It’s History, Stupid: The Arizona Ethnic Studies Ban

May 17th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Ok Amber,

So hope gets me moving, but so does anger. And anger has me writing again. Cuz I am pissed.

I’ve been following this Arizona Ethnic Studies ban, from its introduction as a bill to its now becoming law (Arizona, you got serious issues). And I found this video between Arizona’s State School Superintendent Tom Horne, Anderson Cooper and Michael Eric Dyson.

I may end up rehashing a lot of what Dyson says, but I’ll push ahead anyway. So Tom Horne throws a lot out there in his attempt to justify this ban: don’t divide kids by race; don’t be “race-obsessed;” Martin Luther King Jr has inspired us; teach kids that this is a land of opportunity. My favorite is calling it “ethnic chauvinism.”

Horne’s version of America is a country without oppression (despite Arizona’s racial profiling), a land of perfect opportunity and perfect access (despite the overwhelming inequalities in education, resources and representation), and a place with one narrative, the “American dream.”

I am still sometimes amazed at the level of ignorance in these types of arguments. To study American history is to study oppression. Its foundation began with genocide; its economy was built on slavery; its fears were prioritized at its citizens’ expense (I’m thinking McCarthy and Japanese internment camps). So, yeah, oppression is a “downer.” History is a “downer.” But it already profoundly affects the lives of students. Classes give students the tools to understand and talk about it. Of course, it matters how we talk about this oppression (there can be a damaging strain), but reality is not a fairy tale so we shouldn’t try to make it seem so. Equally important to learning about oppression is learning about the struggle against oppression. And frankly, it’s Mr. Horne’s privilege as a white male that enables him to avoid these “downers” anyway.

Besides, studying Latino, African American, Asian American history does not just mean studying it in relation to white people. It’s deeper and richer than that.

Finally, white students benefit from these classes too. They have a hell of a lot to learn from them. Why see these classes as divisive? Whites learn a lot about themselves when they shut up and listen. (This could also be a whole other post…white students and ethnic studies. Complicated.)

The history of the United States has been to exclude; these classes attempt to correct that. This mask of “color-blindness” is just another way to use power and resist change. One memorized line from MLK does not indicate understanding of a struggle. Instead, denying the full narrative of American history and the place for focused study is to participate in the continuation of oppression. So, Mr. Horne, you’re the best example for why we need these classes.

Communal Living: Speaking Truth to Power

April 27th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink


Liz,

I’ve been reading a lot of bell hooks lately. It was actually inspired by your post on embracing the self and others. A lot of what you said reminded me of hooks’ writings on multiple topics, especially ending racism through building community. She has a piece in one of her books, appropriately titled Killing Rage: Ending Racism, that focuses on building a “beloved community—where loving ties of care and knowing bind us together in our differences.” Here are few quotations that I really like:

“…beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.”

“To form beloved community we do not surrender ties to precious origins. We deepen those bondings by connecting them with an anti-racist struggle which is at heart always a movement to disrupt that clinging to cultural legacies that demands investment in notions of racial purity, authenticity, nationalist fundamentalism. The notion that differences of skin color, class background, and cultural heritage must be erased for justice and equality to prevail is a brand of popular false consciousness that helps keep racist thinking and action intact.”

“In a beloved community solidarity and trust are grounded in profound commitment to a shared vision…where borders can be crossed and cultural hybridity celebrated.”

With your most recent post on the effect of S.B. 1070 on the lives of so many individuals in Arizona, imagining a beloved community does seems like wishful thinking. *Sigh.* But it is in times likes these that we need visionaries, like hooks, to remind us to keep fighting AND that there is something worth fighting for. We must continue to “Speak Truth to Power.”

Those videos both angered and inspired me. S.B. 1070 is institutional racism at its best. (If you didn’t believe in it before, they just signed it into law, snitches…again. *blank stare*) Clearly so many in this country are terrified of change and are trying their darndest to hold on to their entitlement and institutional power in the forms of racial, social, cultural, sexual, economic, (and the list goes on) privilege. It is sickening and I am…tired. SMDH.

But these videos and the passion and determination of these individuals who are fighting for things that others in this country take for granted everyday, have given me so much hope. A 21st Century Civil Rights Movement sounds damn good to me. Maybe this time we’ll get it right.

Arizona’s New Law: Awakening of the 21st Century Civil Rights Movement?

April 26th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Amber,

Have you been following this new Arizona law? It’s ridiculous. And makes me angry. Below are some videos I thought you and our readers might be interested in….comment ya’ll!

Protests against SB 1070

Dr. Warren H. Stewart Speaks at Phoenix’s First Institutional Baptist Church

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