Monday, May 24, 2010

More on the Ban on Ethnic Studies in Arizona

Let's hope Arizona's backlash to minority rights is not leading the way for the rest of the United States. The latest is a ban on ethnic studies, alleged to be divisive for society.

Let's face it, if classes are relegated to 1 or 2 courses on "American history" and/or "European history" throughout high school as mandated by the government, absolutely key issues of systemic discrimination are going to be excluded, which were central to the building of America. There is no denying, America would not have been built in the way it was without, among other travesties, slavery or the extermination of Native American tribes.

Also excluded will be the key concepts that revolve around these ugly, but central, aspects of American history and contemporary society. Without understanding, or even knowing, these key concepts (e.g., discrimination, cultural diffusion, assimilation, race, power, stratification, amalgamation) and how they still operate in society, students will be deprived of learning the critical thinking skills that we all need when we go out to work in the "real world."

NPR's Talk of the Nation did a decent job in illustrating both sides of this issue in this 30-minute podcast: "Ariz. Ban On Ethnic Studies Divides Educators."

A few things, however, are being lost in this discussion, or only marginally addressed. First is the fear factor, and how this ban on ethnic studies coincides with xenophobic immigration policy. Most demographers state that by 2050 Caucasians will no longer comprise a numerical majority in the United States. Thus, while we can expect some states/regions of the country to oppose backlashes to minority power (for instance, Los Angeles' proposal to boycott Arizona), we can ultimately expect increases in proposed policies against immigration, ethnic studies, and affirmative action.

Moreover, we can expect that these proposed policies will be tied to the ongoing demonization of people of color through other "red flag" issues, namely crime and deviance. That is exactly how proponents of Arizona's immigration law framed their argument -- among the brown people who might resemble immigrants visually, we need to know who is a U.S. citizen and who is not, because if they are not, they just might be a violent drug cartel member.

I found this great example, "Arizona's immigration law creates a police state for immigrants in order to solve a drug-war problem," where Phoenix city councilman Sal DiCiccio is quoted,

You know, if you look at what's happening in the state of Arizona -- I really want to talk about this, this is more a plea to the national audience -- they need to take a look at what's happening in our state. In the city of Phoenix alone, the area that I control along with the other members of the council and the mayor, but we have a responsibility to protect our citizenry. We had over 350 kidnappings in the city of Phoenix alone, primarily due to the illegal immigrant trade (video available HERE).

Fear induced code words?: "Watch out, that Mexican looking guy might kidnap you or your child, so let's check all Mexican looking people for their papers."

Also being lost in the discussion (unsurprisingly) are the global connections that make our immediate locales all the more multicultural. Whether it be through major trade policies (NAFTA) that cause immigration (legal and illegal) or information technology advances, our world will continue to become increasingly connected. Thus if anything, a need for ethnic studies classes will be even more necessary.

We should not be questioning whether or not ethnic studies classes should be offered (i.e., either have 'em or cut 'em entirely). More appropriate questions might be, how should ethnic studies courses be offered, and how can education as a whole be valued in such a way that a multiplicity of voices and perspectives are adequately included in the curriculum.

Er, uh, wait, that's right. I forgot, we don't value public education in the United States. It increases taxes.


  1. In this day and age of tightening the belt, notice liberal arts, humanities, and ethnic studies taking a big hit budget wise. These very valuable studies are supposed to enlarge our understanding of the human condition and balance our education as well as critical thinking skills. Is it not possible that we can go back to the one-room schoolhouse days and incorporate these studies under both math and science topics such as population, statistics, economics? Why can't a ethnic studies professor and and an Economics co-teach a critical thinking course or use stastical analysis to form a socialogical opinion?

  2. Could you please tell me where you found the photograph of the mural that illustrates this page? Did you secure licensing through Google's Creative Commons for it? Could I use it for advertising an ethnic studies summit at my institution of higher learning? Thanks,

    Eugenio Matibag

  3. I think that this is so interesting, I would like to have the chance of read more about it, The latest is a ban on ethnic studies, alleged to be divisive for is so interesting!

  4. I think that this is so interesting, I would like to have the chance of read more about it, The latest is a ban on ethnic studies, alleged to be divisive for is so interesting!