Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Those Hateful Arizonians

Ethnic Studies ban affects Reason and Justice in Arizona - Desert, Science and Hot Dogs: The Three Sonorans

This Friday, December 31, 2010, Arizona will ban Ethnic Studies in TUSD, or rather take the first steps towards this grave injustice. The next day the new superintendent of TUSD, Dr. John Pedicone, will be met with more and more media coverage as the rest of the nation asks WTF AZ?

There’s a word for what Arizona is attempting to do here: ethnocide. It is similar to genocide in its scope, but it reflects the notion that it is an ethnic and/or cultural identity under assault more so than physical bodies themselves. By imposing a curriculum that forbids the exploration of divergent cultures while propping up the dominant one, there’s another process at work here, what we might call ethnonormativity. This takes the teachings of one culture – the colonizer’s – and makes it the standard version of history while literally banning other accounts, turning the master narrative into the “normal” one, and further denigrating marginalized perspectives. America’s racialized past abounds with such examples of oppressed people being denied their languages, histories and cultures, including through enforced indoctrination in school systems.

As if to add insult to injury, HB 2281 barely makes a pretense to hide any of this in its language and intended scope. A close reading of the law lays bare some of the more stark and sinister aspects of its potential application in a state where Hispanic students fill nearly half the seats in the public schools (the domain to which HB 2281 will apply). In particular, there are three primary aspects of the law that merit further investigation as contributing factors to the ongoing erasure of ethnic identities and the further marginalization of people of color in Arizona.

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