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Sunday, August 15, 2010

We Are Spirit

We are confident we will easily win against the forces of fear, hate and ignorance

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, PhD

In Arizona, we fight because we are spirit. Yet, in recent travels, I’ve gotten the distinct impression that many people think that human beings are made simply of flesh and blood and that only things material have consequence.

Human beings also have spirits. In Arizona, bigot forces are not content with simply getting rid of as many brown bodies as possible, but also ensuring that those that remain become assimilated into intolerant copies of themselves.

The world appears to be knowledgeable about the effort – via SB 1070 – to legalize hate, fear and racial profiling in Arizona. What most seem to be unaware of is that there is also an effort by state schools superintendent, Tom Horne, to brainwash the state’s school children via HB 2281 – the anti-Ethnic/Raza Studies law that unless stopped – will go into effect on Jan 1, 2011.

There is a third law in the works; the effort by state rep. Russell Pierce, chief sponsor of the state’s apartheid laws, to nullify the 14th Amendment in Arizona [guarantees U.S. birthright citizenship].

Tolteka, a renowned Los Angeles hip hop artist – inspired by a recent column – From Manifest Destiny to Manifest Insanity – has penned a rhyme called: The Trilogy of Terror. It breaks down these so-called laws that are intended to destroy our minds and spirits.

Those of us here in Arizona do not recognize these apartheid schemes as laws. At least not as moral or legitimate laws. Even the courts have already struck down the most odious parts of SB 1070.

But back to HB 2281. This is the one people are paying least attention to. While denouncing SB 1070 in May, five UN Special Rapporteurs also denounced HB 2281. They said: “Such law and attitude are at odds with the State’s responsibility to respect the right of everyone to have access to his or her own cultural and linguistic heritage and to participate in cultural life… Everyone has the right to seek and develop cultural knowledge and to know and understand his or her own culture and that of others through education and information.”

They further pointed out that controlling immigration and adhering to fundamental principles of non-discrimination are not mutually exclusive. “States are obligated to not only eradicate racial discrimination, but also to promote a social and political environment conducive to respect for ethnic and cultural diversity.”

Their report is self-evident, yet, we should pay close attention to the illogic of the bigoted forces; they claim they are not against immigration: only illegal immigration. So what does anti-bilingualism and Ethnic Studies have to do with illegal immigration?

There is an equal danger to both SB 1070 and HB 2281; one attacks our bodies, the other our minds and spirits. HB 2281 targets Tucson’s highly successful Raza Studies program. But as written, it applies to the entire state, and it can become copycat legislation – state by state – not simply targeting K-12 education, but universities as well. The authors erroneously claim Ethnic Studies result in hate, segregation, anti-americanism and advocates the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.

What’s at stake with HB 2281 is not simply an attack on a program (Raza Studies), but on the right to teach/learn and the right of students to succeed as a result. As signed, HB 2281 creates a mechanism by which books and curriculums will be subject to approval by the state. The premise is that only Greco-Roman culture (“Western Civilization”) is acceptable for Arizona curriculums. Knowledge from other cultures is henceforth deemed to be “un-American.” Books such as Occupied America (Acuña) and Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire) have already been singled out.

In Arizona, the state superintendant of schools has appointed himself not simply education czar (opposing local control), but also, royal cosmographer – determining that not only is maiz-based or Maya-Nahua culture and knowledge – the philosophical foundation for Raza Studies – outside of Western Civilization, but also outside of humanity. In effect, he also fancies himself head of the BIA – determining who/what is Indigenous.

While singling out people of color, these Inquisition-era “laws” in reality, are an attack against all people. The legalization of racial profiling and cultural mind-control belongs in the Dark Ages and the battle against the sanctioning of hate, censorship and forbidden curriculums is being fought right here in Arizona (This is the subject of a forthcoming conference in December at the University of Arizona). Within weeks, this battle will step into the courtroom via a lawsuit against the state. We are confident we will easily win against the forces of fear, hate and ignorance.

Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, is a member of TUSD’s Mexican American Studies Community Advisory board.

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