquín, Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

There are people who are afraid of this poem.

This fear has led them, the Arizona legislature, and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to target the Chicano (Mexican American) and population of their state with laws whose purpose is to marginalize, demonize, and ultimately erase the historical contributions of Chicanos; to remove both the legal and illegal persons of Mexican and Chicano descent; and to insure the subservience of people of color in Arizona in perpetuity.

HB2281, the ethnic studies ban in Arizona, which went into effect in January of this year, was written to eliminate Chicano Studies in Tucson, according to the current school superintendent Mr. Huppenthal.  No other ethnic studies programs – African American, Native American, Jewish-American – are impacted by the law.  In fact, only the Mexican American Studies program has even been mentioned in connection with it.  Like SB1070, which allowed “peace officers” to stop and interrogate people who “looked illegal,” the neutral language of the legislation lubricates the racist paradigm which frames, enacts and enforces the law.

It is not coincidence that the Tucson Chicano Studies Program has reversed recent trends of high dropout rates among Latino and African American male students.  Students in the program are also scoring significantly higher on standardized tests and the percentage of students continuing into post-secondary educational settings has increased.  This is the program that threatens and frightens the political leadership in Arizona.  A program that successfully educates and matriculates Mexican American and other students.

Through culturally directed censorship, HB2281 sets a tone that Mexican Americans are bad, illegal, alien, traitorous and a threat.  By extension, Latinos are being held as the scapegoats for a struggling economy, and other ills currently befalling the United States. In the wake of SB1070, more than ten other states enacted or submitted for consideration anti-immigrant laws that demonize undocumented peoples. HB2281, should it be successfully enacted (a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality has been filed), may well engender the same copycat legislation in other states as well.

Teaching that Mexican Americans have a history, that they’ve contributed to building the southwest, from Texas to California (which includes Arizona) directly contradicts the stereotypical picture opponents of the program premise their argument upon. The marginalization of Latinos in the curriculum, then, is a calculated step to casting us as “other” in order to deprive Latino and non-Latino students of knowledge and skills, and to present Latinos as unworthy of the rights and responsibilities bestowed on American citizens. The superintendent’s move to eviscerate funding more quickly than the legislation allows demonstrates the coordinated and planned execution of Latino marginalization in Arizona.

The threat of educating students of color to think, to question, to argue as citizens of the United States is being eradicated by legislating the socratic pedagogy (which uses the colonial history of the American southwest as a basis for identity) out of existence.

It is also important to note that while this legislation is specifically directed at K-8 educational programs, this isn’t an accident.  HB2281 is simply where the legislators and officials had authority at the present time. Pending in the Arizona legislature are at least two bills specifically designed to marginalize Latinos in Arizona:

  • HB2561 – Arizona Citizenship seeks to change the federal citizenship granted to anyone born in the United States under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Under this law people born in the United States would have to have one parent who was a citizen to receive citizenship.
  • SCR1035 - English as the Official Language of Arizona mandates any and all government services must be provided ONLY in English in order to be legally binding. Whether this will apply to public school instruction remains to be seen.

Like Poseidon’s trident, each of these prongs wreaks its own damage amongst the Latino and non-Latino population of Arizona.  They also, as is demonstrated by the fifteen pending laws copying SB1070 in other states, create a template by which this marginalization becomes a national trend of exclusion and vilification.

In attacking children by legislating their history and identity out of the classroom, and removing educators whose pedagogy is successful, these legislators are attempting to create their utopian world where Latinos remain subservient through lack of knowledge, detriment of skills, failure of identity or recognition of deserving our piece of the American pie.

“I am Joaquín.
I must fight
and win this struggle
for my sons, and they
must know from me
who I am.”

- I Am Joaquín, Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

RECOMMENDED READING

Arizona Legislature HB2561

Arizona Legislature SCR1035

“States seek to copy Arizona immigration law” by Alex Johnson and Vanessa Hauc (msnbc.com and Telemundo), 2/3/2011

“We need to defend ethnic studies” by Yolanda Chávez Leyva, 1/6/2011

“Huppenthal Forbids Mexican-American Studies in Tucson, Meeting Scheduled” by Tim Paynter, 2/5/2011

“Speaking/Running against Hate, Censorship and Forbidden Curriculums” by Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, 12/18/2010

“I Am Joaquín” by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

Arizona lawmakers don’t vote on citizenship bill by Jacques Billeaud, 2/7/2011 (Associated Press)

Reynaldo A. Macías teaches history, politics, citizenship, technology and public speaking in Southern California. In his spare time, he writes political analysis and commentary focusing on the recovery of the United States, and the continuing struggle of the American populace to reconcile the present circumstance with the ideals envisioned and codified by the founding documents of the United States. A graduate of both the University of California, Los Angeles and Brown University, Reynaldo has been an educator and published author for the last fifteen years. When not writing lesson plans or peeling back the layers of modern patriotism, Reynaldo also prides himself an amateur photographer and aspiring novelist.

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