May 13, 2010

Racism behind Arizona's ethnic studies law

The Man Behind Arizona's Anti-Ethnic Studies Law

By Justin ElliottHorne, the state's superintendent of public instruction since 2002, has long sought to kill the Tucson school district's ethnic studies classes, including La Raza studies--and he wrote the bill to target that single program. "It's just like the old South, and it's long past time that we prohibited it," he has said of ethnic studies classes that, he claims, teach Hispanics to resent whites.

Horne is now trumpeting the bill, which he wrote and pushed through the legislature, on his attorney general campaign website. His GOP primary opponent, Arpaio-ally Andrew Thomas, is a right-wing champion of anti-immigration policies.

Parallels have been drawn between the new ethnic studies law and the state's immigration law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer less than a month before she signed the ethnic studies bill without public comment Tuesday. But the new legislation explicitly targets Hispanics in a way that the immigration bill--which, some proponents argued, was about public safety and jobs--did not.

Bruce Merrill, a state pollster and professor emeritus at Arizona State University, notes that Tucson is heavily Hispanic. "The population has grown very quickly, and I dont know how you can look at the [ethnic studies] law in any other way than being punitive," he tells TPMmuckraker. "It's obviously more directed toward Hispanics as a group, keeping them down or being fearful of them, in terms of this growing population threat."

"This is classic identity politics," says Rodolfo Espino, a professor at ASU's School of Politics and Global Studies. "The rhetoric coming from Tom Horne and his supporters is anything detracting from teaching what is American identity should not be supported by taxpayer dollars."
Gettin' Dark

By Josh MarshallIt's still not clear just what the effect of this law will be. But I think it's being underreported nationally. I think this takes the situation in Arizona in a significantly new, uglier direction. We all know that the crackdown on illegal immigration in the state is filled with xenophobia and ethnic politics. It's not just about enforcement immigration laws in some narrow sense. Even so, it's pitched that way and many middle-of-the-road voters do see it that way. And we need to remember that violence spun off by the drug trade (as opposed to illegal immigration per se) is a genuine issue in the state.

But this isn't about law and order or undocumented status. [T]his is much more clearly a law ... to put it right out there, about white folks in Arizona who want the people in the Latino community to stop complaining so much. I mean, that's was this is about. And there's not even much of a veneer of anything else. It's about stopping local school districts with large Hispanic populations from teaching their history the way they want to in their local schools. The whole push gets you much more into the realm of explicit ethnic or even racial conflict.
Comment:  For more on the new law, see Arizona to Ban White Studies? and Arizona to Ban Native Studies? For more on what's really going on, see Teabaggers to Target Indians? and Conservative Worldview = Fear of Cooties.

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