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

May 17th, 2010 § 2 comments

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.

§ 2 Responses to It’s History, Stupid: The Arizona Ethnic Studies Ban"

  • JERKFISH! says:

    You could easily tell that Tom Horne had practically no argument. He resorted to repeating the same ideas and phrases over and over. You'd think he learned how to argue and debate on an internet forum.

    As for the topic itself, I pretty much agree with Dyson.

  • Sir Jason says:

    Well said, Amber! I totally agree! Horne needs to fall back…hard…

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