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Saturday, December 1, 2012

The anti-thesis to segregation: Raza Studies Now!

The anti-thesis to segregation: Raza Studies Now!
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

I will say it again: Arizona continues to be a distraction, though it is undeniable that it is indeed the epicenter of ignorance, a laboratory for hate legislation and a mecca for the private prison industry. Yet, as a distraction, it continues to permit people to ignore their own backyards.

Most people associate Arizona with Jan Brewer and Sheriff Arpaio… and their bigoted views, but they are not alone, though whatever it is they are selling has an expiration date that is now long past due.

For those of us here in Arizona, we also know we have Attorney General Tom Horne, the face of incompetence and corruption and whose anti-Mexican views take a backseat to no one – even the recently ousted Russell Pearce, the architect of the racial profiling SB 1070 legislation. Horne has the distinction of being the “intellectual” author of the legislation that banned both bilingual education (Proposition 203 in 2000) and Ethnic Studies (HB 2281 in 2010).

And yet, his days are numbered; the vato has more ethical issues than a cactus has thorns. Google his name and you will see his [long] list of ethical and legal troubles.

Just this week (Nov 28, 2012) he weighed in once again in court on the future of Mexican American Studies, opposing the draft proposal of the unitary plan designed to get TUSD to comply with the 1978 desegregation court order. Here is the opening salvo to his (the state’s) court filing, objecting to the draft unitary status plan that requires TUSD:

to establish culturally relevant “core courses” in Latino and African American studies. (Document [“Doc.”] 1406-1 at 37.) Arizona joins TUSD’s objection (Doc. 1407 at 17-20) because such relief is unprecedented, particularly where there has been no finding that the curriculum violated any person’s civil rights, and because the requirements will violate Arizona law, promote segregation, and prompt the return of the discredited.
The key here is that he agrees – and joins – with TUSD in opposing the draft proposal… which brings the question to the fore about possible past and current collusion?

Actually, it’s no longer important. The TUSD governing board now has three out of five members that are pro MAS. As soon as they are sworn in, the point will be moot and the change in the board will become a “game-changer.”

Interestingly, in Mr. Horne’s court filing, he presents the depositions of some 10 witnesses who are anti-MAS… and yet, in 3 days of hearings before the Special Master (assigned by the federal court) to submit a desegregation plan, he heard from hundreds of testimonies from our community in full support of the plan, with only one [nonsensical] dissent.

As a community, we need to regroup because indeed, we are in apartheid conditions in Tucson, where the minority continues to dictate to the majority and where the majority appears to have to beg for everything. We know MAS has community support, and we don’t doubt that we will win.

The reason I continue to reiterate that Arizona is a distraction is because we continue to get support from all over the country, but the best form of support is if people begin to emulate our battles in their own communities.

Santa Monica has set the example. In the fall of 2013, Ethnic Studies will become part of the nation’s wealthiest school district. What we are waiting for is for Ethnic Studies to arrive full force in Los Angeles, to be implemented district- wide. It would be nice to see it also in Houston, San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento, Chicago, New York, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Phoenix, El Paso and San Antonio, etc.

If the task sounds difficult, it is. Tucson’s Raza Studies was not born overnight… and its defense has taken 6 years. Yet, creating Raza Studies or Ethnic Studies nationwide at K-12 schools is the kind of victory we need. It would be an affirmation that Raza Studies-TUSD is worth something to emulate. It would actually affirm 43 years of Raza Studies – at the university level -- and it would affirm our Indigenous knowledge – the very same one that Arizona has been trying to outlaw – claiming that what is taught in MAS is outside of Western Civilization and that it therefore should not be taught in state schools.

The battle is difficult, but it is winnable because what we teach is knowledge that has been here for thousands of years; it doesn’t require validation from anyone. Our youths know this; that’s why we will win.

Whatever is created has to be local. What’s good for Tucson may not be good for Houston or Chicago, etc. Yet it would be good for people nationwide to examine the model Tucson is calling for in The Declaration of Intellectual Warriors ( The document, in response to the favorable draft plan, calls for a Mexican American Indigenous Studies (MAIS), to be built atop the success of the MAS-TUSD department. But the declaration does not stop there; it fully supports African American, American Indian, Asian American, Middle Eastern, Women’s and LGBT Studies.

Also, while every community should develop their own program/department and present it to their local school boards, Raza Studies Now (RazaStudiesNow.Org) is currently creating a nationwide template. That will be the easy part. The more difficult part will be to present it to local school boards and come back 100 times if necessary (which is what we’ve done in Tucson in defense of MAS) until the boards accept. The thing to remember is that many of these school districts are similar to Tucson in that the majority of students, are students of color. Given the unprecedented academic success of MAS-TUSD, it’s a no-brainer to follow Tucson’s lead.

But it shouldn’t stop there. Other efforts should also address the need for bilingual education (the Declaration does) and the full integration of Dream students into our colleges and universities, etc. We also have to ensure that comprehensive immigration reform doesn’t mean a return to the bracero program. Instead, it should mean full equality and full human rights for every human being.

With the re-election of President Obama, a compelling case can be made that it’s time for the pres to honor his promises and commitment to our communities.

Rodriguez can be reached at -

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