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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Arizona: A Critical Resistance Boycott

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
The first rule of any boycott is to keep your eyes on the prize; translated, this means never lose sight of the big picture.
RUSHING TOWARDS APARTHEID: Arizona is speeding towards an apartheid state. Some of this rush has to do with repressive laws (including the legalization of racial profiling and the elimination of ethnic studies) that have been recently signed by the governor. Truthfully, however, this move pre-exists the recent legislation and much of the repression against the Mexican community here is also historical in nature and it is actually nationwide.
On the surface, it is about migration issues. Yet if we probe a little deeper, it’s about the Browning of Arizona. Probe some more and you will see that much of the hate has little to do with peoples’ legal status. That’s where English-Only and the new anti-ethnic studies law comes in. It is not simply about our physical presence (red-brown), but about our culture – which is thousands of years old and Indigenous to this continent. In this sense, it is beyond physical removal and even beyond thought-control; this is about our souls (they can’t have them).
THE PRINCIPAL TARGETS: Mexicans-Central Americans in this country are the primary targets. Also generally targeted are Indigenous red-brown peoples from the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Tragically, in the end, as state and federal governments defend themselves against racial profiling charges, they will move toward a checkpoint society in which officials will demand documentation of everyone in the country, of all ages and at all times.
THE CULPRITS: Some of the people in power in Arizona who are directly responsible for this recent move towards apartheid are: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio – responsible for refining racial profiling [of Indigenous peoples] into an art form; Rep. Russell Pierce – the architect of most of the anti-immigrant bills; State School Superintendent Tom Horne – the force behind the anti-ethnic studies bills and an avowed opponent of Raza Studies; and the unelected Gov. Jan Brewer – who has signed many of the draconian laws in question.
Across the country, about a dozen states are poised to follow in Arizona’s footsteps. Yet indeed, at the root of this crisis is the federal government’s failure to address the issue of immigration – not on the basis of fear, hate and the politics of blame, but rather, as part of a global economic and labor crisis.
THE SMALL PICTURE: That federal failure to act has emboldened the crazies in the state legislature to create their own immigration policies. The feds actually have acted, but strictly from a military/law enforcement point of view. A comprehensive immigration reform law could theoretically nullify these anti-immigrant state laws, but there’s no guarantee that the result will actually be better. At best, it might simply return us to uniform national repressive laws and practices such as the ones that result in the funneling of thousands upon thousands of human beings into the Arizona/Sonora desert, which have resulted in the recovery of some 5,000 bodies since the 1990s… or that create the kangaroo court known as Operation Streamline in which some 70 migrants are processed daily in one hour. Uniform laws and practices would obviate the need for state boycotts.
THE BIG PICTURE: The problem will not be solved on a state-by-state basis. The root – the current crisis at hand – can actually be traced to NAFTA. This 1994 trilateral agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico has been a boon for corporations, but disastrous for workers, especially Indigenous peoples from the maiz-growing regions of southern Mexico. Millions have been uprooted as a result of the importation of U.S.-subsidized [genetically modified] corn into Mexico. NAFTA’s original promise was that it would solve the immigration crisis. What has instead occurred is the further devastation of Mexico.The subsequent agreements covering Central America, (CAFTA) the Americas (FTAA) and the world (GATT) all portend similar results.
APARTHEID, ARIZONA, USA: For the moment, the national focus is on Arizona. And the question has become: how does one boycott a state? On its face, it seems fairly easy, but there are actually few precedents for such a successful boycott.  Congressman Raul Grijalva has called for a limited boycott, calling for organizations not to schedule future conventions and conferences in the state.
Those in the trenches are calling for a wider boycott – of tourism and especially against corporations that support the cabal of extremist politicians in our state. While there is no statewide or national coordinating or sanctioning body (yet) to carry out such a campaign, there are many organizations that have been battling the repression in Arizona for many years, including Tucson’s Derechos Humanos. They can be contacted for guidance re the boycott ( However, the basic message is this: tourists stay home; organizers welcome.
A CRITICAL RESISTANCE BOYCOTT: The boycott’s current objective is to hurt Arizona’s economy to the point where the governor and the extremist legislators will eventually come to their senses. One thing about Arizona is that it is also Indian Country – a factor in considering who/what gets boycotted, etc. Ultimately, the solution to the migration crisis has to be national and international in scope. These policies will not be solved at the state or even national levels. The administration has the responsibility to create a solution that place human beings at the center. Any solution that does not recognize migrants as full human beings with corresponding full human rights is but a recipe for legalized human smuggling, a new bracero program, maximum exploitation and dehumanization and the further militarization of both the border and nation.
A BROADER BOYCOTT?: If these laws are replicated by the 12 other states, it would be difficult to carry out a boycott of 13 states, particularly if the president eventually signs a law that primarily focuses on borders/walls and further militarization. Is a boycott of the United States a possibility or even feasible? Already, both of these laws in question were denounced last week by UN human rights experts in Geneva. Arizona is not hyperbole, but rather, a hate laboratory. These laws that clearly single people out for both their color/race and culture are in clear violation of international laws. At the moment, whom they are singling out are not simply Mexicans/Central Americans – but generally, anyone with Indigenous features (and their/our ways of thinking). That’s why many of us say that this is the culmination of a 518-year war. This is also why Indigenous leaders from throughout the continent last year unanimously proclaimed that peoples from this continent cannot be illegal on this continent. Any boycott must affirm this principle.
A CIVILATIONAL CLASH: The theft of a continent is not a closed chapter in human history (Nor has it become legal simply because of the passage of time). And yet, truly, no human being can be illegal on any continent. This truly is a civilizational clash – between those that believe, vs. those that don’t believe, that all peoples deserve to be treated as full human beings with full corresponding human rights – regardless of where they/we live.
Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Welcome to Apartheid, Arizona USA

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
“If I am alien, where is my spaceship?”
This is how we feel right now in Tucson.
It’s a line in a poem from Cantos Al Sexto Sol (Wings Press, 2002). This is how we feel right now in Arizona. It is insane here.
First they have come for our bodies (to deport those of they can); now they come for  our souls.
No matter what they do, they will never have our spirits. The last part, I believe, is a line from Aztlan Underground.
With Arizona in the spotlight, most of the nation has focused on the draconian anti-immigrant law: SB 1070. But what has to be clear is that this is the culmination of a 518-year ongoing and relentless war. Nothing less. The mood here is not anti-immigrant. It is anti-Mexican. The racial profiling law has little to do with legalities; it is about the expressed targeting of  red-brown Indigenous peoples.
Law officers do not or will not target generic Hispanics or even Mexicans. Their profile is 100% Indigenous. That’s why American Indians in Arizona too understand precisely what this law is all about (Navajo Times, May 13); they are subject to this profile because the similarities are obvious: short, dark hair, dark eyes and red-brown skin. Spaniards or other Europeans are not at risk.
How do we know this? Look to the historic practices of the migra. Or let’s look at the practices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They have been racial profiling for years, and now, the governor has authorized all law enforcement to be able to do the same, under the threat of lawsuits, etc. For years, those of us with red-brown skin have lived this reality anywhere along the U.S./Mexico border. Nowadays, this anti-Mexicanism, under the veneer of anti-illegal immigrant fervor, is nationwide.
That is about our bodies.  And I repeat, the targets are  Indigenous.
In past years, they’ve gone after our tongues. In Arizona, in the year 2000, it was proposition 203 – a measure that virtually gutted bilingual education, on the belief that it is better to be monolingual, than to be bilingual. To this day, the question remains: what does language have to do with legalities and illegalities? (And truthfully, on these matters, Arizona is simply following California’s footsteps from the 1990s).
The latest salvo is HB 2281; this one is about our souls.
This new law is an attempt by Superintendent Tom Horne to eliminate Ethnic Studies. Specifically, Horne has targeted Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program, arguing that what is taught there, is outside of Western Civilization and should not be taught in Arizona schools.
This law has nothing to do with “illegal immigration.” If anything, it closely resembles the practices of the early European friars who deemed Indigenous knowledge to be Godless and attempted to both demonize it and destroy it completely.  The burning of the books of our ancestors – Indigenous peoples of this continent – resides deep within our psyche. The philosophical foundation for Mexican American Studies in general is Maya-Nahuatl knowledge – derived from thousands of years of maize culture.  Anthropologists refer to it as Mesoamerican knowledge. One part of it is:  In Lak Ech – Tu eres mi otro yo – you are my other self (me).  It is an ethic that teaches us that we are all part of each other and connected to each other. It is a human rights ethos connected to social justice and love of humanity and of all things living and non-living.
This is what Horne wants to ban, what he wants to eliminate. Could book-burnings and an Inquisitorial auto-de-fe be next? Of course. This is what he wants. This is what he demands. He has singled out Rodolfo Acuña’s book, Occupied America and Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed as examples of books that preach hate, promote segregation, anti-Americanism and the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.
After the law was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, metaphorically, an auto-de-fe was precisely what Horne came to conduct at TUSD the very next day. Hundreds upon hundreds of middle and high school students laid siege to the TUSD headquarters. When he failed to show his face, he then scheduled a press conference at the nearby state building a couple of miles away. The same students marched to the state building laying siege to that building. Eventually, 15 arrests were made (I was one of them).
Why are students willing to be arrested? Because the two books singled out are but the beginning. The new law – despite being in compliance per the TUSD legal counsel – authorizes the monitoring and censorship of books and curriculums to ensure they are in compliance with the law. Only non-educators could have come up with this one.
And so here we are again; welcome to apartheid arizona, u.s.a..
Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Anatomy of Arizona Apartheid II

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

TUCSON HIGH SCHOOL: As I prepare to speak about Indigenous philosophies in Maria Federico Brummer’s class, the students begin their day in the following manner:

In Lak Ech – Tu eres mi otro yo – You are my other self. I am you and you are me. If I hurt you, I hurt myself. If I hate you, I hate myself. If I love and respect you, I love and respect myself.

Students here, part of Tucson Unified School District’s highly successful Mexican American Studies (MAS) K-12 program (the largest in the nation), are taught this and other Indigenous concepts, including other ways of measuring time (Aztec & Maya calendars). Not coincidentally, academically, MAS students – many of who were doing poorly prior to entering this program – consistently outperform their peers, and it is virtually a college-bound factory.

State capitol, Phoenix, Arizona: 518 years after Columbus initiated the theft of a continent, Arizona’s state superintendent of schools, Tom Horne has just declared, via the passage of HB 2281, that Indigenous peoples and Indigenous knowledge are [still] outside of Western Civilization.

In his relentless campaign against Ethnic Studies, the would-be governor has just engineered the passage of a new draconian state law that seeks to ban the teaching of ethnic studies [by withdrawing its funding]. This is the same state that recently passed the racial profiling SB 1070 law; the primary targets would be Mexicans and Central Americans with Indigenous features, suspected of being “illegal aliens.”

Despite the success of the MAS program, Horne has long expressed the view that the only things that should be taught in Arizona schools are things that originate in Western or Greco-Roman Civilization. While his bill affects the whole state, his actual target has long been Tucson’s program.

HB 2281 causes the geographic dislocation of the continent. Acting as Royal cosmographer, Horne has ruled that maiz (Mesoamerican) knowledge – indigenous to this continent – is subversive and not part of Western civilization or does not belong in the West. Through the bill, he also mischaracterizes the program by claiming that its teachers preach hate, segregation, anti-Americanism and the violent overthrow of the government. The bill sets up an inquisitorial mechanism that will monitor books and curriculum. Horne has been especially critical of Rudy Acuña’s Occupied America and Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (Separately, the Arizona Department of Education has banned teachers with heavy accents from teaching English classes).

Welcome to Apartheid Arizona. Despite Arizona’s oppressive climate, many claim that the use of the term apartheid is overblown.

Tucson federal courthouse: Like clockwork, at 1:30 p.m., 70 short, brown men (sometimes a few women) occupy the left side of the courtroom, shackled at the ankles, the waist and the wrists. Within one hour, they are charged, tried and convicted en masse of being illegally present in the United States. After being dehumanized, they are then paraded out of the courtroom. Most have either served or are sentenced to the private detention facility, operated by the Correctional Corporation of America. This drama unfolds everyday here, every weekday of the year.

Welcome to Operation Streamline. Its goal is to criminalize every migrant that steps into this kangaroo court, while enriching CCA to the tune of some $15 million per month.

Southside Tucson: Several days BEFORE the state legislature passes SB 1070, a massive raid involving 800 military-clad U.S. federal agents swoops into this primarily Mexican-Indigenous community, occupying and terrorizing its residents, all for the purpose of arresting 48 suspects in a human smuggling operation.

Maricopa County: While Sheriff Joe Arpaio denies a racial motivation, over the weekend, he showcases his 15th major “crime sweep” since early 2008 in Phoenix. The sweeps – which target Mexican-Indigenous communities – may have actually backfired. They provide a glimpse to the world as to how the entire state and nation could look like if SB 1070 is affirmed. To conduct these sweeps, Arpaio utilizes the state’s anti human smuggling law, accusing migrants of being accomplices in their own smuggling. Such a use of the law smacks of official kidnapping and terror.

While there were undoubtedly many Arpaio’s in South Africa during the apartheid era, there were no Operation Streamlines there. Kangaroo courts yes, but not daily one-hour mass-show trials.

The Arizona/Mexico border: In the realm of violence, Arizona is no South Africa, but we do have our own killing fields. For the past dozen years, some 5,000 migrants have been found dead in the inhospitable desert; medical reports confirm that many have died due to violence, including blunt trauma to the head (go to: That many thousands of migrants are funneled through the desert annually has long been official policy by U.S. immigration officials. Under international law, at best, this could be construed as negligent homicide.

Washington D.C.: Ironically, in response to these draconian laws and measures, even Democrats have been cowed into pushing for more apartheid measures (walls, more agents and the further militarization of the border) as a solution.

Just solutions for the problems listed here require calling for [international] agreements that place human beings at the center, without losing their citizenship, culture, rights or their humanity.

Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at:

* You can join Save Ethnic Studies in Arizona at:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

This is What Apartheid Looks Like

April 27, 2010
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Those who think that there’s an immigration crisis in Arizona are correct, however, this is but part of the story. The truth is, a civilizational clash is being played out in the same state in which the state legislature questions the birthplace and legitimacy of President Barack Obama and where Sen. John McCain competes with Senate hopeful, J.D. Hayworth, to see who is the most anti-immigrant.
It is also the same state that several years ago, denied a holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., and that today permits virtually anyone – on the basis of trumped-up fear – to carry concealed weapons anywhere.
Welcome to Apartheid Arizona – the land of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, “States Rights” and a desert that has claimed thousands of migrant lives. By way of the same extremist legislature, the battle here is even much larger and more profound. This civilizational clash is being waged daily here via more bills involving who belongs, what language can be spoken here and who and what can be taught in the state’s schools. This is beyond the notion of who is “legal.”
Whoever said that this crisis is proof that the illegal Mexican American War never ended is partially correct because this conflict is even older than that war in which Mexico lost half its territory to the United States. The irony regarding the recently signed SB 1070 – which permits law enforcement to question people about their citizenship, based on “reasonable suspicion” – is that those principally targeted will be those who look the “most Hispanic.”
“Looking Hispanic” has always been a misnomer; what it really means is those who are dark and short and who look the “most Indigenous.” Truthfully, here in Arpaio Country, that profiling that everyone fears is already here with us. And to dispel illusions, the darkest amongst us have always been subjected to racial profiling by the “migra” and by law enforcement agencies everywhere in the country. This is true whether we’ve been here for a few days or for thousands of years. And to dispel further illusions, this civilizational clash alluded to is national in scope; witness the many hundreds of anti-immigrant bills nationwide since 2006. Only its epicenter is here.
What is changing with SB 1070 is that racial profiling is no longer outside of the law; here it now has legal cover. But to be sure, people of conscience will never accept it as law. And just as Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva is calling for a national and international boycott of Arizona – many are calling on law enforcement to have the moral courage to refuse to recognize SB 1070 as a law and simply view it as a proposal until the courts decide on its constitutionality.
SB 1070 brings us to a moral precipice. After World War II, a consensus developed here that it had been wrong to have incarcerated the Japanese in internment camps because such action was morally wrong. Virtually no one had the courage to assert this while it was happening. Law enforcement has that chance today, to refuse to obey SB 1070 that is both, morally repugnant and outside of the U.S. Constitution.
Regarding the larger civilizational struggle, the context is akin to when Europeans first came to this continent. The conquistadors came for gold, land and bodies (slaves). The friars, on the other hand, came for souls. Similarly, the migra and extremist legislators want bodies deported; the state school superintendent, Tom Horne, wants souls.
Last year, the state legislature attempted to eliminate Ethnic Studies from the state’s K-12 curriculum. The real target was Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) program. After young students ran from Tucson to Phoenix in 115 degree heat, the bill was defeated. This year, a similar, yet more preposterous bill is back. HB 2281 seeks to outlaw curriculum that is anti-American and that advocates the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. The bill creates a mechanism by which books will be judged to be in compliance. American Indian and African American classes are exempted and thus the clear target again is the MAS program. Horne is on record claiming that only things from Western Civilization (Greco-Roman) should be taught in Arizona schools. Pre-Colombian Indigenous knowledge from this continent – the foundation for the highly successful MAS program – is considered outside of Western Civilization.
Amid the immigration crisis, the legislature is slated to also pass HB 2281 this week. This conjures up the line from the movie, The Other Conquest: “They came for our souls, but they didn’t know where to look.”
President Obama and Congress may yet nullify SB 1070 and similar bills nationwide, but this will not discourage those who continue to want our bodies… and souls.

Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at: