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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

John McCain's wildfire accusations

The Arizona senator accuses Mexican immigrants of starting wildfires, but he is fanning the flames himself – of prejudice

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez Tuesday 21 June 2011 21.30 BST

photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

John McCain said there was 'substantial evidence' linking wildfires in Arizona to illegal immigrants. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Does it surprise anyone that Arizona Senator John McCain has blamed undocumented immigrants for the wildfires in his state?

Hard economic times drives desperate people to do desperate things. Throw in the subject of immigration and a little bit of xenophobia … and shazzam! You have the recipe for a political ideology: blame the Mexicans! Send that recipe into Arizona and you have the perfect storm:

• Uneducated and unable to find a [high-paying] job? Blame the Mexicans.
• Social security and Medicare going broke? Yup, it's the Mexicans.
• Terrorism in the Middle East has you up at night? Blame the Mexicans for your insomnia, send troops and wall the US-Mexico border.
• Crime, drug usage and communicable diseases on the rise? You know the answer.

Blaming Mexicans, or "illegal aliens", is a tradition here; and in Georgia and Alabama, too … the whole country, really. Last year, McCain claimed that "illegal aliens" were intentionally causing accidents on freeways.

McCain's charges read like comedy but here in Arizona, immigration is serious business – and so is scapegoating. It is [Sheriff Joe] Arpaio country, where racial profiling is American as apple pie. It is this state that gave us SB 1070 – based in large part on the unproven allegation that Arizona rancher Robert Krentz was killed by "illegal aliens". Amazingly, another whopper was conjured up one week after SB 1070 was signed – that a Pinal County sheriff's deputy had been shot by Mexican drug smugglers (the incident was self-inflicted). And two weeks before SB 1070 was set to go into effect, Governor Jan Brewer began to warn people about finding headless bodies in the Arizona desert. But the fantastical tales don't end there: in this state, it's not even that Mexican migrants are falsely blamed for real problems; they are also blamed for invented problems. Dana Milbank from the Washington Post writes about this:

"Border violence on the rise? Phoenix becoming the world's No 2 kidnapping capital? Illegal immigrants responsible for most police killings? The majority of those crossing the border are drug mules? All wrong."

Per the FBI, we know that the border region is safer than it was a decade ago, and that many of the safest US cities are along the US-Mexico border. But when it comes to fueling xenophobia in this country, facts never get in the way.

For example, Tucson's highly successful Mexican American Studies programme is on the verge of being eliminated because our current attorney general, Tom Horne, has long maintained that the classes foment revolution ("Viva Che!"). A recent independent audit found all the charges against the programme to be false.

"Illegal aliens" causing Arizona wildfires? While the US Forest Service has made no such claim, McCain and his ideological supporters would have us accept his speculation as fact. What's next? Blaming Mexicans for increased sun spot activity?
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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

Friday, June 17, 2011

Anatomy of a Tragicomic Educational Witch-hunt

Anatomy of a Tragicomic Educational Witch-hunt
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Arizona’s vicious politics in regards to the legality of Tucson’s highly successful Mexican American Studies (MAS) program have now reached the level of tragicomedy.

Despite an independent audit giving MAS two thumbs up – finding that "no observable evidence was present to suggest that any classroom within Tucson Unified School District is in direct violation of the law” – Arizona State Superintendent, John Huppenthal, still managed to give both the program and the $110,000 audit two middle fingers.

A lot of us are starting to miss Huppenthal’s predecessor, Tom Horne. With him, you could always count on him for a good laugh – like the time (always) he claimed that he was attempting to dismantle Ethnic Studies in Arizona in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., or the time he claimed that labor leader, Dolores Huerta, had been Cesar Chavez’s girlfriend.

With Huppenthal, on the other hand, you don’t know whether it’s Ground Hog Day, or Theater of the Absurd. After sitting on the results of the 120-page audit by Miami-based Cambium Learning for some 6 weeks, he held a press conference on June 15 to discredit his own commissioned audit. When asked to produce the audit, it was conveniently unavailable. For good reason. The audit actually praises MAS. Despite this, he unilaterally declared MAS to be outside of the law, giving the district 60 days to comply or else lose $15 million.

If this were a play, it would be titled: “Johnny can’t read” or “Say it ain’t so, John.”

It cannot be forgotten that HB 2281 was designed by Horne with one specific purpose in mind; to declare Tucson’s MAS program illegal. Thus on its face, HB 2281 is unconstitutional.

The second thing to remember is that the purpose of the audit was “to determine whether the Mexican American Studies Department’s curriculum is in compliance with A.R.S. 15-112 (A)” – (page 4 of audit). And what the audit found is that the program is in compliance because it does not violate any of the four provisions of HB 2281 (page 53). The provisions prohibit classes that:

· advocate the overthrow of the United States government

· promote resentment toward a race or class of people

· are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic race

· advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals

It is Huppenthal that found MAS in violation of the last three provisions of the law.
Reminiscent of the Inquisition, MAS has been declared to be illegal not because it is illegal, but rather, because Huppenthal has unilaterally declared it so.

When Governor Jan Brewer signed HB 2281 into law on May 12, 2010, the very next day, TUSD officials proudly proclaimed that the district’s MAS program was in full compliance. Since then, there has been no study to contravene this finding, including Huppenthal’s own audit. How he arrived at his determination is obvious; he moved the goalposts. What is missing in this process is transparency (The ACLU has sued to obtain the audit records to determine what criteria he used to ignore the audit). Huppenthal is the same man who campaigned to “stop La Raza.” In his own finding, contrary to the audit, he found that MAS materials “repeatedly refer to white people as being ‘the oppressors’ and ‘oppressing’ the Latino people.” If the term “oppressors” bothers him, perhaps we can come up with another term. Yet, it is obvious that it is the historic relationship of inequality that he objects to being taught.

In Huppenthal’s and Horne’s America, topics such as genocide, land theft, slavery, lynchings, forced removals of populations and mass deportations, Jim Crow segregation and legalized discrimination are apparently out of bounds. And the human rights struggles to overcome these injustices are apparently also out of bounds.

By ignoring his own audit, Huppenthal has, in effect, issued a 1500s-era Auto de Fe – a witch-hunt and a call to censor books, curriculums and classrooms. The tragicomedy of this situation is that TUSD’s school board and its superintendent, John Pedicone, have been seemingly racing to dismantle MAS from within, (attempting to make MAS classes electives), even resorting to the massive use of force (May 3 school board meeting) to enforce their proposed changes. Incidentally, the audit recommends that the classes remain part of the core curriculum).

Beyond the hate that HB 2281 has unleashed, still to be determined in a courtroom is not whether MAS is in compliance with HB 2281, but rather, whether the law is constitutional (The Acosta lawsuit). The audit does not actually tackle that question. Compliance assumes that MAS should adhere to Horne’s Greco-Roman values. The notion that MAS should treat students as individuals is a canard; they are treated as individuals, and at the same time, all individuals possess a culture and all culture is collective. And in case Huppenthal, Horne and Pedicone have not also noticed, the right to culture, education, language, history and identity are protected by at least 9 international human rights treaties and conventions.

While the audit is actually a resounding affirmation of Mexican American Studies-TUSD, the report does have another major flaw that cannot go unanswered; it advocates that the words “Raza Studies” be removed from the program’s documentation (this was already done in 2010). It does not explain why and reads like a cave-in to right wing ideology. The adoption or rejection of such terminology – which connotes the mixture of all races and the anti-thesis of purity – should be up to peoples and communities to decide, rather than as directives to be imposed by auditors unfamiliar with the discipline.

By inference, compliance connotes that promoting unity amongst [all] peoples is bad and that critical thinking and fighting for social justice are also bad. To comply with such a law sets a bad precedent.

Despite this and despite Huppenthal, the audit sounds like victory for MAS-TUSD.

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

* This is the link to the full audit:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Forget Huppenthal's Recycled Auto de Fe: Remember May 3!

Forget Huppenthal's recycled Auto de Fe: Remember May 3! Questions that must be answered
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Once again, the state school’s superintendent of schools, John Huppenthal, who campaigned on the theme of stopping “La Raza” and eliminating Tucson’s highly successful Mexican American Studies Program (MAS) – per the unconstitutional HB 2281 - has ruled the program out of compliance (as supporters of MAS, we do not recognize it as a law).

No surprise in Huppenthal’s ruling, though it appears he pulled a Cheney on this one (the audit absolves MAS, but Huppenthal rules MAS out of compliance anyway).

The surprise in all this is that the Huppenthal report has been released amid a mind-boggling case of collective amnesia. On May 3rd, the Mexican American community and supporters of the MAS-TUSD program were assaulted on at a highly militarized school board meeting and everyone is proceeding as though this unprecedented assault [on democracy] did not actually occur.

Before responding to the Huppenthal report, we must understand the context that it is HB 2281 – not MAS – that has unleashed an unprecedented amount of hate, anger, resentment, retaliation, intimidation, harassment, show of force and use of force against the Mexican American community and against MAS supporters, and it has been spearheaded by lies and misinformation.

At the May 3 meeting, more than 100 officers were deployed. At least 50 law enforcement personnel were inside TUSD Headquarters, including tactical units, a bomb squad, a helicopter, helmeted/shielded officers, TUSD security officers, etc. Aside from 7 arrests, elders were forcibly removed from the meeting. Outside, youths were roughed up. Most of those present estimate there were between 150-200 officers, including those deployed inside the building, those surrounding the building, and those that blocked off all the approaches to the building.

Here are questions to both TPD, TUSD and the media:

* How many total officers/security personnel were deployed May 3? (Dr. John Pedicone says he asked for police presence & most were supposed to be out of sight).

* The trigger to ask for the police presence was due to threats to students, etc. Is there a report re threats, presence of guns, including bomb threats, prior to May 3 meeting? On June 6, a TPD report on the threats to the students (“Shoot them in the head” video) concluded that it was but a joke. On what basis was it determined that a video that is inciting people to shoot the students in the head constitute a “joke?”

* Were there other agencies involved on May 3rd other than TPD and TUSD? What were TPD and TUSD expenditures for May 3 and were monies used from other sources?

* Why did the helmeted SWAT units with riot gear conduct military maneuvers prior to the beginning of the meeting, marching in two by two up the middle aisle?

* Who made the decision that speaking (even speaking out of turn) constituted a criminal and arrestable offense at a school board meeting? Seven speakers were arrested for attempting to speak and nothing else.

* Who authorized use of force against elder Salamon Baldenegro, teacher Paula McPheters from Ochoa Elementary and KOLD cameraman, Edgar Ybarra . All three were physically tossed/thrown out of the TUSD building. That is not acceptable behavior. (At a subsequent May 23 meeting, TPD Chief Roberto Villaseñor said no force was used inside the building and that there but 50 officers deployed at any given time that night).

* Who authorized TPD to order everyone out of the boardroom or else? There were many witnesses to these orders by officers in riot gear. Chief Villaseñor said that TUSD authorized this, but that TPD recommended not ordering people out, but they did threaten to arrest people inside the building if they did not leave.

* On May 23, Chief Villaseñor said that officers were not supposed to be in riot gear at the meeting, that he gave orders to remove helmets/shields but that radios and cell phones were not working. During emergency, radios/cells not working? Everybody else’s cells were working. Is this accurate?

* Is there a report on the use of force outside of the building? We know many youths were injured, including high school students, but none were arrested.

* Was report done regarding the entire events of April 26th & May 3rd or only about possible charges against the students (April 26) and the seven arrests of May 3? Is it available to the public?

* Why is TPD continuing to pursue charges when it’s no longer the wish of TUSD?

* For Dr. Pedicone:

Being that no one could approach the building without seeing a massive police presence everywhere, including inside the building, why was meeting not cancelled or officers directed to stay out of sight)?

* Why was Mr. Sean Arce, director of MAS, placed under the direct supervision of an avowed opponent of MAS-TUSD, Lupita Garcia, creating a hostile and adversarial relationship.

* Will you declare your opposition to the unconstitutional HB 2281 and instead declare your full support for the director, the teachers and the MAS program?

* There are plenty of questions as a result of Huppenthal’s June 15 Auto de Fe, but lets get these questions answered first.

Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, is a member of the MAS-TUSD Community advisory board and can be reached at:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Shoot them in Head" Video Threat Investigation against students deemed "a Joke"

The video that was posted with the threats against the UNIDOS students in Tucson was posted soon after April 26 and definitely before the subsequent May 3 miliitarized meeting.The investigation into the threats was deemed a joke.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sacred War and Arizona’s Final “Reduccion”

Column of the Americas
For Immediate Release: June 6, 2011
Sacred War and Arizona’s Final “Reduccion”
By Roberto Dr.Cintli Rodriguez

In Arizona, we are just days away from a momentous ruling: it is expected that on the basis of an illegitimate audit, State Schools Superintendent John Huppenthal – who ran on the promise of eliminating “La Raza,” – will rule Tucson’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) program to be outside of “the law.” The way HB 2281 was designed, the only remedy is elimination.

Incidentally, supporters of the program do not recognize HB 2281 as a legitimate law. In part, this is because this is nothing more than a long line of “laws” meant to ensure our dehumanization. And this is not a new story. A read of Pagans in the Promised Land (Newcomb, S. 2008) gives us this understanding – that what’s happening in Arizona is not simply a civilizational war, but rather a so-called sacred war – the same war that brought us the Inquisition, pitting civilized Christians v. uncivilized heathens. In the Americas, it is part of the deep story about how Europeans (Christians) – via the mind-boggling divine “doctrine of discovery” – claim[ed] the continent and de-rooted its peoples.

In Arizona, it is also about who is legal and who is not and about whose knowledge is legitimate and whose is not.

This cosmic drama has actually been playing out since Biblical times. This imported drama is how we can also come to understand the meaning of Arizona’s final or Ultima Reduccion – the unfinished business of colonization. Spain’s continent-wide policy of reducciones of the 1500s-1800s, was about spiritually killing Indians while creating Christians in their place (American Indians will recognize this as the 19TH and 20TH century boarding school policies: kill the Indian, save the man). The belief was that Europeans were Christian and Indigenous peoples were pagan and thus, Christians had the right to claim the land and the peoples’ souls. A reduccion was also the process by which everything Indigenous was demonized, including the astronomical, mathematical and scientific knowledge contained within the ancient calendars. It also demonized the songs, dances, music, ceremonies, medicine and even the food (amaranth).

The entire 300-year colonization era was one huge reduccion and one huge Auto de Fe. The most infamous Auto de Fe in history was recorded in 1562 at Mani, Yucatan, where Bishop Diego De Landa staged a massive 3-day book burning – proclaiming the ancient codices of the Maya: “Things of the Devil.”

While those policies are officially over, they actually live on. On Dec. 30, 2010, then State Schools Superintendent Tom Horne issued his own 10-page Auto de Fe, declaring Tucson’s MAS program in violation of the 2010 anti-Ethnic Studies HB 2281. He had long charged that Ethnic Studies should be grounded in Greco-Roman values – the foundation of Western Civilization, and nothing else. On that day, he declared MAS outside of civilization and also, outside of the West. On that day, he metaphorically commenced his own book burning, commencing yet another Inquisition, declaring that books such as Rodolfo Acuña’s Occupied America and Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed promoted hate, segregation and the overthrow of the U.S. government. He also cited hip-hop groups Aztlan Underground and El Vuh for the same.

His declaration actually hearkens back to that “sacred war” brought over by Columbus. On Jan. 3, 2011, Horne read his own Requerimiento; a “legal” finding compelling the district to comply or else. The original 1514 Requerimiento was read in Latin to Indigenous peoples, declaring that if there were no Christians on this land, the land now belonged to the Spanish Crown. If they did not comply, the crown’s representatives would wage merciless war upon them.

On April 26 and then on May 3, the Tucson school board attempted to comply with the state’s wishes by telling the heathens what was good for them (MAS classes were to henceforth become electives) – since peoples less than human can’t think for themselves nor do they possess equal rights. On the 26th, students prevented the school board from meeting by chaining themselves to the board chairs. In response, on May 3, the board authorized a massive show of force (more than 100 police officers, including SWAT units, metal detectors, a helicopter and a bomb squad) to remind us how imposed laws are enforced: through brute force. Seven participants, attempting to speak were arrested, and many youths and elders were roughed up.

When Huppenthal issues his finding – his own Auto de Fe or his own Requerimiento – it will not deter MAS supporters because we too are involved in our own cosmic drama. It comes down to us from the ancient Codex Chimalpopoca (The Legend of the Suns) and the Popul Vuh; it is about how human beings and maiz were created. That knowledge is thousands of years old, it is Indigenous to this continent, it is taught at MAS and freely shared with the world. It is from here that we derive In Lak Ech (You are my other me) and Panche Be (To seek the root of the truth) – concepts that teach us to respect not just all human beings, but all life. It is how we know that we are not heathen, that we are all human and all deserving of our full human rights. It is also why we will not be complicit in our own [final] reduccion.

If the state wants a solution, it will have to speak to us as co-equals and as full human beings.

Rodriguez is a professor at the University and can be reached at: