Arizona is apparently trying to break some record of number of racist laws passed in a one month period, because now the governor has signed a bill banning public school classes that “promote racial solidarity” or “racial resentment”. Oh, and classes that “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government”. Basically they’re targeting a Tuscon school district ethnic studies program that – horror of horrors! – teaches students of color about their heritage. The man who wrote the law felt that the Mexican-American studies program was teaching Latinos that they were being oppressed by whites. Gasp.

There’s so much fail in this I’m not even sure where to start. First off, I don’t think Latinos need to be told they’re being oppressed by whites. I’m pretty sure you can learn that through just living as a person of color. Second, basic U.S. history classes promote racial resentment just by illustrating U.S. imperialistic practices, genocide against Native populations, slavery, segregation, racial inequity, etc. If you’re trying to avoid oppressed groups finding out they’re oppressed and who is oppressing them, any history class is not something you want them to attend. Not just “ethnic” histories. Of course, they’re trying to remove those kinds of unseemly details from school textbooks anyway.

And no promoting racial solidarity? You shouldn’t feel a kinship with those of the same race as you? I obviously haven’t read the law, but this sounds pretty vague and like it could apply to all ethnic studies courses whether or not they meet the “racial resentment” criteria. I’m grokking that basically, this law is a product of white Arizona lawmakers’ fear of a Latino planet. Same with SB 1070.

Why this is all coming to a head right now, I’m unsure. But now 10 other states are considering similar anti-immigrant bills. And there’s a significant positive reaction towards Arizona’s law from the general public. I suppose I shouldn’t be too shocked about the latter. We’re so politically polarized, it’s a given that half the voting population will be wrong on any given issue.

This is why we can’t have nice things, people.

7 thoughts on “Did you know you were oppressed?

  1. Bronxgirl1 says:

    If you are a person of color in this country then all you do is spend your day in school learning about someone else's history. Black history in classrooms is practically nonexistent today compared to 15 years ago. Ask a child of any race who the first president of this country was and they will tell you George Washington, but ask a child of any race to name a popular Ethiopian emperor (Haile Selassie) and you will hear nothing but silence. It is easy for some whites to speak from the advantage of privilege and be unable to put the shoe on the other foot. I remember from my own high school sophomore experience when we got to the section on African history it was barely 8 pages. Our teacher at the time assigned everyone in the class an African country to do a report and presentation on. My presentation was so in depth that I was requested to teach it for every class level until I graduated. Why?…Because this information was not available in school books and the teachers didn't have the knowledge or the advantage to bring such detailed information to the classroom. The only reason I had such detailed information was because my family is from the country that I was assigned to give the report on. My classmates (particularly the African American ones) were genuinely interested in my lecture and were inspired enough to seek additional information on their own. At the end of the day isn't that what school is supposed to be all about? Having a teachable moment and inspiring a pupil to seek out additional knowledge as well as to arm oneself with the truth? That is all that these solidarity classes are about. I think it is more un-American to be against it. I say this because this bill borders on censorship due to the fact that it impedes students from learning and expressing themselves using the information they learned in these classes. Part of education is the freedom to learn whatever you want and education should be a basic right.

    In looking at this bill, I can't help but see this as a mass panic attack amongst the conservative, racist republicans/tea baggers. All of this angry anti-immigrant sentiment started while Bush was president but it seems to me that since Obama has come into office this racism has almost reached a level of hysteria. What I want to know is if all of this is supposedly to eliminate racism and racial solidarity, when are they planning to cancel the St. Patrick day parade? Isn't what is good for the goose good for the gander as well?

    By the way I love this site. I love how it is thought provoking and encourages an exchange of ideas. I have learned a lot and expanded my mind since I started reading this blog. I just wanted you to know that.

    • Hold on a second says:

      Um, I'm not knocking the rest of your post, because I'm really not knowledgeable enough about these sorts of things to have completely formed an opinion worth arguing for, but honestly your example about the Ethiopian emperor is really not at all worth applying to this topic. That has really not so much anything to do with "black history in class rooms being practically non existent" as it simply shows how very inward and America focused all elementary school curriculum are. For example, ask these same children the name of Australia's current prime minister. Or even England's queen. You will get just as many blank stares.

      • Bronxgirl1 says:

        While I see your point, youth in this country are equally unknowledgeable about black American history as well as the history of blacks around the world. My point is most schools only teach historic events or global studies that are focused on white people who live in predominately white countries (ex:the French revolution, the great potato famine in Ireland, & the Holocaust in German). To deny youths an opportunity to learn history about different races and cultures as well as an opportunity explore different cultures or their own culture would be wrong.

        I recall an experience in a library 2 years ago when a teen was trying to do a report on notable African Americans in history. He was going back and forth with his father and neither could think of a single name. Not even Martin Luther King's name was mentioned in this discussion. Naturally I was astonished. I rattled off names for the boy to look up Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Mary Mcleod Bethune, Malcom X,& W.E.B. Dubois. Each name brought blank stares to the faces of the teen and his father.

    • I think the fact that we need separate classes to teach about different ethnic groups' history is telling. Why not include that information in a regular history class so everyone has to learn it. But of course white students don't generally care about the history of anything but Western culture (and probably don't care about history in general).

      I'm glad you enjoy the site! I appreciate your insightful comments.

  2. Sigh. As a Latina who grew up in Texas, I always KNEW I wasn't white, and sometimes it was a problem, but most of the time it wasn't. Now that I'm in college and I go to a really big, really diverse, really tolerant university (UT at Austin), it hardly ever crosses my mind.

    As for solidarity, I try to stay away from "Latino" groups because I don't like identifying myself by my race when there are 50,000 other people here who might actually like some of the things I like instead of just being brown like me. I don't know, it's a thin line.

    Good post, thanks for the info links.

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