Lifting the Colorblind in Tucson
George Orwell once wrote that “those who control the present control the past, and those who control the past control the future.” Over the past several months Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction and former state senator, John Huppenthal, had proven the most vociferous embodiment of Orwell’s maxim.
Since June, 2011 Superintendent Huppenthal has repeatedly claimed that the Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD) Mexican American Studies Program has failed to comply with A.R.S. §15-112 (HB 2281).
A.R.S. §15-112 reads: A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in its
program of instruction any courses or classes that…
1. Promote overthrowing the U.S. government; 2. Promote resentment towards a race or class of people; 3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic race; 4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
More pointedly, Huppenthal has argued that the TUSD has violated the bill’s prohibition of teaching resources and curricula 1) designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic race and 2) that advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals. And on January 1, 2012 Tucson’s moratorium on Mexican American Studies began when school officials cleansed classrooms of at least seven “politically objectionable” books including Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, and The Tempest. Huppenthal submits that the excision of select curricular materials is part of the district’s strategy to avoid “biased, political and emotionally charged” teaching.
But how can Huppenthal and Arizona lawmakers aim to create a colorblind curriculum of individuals when the entire legal, educational, social, cultural, political, and economic record of our country has been one premised on the color-coded history of groups?
The struggle being waged in Tucson over intellectual surveillance, cultural extermination, and censorship is a story of both symptoms and diseases. The symptom is strategic amnesia, the disease, white supremacy. If history is the propaganda of the victor, then perhaps Huppenthal and his epigones should be forced to remember that in…
…1667 the Colony of Virginia established compulsory life servitude for Christianized “negroes.”
…1790 Congress passed its first Naturalization Act establishing a uniform rule of naturalization and a two
year residency requirement for aliens who were "free white persons" of "good moral character.”
…1838 the Pennsylvania State Legislature passed a law mandating that the King James Bible
be used as a public school textbook. The new regulation was a deliberate affront to recently immigrated
Irish-Catholics. (Catholics and Protestants at the time were considered two separate races of people.)
…1854 the California Supreme Court ruled in People V. Hall that Chinese immigrants would be prohibited from testifying against whites in California courts.
…1857 the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision declared free Africans non-citizens.
…1862 California passed the “Anti Coolie Act” which discouraged Chinese immigration to the state and levied special taxes on employers who hired Chinese workers.
…1882 U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which restricted all Chinese immigration to the United States for a period of ten years.
...1892 U.S. Congress passed the Geary Act which extended the Chinese Exclusion Act for ten more years and added the requirement that all Chinese residents carry permits.
…1901 U.S. Congress enacted the Anarchist Exclusion Act which prohibited the entry of people judged to be “anarchists and political extremists.” (Anarchists at the time were thought to be exclusively of Eastern European extraction.)
…1917 U.S. Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917 which restricted immigration from Asia by creating an "Asiatic Barred Zone."
…1954 the INS forcibly removed at least 100,000 Mexican nationals from the “U.S. Southwest”
as part of “Operation Wetback.”
…2001 the U.S. Patriot Act amended the Immigration and Nationality Act to broaden the scope of
“aliens” ineligible for admission or deportable due to terrorist activities to include an “alien” who is
“a representative of a political, social, or similar group whose political endorsement of terrorist acts
that undermines U.S. antiterrorist efforts or has been associated with a terrorist organization and
intends to engage in threatening activities while in the United States.” (The term “terrorist” is always
already racialized. Need an example? How many people apply the term “terrorist” to the KKK?)
…2012 U.S. Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which explicitly affirms the authority of the President and the Armed Forces of the United States to detain those “who is a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”
Folk singer and humanitarian Utah Phillips once said that “the long memory is the most radical idea in this country” for if we cannot see the past clearly enough, then we shall not ask the right questions of the present.
Please visit “Save Ethnic Studies” for more information on ways to preserve anti-racist, politically conscious, and culturally relevant k-12 education in Tucson, AZ and beyond.