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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

UPDATED: “Horne’s Law” or Horne’s Great Deception:

·      This column is not related to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, though it should be noted that the Cesar Chavez building at the University of Arizona was also attacked at about the same time: 10am Sat. Jan 8.

Glass door of the main entrance to the Cesar E. Chavez Bldg at the University of Arizona was shattered by a large rock a little bit before the sat. jan 8 shooting spree in Tucson. Six were killed.  Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, along with 13  others in Tucson were also injured, some critically.             Photo by Sal Baldenegro

“Horne’s Law” or Horne’s Great Deception:
Cultural Genocide and The Attempt to Kill Ethnic Studies

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

If there ever was a doubt that there is a full-scale assault on brown peoples in this country, with Arizona at its epicenter, the first week of the year has dispelled it. To say that war has been declared upon us would only be partially accurate because these attacks can actually only be understood as a continuation of a 518-year war against Indigenous Peoples across this continent.

In just the first week, right wing forces have once again gone for the jugular, attacking the body, the mind and spirit of peoples whom continue to be blamed for the woes of this nation. For instance, Tucson’s highly successful Mexican American Studies program (MAS-TUSD) – with a maiz-based curriculum at its philosophical core – was declared illegal Jan 3. At the same time, troglodyte legislators from 40 states, including here in Arizona, unveiled plans to nullify the 14th Amendment and return the nation to the 19th century. And in a few days, legislation will be introduced in Arizona where schools, via their students, will be required to identify the citizenship status of their parents. In effect, children will be turning in their parents. What’s next: the criminalization of migrants and profiting off of their misery (Operation Streamline)?

This is where that old adage is appropriate: For every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction. Well, not quite. Those resisting this outright declaration of war against our humanity want little to do with reaction. Those resisting, affirm our humanity on a daily basis by not forgetting to celebrate who we are. We are guided by beautiful Indigenous principles of what it means to be human: In Lak Ech (You are my other self), Panche Be (To seek the Root of the Truth) and Hunab Ku (We are all part of Creation). And when need be, we protest, we march, we rally, we vigil, we run, we walk – always guided by principles of creation, rather than reaction. This we call a creation/resistance culture. We continue to create and celebrate, despite the war in our midst. This is why many of us, in fact, recognize no artificial man-made borders and why we continue to openly challenge the right of any governmental entity anywhere to dehumanize and declare any human being “illegal.” This is something we don’t hide from, but instead, affirm.

The only thing right about the extreme political right wing forces in this country is that they are correct that this is a civilizational war. It is a war between the forces of creation vs. the forces of reaction – those who believe in supremacy and dominance vs. those who believe in equality and justice for all. This is the only way to understand what is happening. This has nothing to do with what is “legal” or “illegal.” This is truly about what is moral vs. immoral – what is humane vs. what is inhumane. The truth is, supremacists in this country – whether of a racial, cultural, political or spiritual nature – have stepped up their war against what they see as the “invading brown hordes” – peoples whom the supremacists believe are less than human and have no business in this country – regardless of how long they/we’ve been here.

Brown peoples in this country, in effect, constitute the unfinished business of Manifest Destiny. To the adherents of this antiquated and discredited philosophy, brown peoples represent defeated and conquered peoples – peoples in the way of the triumphant march of so-called Western civilization. Yet, they/we also represent a reminder. Memory. Also, they/we represent peoples who have managed to scale and cross impregnable barriers: walls and metaphorical moats. In the eyes of supremacists, the Indigeneity of these brown peoples are not even acknowledged but denied; instead, they are viewed as dehumanized mongrels who represent the despoiling of all things pure and divine – definitely not White nor Indigenous, and most assuredly, not truly human.

Despite that view, many of these peoples do not actually make it across those walls; thousands upon thousands of bodies are strewn across the deserts, mountains and riverbanks. But its not even bodies that are scattered; often, it is but remains that are recovered (253 bodies recovered this past year: In an irony of history, not to be forgotten is that the racial profiling in question is Indigenous. Historically, most people caught in this profile by the migra are peoples who crossed no borders – artificial or otherwise; many of us actually have roots to this country and continent going back many, many thousands of years. The controversy regarding sb 1070 is that local police are also now being given the same right to profile as their border patrol colleagues. And truthfully, they already profile and cooperate with the migra, even without sb 1070 and even without 287g agreements.

From a moral standpoint, the notion of conferring and imposing an illegal status on peoples Indigenous to this continent by peoples whom barely have at most a 518-year presence here is mind-boggling. It is also a crime against humanity to infer an illegal status upon anyone. Yet, if they want to enter into a debate regarding the legal realm, perhaps the appropriate questions are: how did peoples from across the ocean establish their legal presence on this continent? Which document conferred upon them their “legal” status? Which document transferred legal title to them, to the land we are standing upon? Or was it simply accomplished by force of arms? Still waiting…

In 2011, in Arizona, the first salvo in this civilizational war was fired by the outgoing state school superintendent, Tom Horne, finding (in a 10-page document: ( and declaring Tucson’s highly successful Mexican American Studies program as illegal per a clearly unconstitutional hb 2281 piece of legislation . Never to be forgotten is that it is not a moral or constitutional law. He made his theatrical declaration minutes before he was sworn in as Arizona’s new attorney general. His successor, John Huppenthal – who has endorsed Horne’s decision to eliminate MAS-TUSD – campaigned on a platform against La Raza… not the program, but La Raza. This is not accidental. The right wing claims La Raza means the race. This means he openly campaigned against “The Race” [brown peoples]. Can anyone imagine him successfully running against another race: Blacks, Italians or Jews, etc? (He definitely could have also gotten away with running against Muslims and Arabs). Does anyone who campaigns to eliminate a people [or a program] have any credibility or moral authority to decide the future of this program?

                Horne actually has not ended Ethnic Studies. It's not going down without a fight.

The most grotesque aspect of Horne’s finding is that he obscenely claims he is an adherent of Martin Luther King Jr. – and that his effort and the efforts of the state legislature and the governor to eliminate Ethnic Studies in general, and Mexican American Studies in particular – is driven by MLK Jr’s ideal of judging a person “by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.” And yet, it is precisely Horne, who through his incessant and dehumanizing campaign to eliminate Mexican American Studies since 2006, who has already caused harm to peoples and communities under siege, precisely because of the color of their skin. He has also wrought harm to them precisely because he has attempted to delegitimize not just the program but the discipline, this while attacking their history, identity and culture. To flip MLK Jr’s ideals on their head – in support of his position that in effect promotes a supremacist and ultra-nationalist and chauvinist ideology – is akin to the devil quoting the Bible. To be sure, what he advocates is good 'ol-fashioned "Americanization" programs. Indigenous people recognize that as part of the same philosophy that led to boarding schools and also the philosophy called reducciones - a European policy of cultural decimation and forced assimilation upon Indigenous peoples of this continent.

Few people on this planet will consider Horne, Huppenthal, Gov. Jan Brewer, State Sen. President Russell Pearce and Sheriff Joe Arpaio to be adherents of MLK Jr. Quite the contrary. In the realm of human rights, they are the proverbial foxes guarding the hen house (Pearce and Arpaio have never hidden their association with extremists, including neo-nazis... though to be truthful, in this state, these five, along with other politicos, are the extremists!). Also, not to be forgotten is that Arizona had the longest opposition and was the last state to accept the MLK Jr. national holiday.

       Arizona Senate Pres. Russell Pearce is the author of most of the anti-immigrant bills in Arizona

Equally grotesque is the claim that Horne’s findings are based on a law (hb 2281), as if it were sacrosanct, as if it were divinely engraved in stone. Essentially, he created hb 2281 – a statewide measure designed to eliminate ethnic studies at the K-12 level. To claim that he is following the law in finding MAS-TUSD out of compliance is beyond absurd circular logic. HB 2281 prohibits classes that:

1)    Promote the overthrow of the United States Government.
2)    Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3)    Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4)    Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

How does one debate nonsense? To say that the above four points are false is not enough. The very existence of this law is what is absurd. Nothing about Mexican American Studies at TUSD is unique. It is similarly taught at the University level nationwide. The same holds true for African American Studies, American Indian Studies as well as Pan Asian Studies. All classes are open to all and the fact that most students in MAS are Mexican Americans – and that the classes target them [successfully] is not a bad thing. To object that students are taught the truth about the history of oppression, about discrimination and the history of segregation is the equivalent of “killing the message and the messenger.” It is to promote a pedagogy of whitewashing as the only acceptable curriculum in this state. Horne leaves little doubt that the actual reason he objects to MAS is that its philosophical foundation is Indigenous and resides on this continent, as opposed to “Western Civilization.” Even a geographic dislocation takes place in Horne’s mind. Indigenous America apparently is not part of the West.

Above and beyond the political and philosophical dispute, MAS-TUSD boasts a 97.5 percent graduation rate and more than a 70 percent college going rate. Students enrolled in the program also score much higher than other students in standardized test on all subjects. At a time when the dropout rate for people of color is from 40-60 percent nationwide, one would think that the state would be bending over backwards to expand and export this program. Not only is there nothing illegal about it, but the Indigenous or maiz-based curriculum teaches its students to see each other in everyone and to be good human beings. What is illegal or immoral about that? Where is the hate? Actually, we know where the hate is, particularly in this state.

In May of 2010, five UN special rapporteurs denounced both the racial profiling measure sb 1070, and hb 2281 as potentially subjecting immigrants, minorities and Indigenous peoples to “discriminatory treatment.” In regards to hb 2281, they wrote: “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.” (

For example, HB 2281 is in clear violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989): Specifically, it violates Article 29:

1.     States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
( c ) “The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own.”

The convention states this: “These basic standards—also called human rights—set minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be respected by governments. They are founded on respect for the dignity and worth of each individual, regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability and therefore apply to every human being everywhere. With these rights comes the obligation on both governments and individuals not to infringe on the parallel rights of others” (

While some will argue that the cultural rights of Mexican-origin peoples are guaranteed by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo – the treaty that was signed under duress (the illegal 1846-1848 war against Mexico),  the truth is, the rights of all human beings, including the right to history, culture and identity – we are born with. Unless people expressly agree to give up their rights on a legal document or treaty, we keep our rights. In this instance, no such document exists that has taken away these rights [“reserved rights doctrine”]. Incidentally, article IX of the Treaty, which explicitly spelled the guarantee of civil and political rights, was deleted from the final version (Also deleted outright was article X, which specifically spelled out land rights.)

That Horne claims otherwise is but a self-delusional assertion based on his own narrow ideology; it is certainly not based on any established civil or human rights law. The four points in Horne’s 10-page document are not simply ludicrous – because MAS-TUSD does none of the above – but it is also immoral and in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution, and in complete and total violation of the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights, specifically:

Article 26.
  • (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  • (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  • (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

HB 2281 is also in direct violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Adopted by General Assembly Resolution 61/295 on 13 September 2007.

Perhaps Horne might want to argue that Mexican Americans are not in fact Indigenous peoples (good luck with that argument) because otherwise, virtually every article within the 2007 declaration protects their right to learn, study and develop curricula that teaches their history, culture and identity. For instance:

Article 8:

1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

Article 13:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons. (

The hb 2281 piece of legislation also appears to be in violation of the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights of Man ( From the preamble:

         “Since culture is the highest social and historical expression of that spiritual development, it is the duty of man to preserve, practice and foster culture by every means within his power.

            And, since moral conduct constitutes the noblest flowering of culture, it is the duty of every man always to hold it in high respect.”

This is precisely what Horne has attacked; the right of peoples to teach/learn their culture, history, identity and also the right to free association. A perusal of the declaration, will lead an observer to conclude that hb 2281 may be in violation of several of the articles, including Articles II, IV, V, XII, XIII, XVII, XXII. For example, Article IV reads:  

"Every person has the right to freedom of investigation, of opinion, and of the expression and dissemination of ideas, by any medium whatsoever."

Hb 2281 appeals to also violate the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights. It appears to be in direct violation of Part 1, Chapter II (Civil and Political Rights) Article 13. Freedom of Thought and Expression. This includes several sections, including sec. 1:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one's choice.”

The anti-ethnic studies law also appears to be in violation of several other sections, including sec. 16 that protect the right of association and the right to culture, etc.

Truth is, in addition to hb 2281, sb 1070 is also not simply in violation of the above declarations, but most assuredly with virtually all international human rights treaties and conventions. Most such treaties are in place to prevent cultural genocide -- to prevent majority cultures from decimating and disappearing "minority cultures."

Rather than comply with a clearly immoral hb 2281, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of 11 plaintiffs late last year that challenges the constitutionality of the law itself – specifically the 1st and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. And thus the courts will decide. A problem for Horne in the courtroom will be one of definitions. He will have to be forced to define words/concepts such as ethnic and ethnic studies, Western Civilization, Indigenous, American and Un-American – words that have not been previously  litigated in a courtroom. Primarily, he will have to define and defend why some disciplines fall under his ban, while others don’t, such as MAS vs. European History, etc.

What is already clear is that Horne’s finding in fact is a direct attack and challenge to the Indigeneity of Mexican Americans. That the MAS program stresses their Indigeneity is seen as an example of the program being out of compliance (page 3). The inquisitional aspect of the finding is that it continues to isolate books such as Occupied America (Acuña), Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire), The Mexican American Heritage (Jimenez)… and two hip-hop groups: Aztlan Underground and El Vuh.

As of Jan 3, TUSD has 60 days to bring the program into compliance (by March 3), but according to Horne: “The only way in which compliance can be effective within the next 60 days is by elimination of the Mexican American Studies Program.” This is proof that this immoral hb 2281 was not designed to “fix” the program, but rather, to eliminate it outright. As noted, Horne’s successor Huppenthal is demanding that TUSD dismantle MAS immediately. If not, TUSD will lose some $15 million, an amount the district can ill-afford to lose, and an amount that the new TUSD superintendent has stated he will not sacrifice. At best he has spoken of a possible compromise. Should we look forward to an Inquisitional “auto de Fe” – a modern mass book-burning? Incidentally, he has also said he will next target Ethnic Studies at the University level.

Details aside, this struggle indeed is civilizational. Witness a speech Horne gave before the Heritage Foundation: It is noteworthy for 3 reasons.

1) That he delivered this speech (Lecture #1023, Heritage Foundation, May 14, 2007) to the premiere ultra-right wing think tank in the country is telling; historically, they have always been hostile to public education and are not particularly known for the defense of the civil and human rights of anyone, particularly people of color.

2) Here’s a quote from the speech: “I am a proponent of a curriculum developed by E. D. Hirsch, called Core Knowledge. Students get a content-rich curriculum in American history, the Greco-Roman basis for Western civilization, and science beginning in kindergarten, first and second grades.” Apparently, things Indigenous – which is the philosophical foundation for Mexican American Studies – do not jibe with things Greek and Roman. And things Indigenous, such as maiz culture – as taught in MAS – are considered un-American. And he has long proclaimed this in his battle against MAS.

3) Amazingly, his drive to have the state impose its view on a local district – TUSD - goes against not simply conservative values and principles [local control], but against his very own! From the conclusion of his speech: “And let us finally learn our lesson. There is an iron law of nature that transcends all nationalities. You can call it Horne's Law if you wish. If you permit a bureaucracy to micromanage a continent-wide, complex system, extreme dysfunction will result. Just ask the Russians.”

Why don’t we just ask Horne: Can you please reread your conclusion and can you elaborate on the micromanaging thing and its consequence?

Lastly, the move to nullify the 14th amendment by 14 states is nothing short of amazing, but again, nothing surprising in these times.  The body, the mind, the spirit… memory. And now newborns. And now, children turning in their parents.

And thus a return to the idea of Creation in a time of Resistance, in a time of repression… and can I say it: a time of oppression? (this is strictly prohibited by hb 2281 – page 7).

These battles in Arizona are not new, nor unique: just perhaps more intense. They are stressful, but the affected communities are resilient. Why else would hundreds of thousands come out to protest racial profiling in Phoenix? Why would people run through the desert in 115-degree heat to defend their programs? Why would Indigenous people risk their lives and take over a Border Patrol Station in Tucson? Why would students and community members get arrested and why would high school students walk 13 miles across Tucson?

Perhaps because they/we know that our very existence is threatened.

* A caveat regarding this conflict is that 5 of 15 protesters who were arrested in May have been found guilty in defense of this program (this includes myself). A date for sentencing has not been set. Three others are still awaiting their trials.

* A second caveat: The judge killed Sat. in Tucson, John M. Roll, had also been assigned to handle the hb 2281 lawsuit.

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

* For more on the lawsuit, go to:

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