August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Roberto Rodriguez: Arizona's Apartheid War against Mexican American Studies

And on the 7th Day…
Riot Squad/Photo Column of the Americas
Arizona’s Apartheid War Against Mexican American Studies
Special length column
Column of the Americas
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Posted at Censored News


Early on the morning of the 7th day, God wrote HB 2281; then he rested.
That’s the way conservative Arizonans view this clearly unconstitutional and immoral anti-Ethnic Studies measure.
The opponents of Tucson’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) department – who act as though this state measure was also inscribed on the original tablets God handed to Moses – use this circular logic. An administrative law judge, Lewis D. Koval, also weighed in on the embattled MAS department, with a 37-page finding last week with the same twisted logic. He opined that MAS-TUSD is out of compliance and that HB 2281 is legal because it has not been ruled unconstitutional. If affirmed, the finding can cost TUSD 10 percent of its monthly state budget, totaling up to $15 million per year. That HB 2281 has not been found to be unconstitutional is true... only because the measure has yet to be actually implemented and the 2010 Acosta federal lawsuit has not yet reached the trial stage. Not only that, the legal process, as established by the state measure, has not yet fully played out. Within a few days, state schools’ superintendent John Huppenthal, who campaigned with the vow to “stop La Raza,” is expected to affirm Koval’s non-binding ruling. TUSD can now petition the Superior Court to reject Koval’s finding, though TUSD superintendent, John Pedicone, has already indicated he wants the district to comply with the ruling.
On paper, MAS-TUSD detractors oppose the department because it violates HB 2281, seemingly not cognizant that the only reason this state measure exists is because the former state schools’ superintendent, Tom Horne, crafted it to ensure that the department would be deemed out of compliance, with the only remedy being elimination. Horne incidentally, has long-claimed that his effort to eliminate MAS-TUSD was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I have a Dream” speech. Bernard Lafayette Jr., a colleague of MLK Jr. and a freedom rider, along with virtually the entire civil rights community nationwide, begs to differ with Horne. Ironically, along with the racial profiling SB 1070, his animus toward MAS is what has unleashed an unprecedented amount of hate toward Mexicans and Mexican Americans in this state, a clue that Horne has no business invoking MLK’s name for any reason.
Only four things have stood in Horne’s way: the truth, the facts, the independent Cambium Report, which was commissioned by his successor, John Huppenthal, and the U.S. Constitution.
Of course, none of that has stopped Huppenthal either; despite the independent $110,000 Cambium report finding MAS-TUSD in compliance with HB 2281, and recommending that it be expanded, he still managed to rule that the department was out-of-compliance. Huppenthal’s ruling triggered an [weak] appeal by TUSD before judge Koval. Within days, Huppenthal of course is expected to affirm his own decision.
Even though Huppenthal will affirm his own decision, the courts have yet to actually weigh in on the matter. To call HB 2281 a law is premature. The reason Horne, who is now state attorney general, initiated this measure is that he has always claimed that the philosophical foundation for MAS-TUSD is outside of Western Civilization. In effect, Horne is correct; MAS is founded not upon Greco-Roman culture, but upon a maiz-based philosophy, which is many thousands of years old and Indigenous to this continent. Yet, Horne, along with other opponents, also claim that MAS is un-American. The state measure implies that MAS-TUSD: promotes the overthrow of the U.S. government; that it promotes racial resentment, that it is designed primarily for one group (Mexican Americans), and that it advocates ethnic solidarity, instead of treating people as individuals (This last provision is a seeming attempt to codify individualism, while attempting to destroy culture, which has always been collective).
The department was cleared of all these charges by Cambium. Not satisfied with the report, Huppenthal then overruled it, claiming, on the basis of his own “investigation,” that MAS-TUSD was in violation of three of the four provisions, excluding the charge that it promotes the overthrow of the U.S. government. In affirming Huppenthal’s June decision, Koval, an expert in liquor law, relied on the state’s principal star witness, Dr. Sandra Stotzky. This hired gun, who admittedly is not an expert in either Ethnic or Mexican American Studies, actually witnessed nothing; she never set foot in any classroom, never spoke to one MAS teacher or student. This is the opposite of Cambium. Yet in Koval’s ruling, the results of the Cambium audit are diminished, while favoring Stotzky’s assessment. This points to what has been further unleashed; a torrent of people who seem to confuse the idea that opposing MAS somehow confers expert status upon them.
The hearings, which I attended, very much resembled an Inquisition into what is acceptable and permissible teaching, learning and thinking. It was the epitome of attempts at thought control within a cultural context. The supposition is that because Mexican American Studies is critical, contestational and oppositional – in its quest to teach the truth (Panche Be) – that it is therefore un-American. Words such as Raza or Chicano, conflated with militancy by Horne, Huppenthal and Koval, are viewed as evidence of that assumption. Even the favorable Cambium report recommended that the term Raza be stricken from the curriculum. At best, the ruling assumes that challenging oppression and racial supremacy and asserting Indigeneity, makes MAS “racist,” anti-American and breeds resentment. Arguably, what MAS actually breeds is a desire for peace, dignity, equality and justice.
In its appeal, TUSD arguably put up a less-than-stellar defense, this as representatives of a district that is upwards of 60 percent Mexican American (approaching 80 per cent in the elementary grades). Their lawyers did not aggressively question the two TUSD school board members, Mark Stegeman and Michael Hicks, who have never hidden their disdain for the department. They did not aggressively question anyone. Worse, they could have made the Cambium report the centerpiece of their appeal, but they did not. Of the many dozens of Arizona university scholars who teach Ethnic Studies, or who have been inside MAS-TUSD classes, none were called to testify. No one from the National Association of Chicana/Chicano Scholars or the National Association of Ethnic Scholars were called to testify, even though both organizations have affirmed their support for MAS-TUSD. This is the same district, led by Superintendent Pedicone, that has treated MAS supporters with contempt, actually militarizing its school board meetings, having elders and students arrested and even beaten (April 26 and May 3, 2011), this while proclaiming support for the MAS program.
In effect, Koval, Huppenthal, the state and even TUSD envision permitting the teaching of a neutered MAS, through antiseptic microscopic lenses, as a phenomenon of the past, and not ever bringing to light unjust laws and unequal treatment today. If the state emerges victorious, the teaching of HB 2281and the role of MAS students in defending their own program, will conceivably also be prohibited.
Judge Koval cherry picked passages from books, articles (including my own) and even lyrics and artwork and posters, to “prove” that MAS is out of compliance. The only thing the judge managed to prove is that Mexican Americans have not accepted land theft, lynchings, brutality, segregation, discriminatory laws, inequality, inferior education, mass deportations and dehumanization sitting down. He also managed to infer that maiz-based values such as In Lak Ech (You are my other self) and Panche Be (To seek the root of the truth) are un-American.
Truthfully, the department shouldn’t have to be in compliance with a clearly immoral and unconstitutional law, whose primary aim seems to be a return to the 1950s policies of forced assimilation. During the colonial era, it would have been referred to as a reduccion – an attempt to obliterate peoples’ Indigenous history, knowledge, culture and memory. Five hundred years later and HB 2281 appears to be an attempt at implementing the final reduccion.
Yet 500 years later, international law is actually now on the side of MAS: virtually every human rights treaty, charter and convention protects the culture, history, identity, language and education of all peoples. These human rights charters exist to prevent cultural genocide. This attack against MAS is actually an attack on all education, not just Ethnic Studies. The notion of censoring and banning the teaching of certain materials – making Swiss cheese out of what can be taught – is antithetical to the very precept of education.
Ironically, the movement against MAS is having an unintended opposite effect; it is “re-Indigenizing” the Mexican American and Latino/Latina communities nationwide. People who formerly sneered at things Indian, or who viewed them as part of the past, are now coming to understand that the reason MAS is fiercely opposed is precisely because of the Indigenous roots of the peoples and their cultures.
In Arizona, one could deem this effort to eliminate MAS, along with the anti-immigrant SB 1070, as a form of Indian Removal – an effort to exterminate or capture or possess the mind, body and spirit [of Mexicans]. Removal in 2012 translates into mass incarceration and mass deportations via racial profiling measures and discriminatory practices. And for those that can’t be deported or incarcerated, this translates into de-Indigenization, de-Mexicanization and forced assimilation. The American Dream.
While TUSD has the option to appeal the Koval/Huppenthal decision in state court, there is no assurance that it will do so (it is possible that other parties may do the appealing in state court). As Horne designed the measure, TUSD, with another turn to the right with the addition of another conservative school board member, may not be willing to risk $15 million to save a department that it barely supports. His design had but one goal: to eliminate MAS.
After the legal recourses have been exhausted at the state level, there is still the matter of the Acosta federal lawsuit; U.S. 9th Circuit Judge, A. Wallace Tashima, is scheduled to first rule on a temporary injunction and other procedural matters, then examine the constitutionality of the measure.
What actually stands in the way of implementation of HB 2281 and MAS-TUSD is the student group UNIDOS, Social Justice and MEChA students, along with the thousands of supporters, youths and elders who have braved arrests, the unnecessary use of force and death threats, affirming that they will never accept HB 2281 as a law. Not lost on them is the knowledge that the effort to dismantle the department, by what appears to be apartheid forces, including the TUSD school board, is due, not because it is failing, but the exact opposite; it eliminates the dropout problem. It is highly successful, graduating virtually 100 percent of its students and sending more than 70 percent to college.
Apparently, that’s both a problem and a threat.
* The 37-page Koval ruling can be found at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/76617576/ALJ-ruling-against-Ethnic-Studies-in-TUSD#source:facebook


Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, and a member of the MAS-TUSD community advisory board, can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com. The column is also posted at: http://drcintli.blogspot.com/

First Voices Indigenous Radio: Occupation Movement and Language

First Voices Indigenous Radio
ON THE AIR: WBAI 99.5 FM Every Thursday at 9 AM Eastern
www.firstvoicesindigenousradio.org

Listen to Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Lakota from Cheyenne River, S.D., online at WBAI in New York. In recent programs, Native American guests discuss the occupy movement and the language of occupation.

http://www.firstvoicesindigenousradio.org/program_archives

Listen to the Program
December 29, 2011
EDITED VERSION FOR WFTE - SCRANTON, PENNSYLVANIA
DEMELZA CHAMPAGNE, JOHN FREISEN, JAKE LITTLE, JEREME AMOUAK and FARREL - NEW YORK - All join in a discussion about the current "Occupation" movement and the use of language.
"To most, the irony of a progressive social movement using the term “occupy” to reshape how Americans think about issues of democracy and equality has been clear. After all, it is generally nations, armies and police who occupy, usually by force. And in this, the United States has been a leader. The American government is just now after nine years ending its overt occupation of Iraq, is still entrenched in Afghanistan and is maintaining troops on the ground in dozens of countries worldwide. All this is not to obscure the fact that the United States as we know it came into being by way of an occupation — a gradual and devastatingly violent one that all but extinguished entire Native American populations across thousands of miles of land." "In this sense, Occupy Wall Street has occupied language, has made “occupy” its own. And, importantly, people from diverse ethnicities, cultures and languages have participated in this linguistic occupation — it is distinct from the history of forcible occupation in that it is built to accommodate all, not just the most powerful or violent." "Occupy Language might draw inspiration from both the way that the Occupy movement has reshaped definitions of “occupy,” which teaches us that we give words meaning and that discourses are not immutable, and from the way indigenous movements have contested its use, which teaches us to be ever-mindful about how language both empowers and oppresses, unifies and isolates." "By occupying language, we can expose how educational, political, and social institutions use language to further marginalize oppressed groups; resist colonizing language practices that elevate certain languages over others; resist attempts to define people with terms rooted in negative stereotypes; and begin to reshape the public discourse about our communities, and about the central role of language in racism and discrimination." excerpts from H. Samy Alin's article What If We Occupied The Language?
Listen to the Program
December 22, 2011
EDITED VERSION FOR WFTE SCRANTON, PA (Please go to Audioport.org for your stations downloadable version)
TOM WEISS rideforrenewables.com. December 21, 2011 (Port Arthur, TX) – Renewable energy advocate Tom Weis ended his 2,150-mile Keystone XL “Tour of Resistance” at the fence line community of West Port Arthur in the shadow of giant oil refineries spewing toxic air emissions. Weis launched the tour 10 weeks ago at the U.S./Canada border and has pedaled the entire U.S. length of the proposed tar sands pipeline in his “rocket trike” in support of landowners and communities in six states fighting Keystone XL. Pipeline opponents joined him in demanding that President Obama reject TransCanada’s presidential permit without delay.
FRED HO and CZARINA AGGABAO THELEN www.scientificsoulsessions.com Participate in a general discussion regarding the use of language and the latest article from "What If We Occupied The Language" by H. Samy Alim here is an excerpt from the article "the irony of a progressive social movement using the term “occupy” to reshape how Americans think about issues of democracy and equality has been clear. After all, it is generally nations, armies and police who occupy, usually by force. And in this, the United States has been a leader. The American government is just now after nine years ending its overt occupation of Iraq, is still entrenched in Afghanistan and is maintaining troops on the ground in dozens of countries worldwide. All this is not to obscure the fact that the United States as we know it came into being by way of an occupation — a gradual and devastatingly violent one that all but extinguished entire Native American populations across thousands of miles of land."
Listen to the Program
December 15, 2011
EDITIED VERSION FOR WFTE SCRANTON, PA.
GRANDMOTHER MARGARET BEHAN-Montana- is a member of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers (www.grandmotherscouncil.org). These women have been travelling to each other's homelands for several years and next year it is Grandmother Margaret's turn to host them for their 11th Council gathering.
The dates of the Council have been set for July 20th through August 5th, 2012 and it will be held in Grandmother Margaret's homeland of the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Lame Deer, located in southeastern part of Montana. All are welcome to attend. Registration can be done on the Grandmother's website listed above. If you would like to help in any way with the gathering, or have questions, please call Lisa Caswell at (646)267-7244
JOHN KANE - New York - (www.letstalknativepride.blogspot.com) on Kaneratiio or Roger Jock was arrested in upstate New York State -, was indicted by a grand jury for second-degree grand larceny for allegedly depriving deeded owner, Horst Wuersching, of a 240-acre parcel on Route 11 near the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino. The grand-larceny charge refers to the theft of land with a value above $50,000.
According to the County Treasurer's Office, the parcel is assessed at $16,800. But there has not been a land revaluationfor more than 50 years, leaving the equalization rate there at 3.12 percent. The true market value of the land at 100 percent equalization is $538,462. Jock was released under the supervision of the Probation Department, and an order of protection was issued forbidding him from going back to the disputed land. The "irony" of the story is a Native man Indigenous to a parcel of land in the middle of Mohawk Territory being "stolen" from a white man!
WAZIYATAWIN -Minnesota- (www.waziyatawin.net) of the Wahpetunwan Dakota discusses the terminology of "occupation" occupiers and their choice of language is indicative of lack of consciousness about Indigenous struggles, or a dismissal of the importance or relevance of those struggles.
FRED HO - New York - (www.bigredmediainc.com) author, musician, philosopher and 3 time cancer survivor dialogues regarding "Capitialism is the cancer for the planet" and how a person would understand the toxicity one can avoid cointinuing the toxicities of manifest destiny.

Posted at Censored News: http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com