U.N.I.D.O.S. Against Arizona’s Ethnic Studies Ban

By Efrain Nieves & Victoria Cepeda

The battle over the Ethnic Studies Ban  H.B. 2281 in Arizona has become more controversial with the protest of students on Tuesday.  The United Non-Discriminatory Individuals Demanding Our Studies (UNIDOS) is a group made up of  students from local high schools, alumni and community members that “stormed a meeting of the Governing Board of the Tucson Unified School District and chained themselves to chairs, forcing the meeting to be canceled ” (azfamily.com).

UNIDOS proposed a ten point resolution to keep their studies. The ten points goes as follows:

1. WE WANT OUR ETHNIC STUDIES CLASSES TO CONTINUE TO MEET CORE SOCIAL SCIENCE REQUIREMENTS.
 Ethnic Studies classes are meant to help students with core class credit, increase student interest in education and give us a chance to learn about not only our own culture, but others as well. Turning our Ethnic Studies classes into elective courses is a slow death sentence to the department for several reasons. First, students are required to take a high number of core requirements in order to graduate – many of the students simply would not have the time within their academic schedules to take both Literature and Mexican-American Literature. Secondly, this move is basically making Ethnic Studies “second class” classes; why should we say to our students that studying Herman Melville counts as core requirement but reading Gloria Anzaldua does not? The school board and the State are completely undermining the value of our history and culture. We say NO to downgrading our Ethnic Studies classes into electives! Our classes must remain core courses!

2. WE WANT THE REPEAL OF HB 2281.

 The wave of anti-Mexican, anti-migrant sentiment in the U.S. is growing. In the Arizona legislature, racism and xenophobia is out of control. In the schools, serious educational inequities are affecting students of color. By making it hard for us to access education and our cultural history, they intend to keep us down us an un-educated, second-class status group that doesn’t know its roots and is used as cheap labor or is incarcerated in the prison system. HB 2281 is only the latest example of a long history of discrimination. Repeal HB 2281 NOW!

3. WE WANT ETHNIC STUDIES PROGRAMS TO EXPAND EVERYWHERE: FROM K-12 TO UNIVERSITY.

 The success of this program needs to expand to all school districts, statewide and nationwide. According to 10 years of data compiled by the Mexican American Studies Advisory Committee, 97.5% of students that take these classes graduate high school and 70% will seek out education beyond the high school level. So why would the State of Arizona and TUSD want to eliminate a program that is a solution to the educational crisis Latinos are facing? Do they want us to fail? You would think that because of its success they would want to EXPAND the program. We believe every student in America should have access to Ethnic Studies programs. We want Ethnic Studies to expand throughout all of Arizona and all across the country grades K-12 to all universities!

4. WE WANT NO SCHOOL TURN-AROUNDS, NO SCHOOL CLOSURES AND FULL SUPPORT FOR RINCON HIGH AND PALO VERDE HIGH SCHOOL COMMUNITIES.
 So politicians in Arizona can fundraise millions of dollars to defend racist legislation in the courts, yet they can’t find money for our books or to keep our schools open? There is no reason why any schools should close. Why is it that prison beds are increasing, while schools are closing? Why are our teachers at Rincon and Palo Verde High Schools fired and disrespected? We want no school turn-arounds, no school closures, and complete support for Rincon and Palo Verde High Schools!

5. WE WANT A TUSD GOVERNING BOARD THAT IS ACCOUNTABLE AND WILL STAND UP FOR ALL STUDENTS.

 The purpose of a governing school board is to make decisions benefitting students and communities and promote educational opportunities for all. We need an accountable and democratic school board that will listen to students and community. We need strong-willed board members that will defend the community against any and all racist attacks. Right now, we are under serious attack from the Arizona legislature and State Superintendent. Yet the TUSD board as a whole is FAILING to defend us and is in fact considering a vote against us. The school board and superintendent are subject to the will of the people. If they can turn-around our schools, we should have the right to turn-around the board. We want an educational system that truly values students, teachers, community, democracy and ethnic studies! We want a governing board that is accountable to us and stands up for all students!

6. WE WANT AN EQUITABLE EDUCATION FOR ALL.

 There are serious problems in the educational system when a high number of Latin@s drop out or are pushed out of our schools. The Pew Hispanic Center recently released a study based on newly released U.S. Census data showing that Latin@ dropout rates are higher than other ethnicities. Of Latin@ adults 20 and over in the United States, 41% do not have regular high school diplomas. Arizona has one of the highest high school dropout rates in the nation. Latin@ students are severely segregated and neglected in the schools. Ethnic Studies is one solution to the deep educational inequities negatively affecting  students of color in our Arizona schools. This is why Ethnic Studies must stay. We demand equitable education for ALL students!

7. WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO ALL RACIST, ANTI-MIGRANT, ANTI-INDIGENOUS POLICIES.

 In April 2010, a group of UN human rights experts declared their serious concern over laws recently enacted by the state of Arizona, that affect people of color, indigenous people and migrants, subjecting them to discriminatory treatment. This is what they said about SB 1070 and HB 2281: “a disturbing pattern of legislative activity hostile to ethnic minorities and immigrants has been established with the adoption of an immigration law that may allow for police action targeting individuals on the basis of their perceived ethnic origin, and a law that suppresses school programs featuring the histories and cultures of ethnic minorities.” We want an immediate end to white supremacy, anti-migrant, anti-indigenous policies!

8. WE WANT FULL COMPLIANCE WITH OUR CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS.

 The ban on Ethnic Studies is unconstitutional, dehumanizing and is in violation of our human rights. According to Article 31 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we have “the right to maintain, control, protect and develop [our] cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.” Basically, Ethnic Studies is a human right. So TUSD, the State Board of Education and the State of Arizona must act in accordance to international human rights law because Ethnic Studies is a human right!

9. WE WANT ATTORNEY GENERAL TOM HORNE, STATE SUPERINTENDENT JOHN HUPPENTHAL AND GOVERNOR JAN BREWER IMMEDIATELY REMOVED FROM POWER.
 It is clear that these so called leaders of our state do not represent us. Tom Horne, John Huppenthal and Jan Brewer are here to maintain power and control among the rich, while they throw our people under the bus. Politicians, whether Republican or Democrat, that do things to attack or oppress any group must be taken out of their positions. No policy or politician should ever harm a group of people. We condemn Tom Horne for introducing the ban on Ethnic Studies, John Huppenthal for vowing to continue the attack on Ethnic Studies and Jan Brewer for signing racist legislation. They themselves are in violation of HB 2281 because Horne, Huppenthal and Brewer are promoting resentment and hatred towards other races—Latino/Indigenous peoples. According to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, “To secure these rights [of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], governments are instituted among men [and women], deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government…” We demand for their immediate removal from power!

10. WE WANT  LOCAL CONTROL OF OUR EDUCATION.

As local tax payers in the community, we should have the right to control our education since we help fund it. Why are we getting told how our education should look like by Phoenix and Tucson politicians that don’t even live in our communities? We, the community of students, parents, and community members, should have direct decision-making power over the decisions that affect our education. We want local control of our education!

To them we say “unidos jamas seran vencidos” or united you will never be defeated. This is exactly what we keep talking about. If you want respect you got to go out and earn it. UNIDOS just want what is fair and offered in other states. By banning ethnic studies in Arizona, the state is obnoxiously obliterating a significant part of its history and cultural legacy. Only out of fear and ignorance could education be limited or curtailed to obstruct the truth.  Buena suerte to UNIDOS and Pa’lante!

[Photo from kevinwalvarez.wordpress.com]

Tucson students take over hearing on Mexican-American studies

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