News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The American Revolution and Arizona's Ban on Ethnic Studies

The Fourth of July seemed an excellent time to reprise this essay...

In theory, the goal of Arizona’s new law restricting ethnic studies, HB 2281, is to promote national unity and avoid the potential for ethnic division and conflict. In reality, the effect will be just the opposite.
A government cannot dictate loyalty by fiat and coercion. That’s a lesson made all too clear by the American Revolution – a celebration of subversion taught proudly in officially-sanctioned U.S. History classes. Indeed, most of the writings of Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and other U.S. radicals would be banned under the current Arizona law.
HB 2281 bans classes that…
1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
The leaders of the American Revolution promoted the overthrow of their legal government. They openly resented rule by a class of unelected nobles led by King George III. Their demands for liberty were for only one ethnic group: Whites. (Blacks and Native Americans were not granted political rights or considered equals by the Founding Fathers.) Finally, the opening statement of the Declaration of Independence, “We the people…,” is an irrefutable assertion of ethnic solidarity.
The American Revolution was a classic example of a subversive movement fueled by the heavy-handed repression of the British. Do we want history to repeat itself in the U.S. Southwest? Punitive laws like HB 2281 and HB 1070 are not the way to avoid that national nightmare.
Here’s the bottom line: As a Latino, HB 2281 makes me angry. Judging by the reactions I’ve seen elsewhere, I am not alone. A huge disparity of opinion between Latinos and mainstream Americans is already forming on this issue.
Heated exchanges and charges of racism are being hurled on Internet forums, letters to the editors and radio talk shows. This law will inflame resentment among many more Hispanics across the nation than any course allegedly fostering political dissent at a community college in Arizona.
If the intent of this law is to bring Hispanics into the fold and encourage them to assimilate, it is failing miserably.
Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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