Snapshots

Tucson Freedom Summer – I | mexmigration: History and Politics of Mexican Immigration

In our coverage of the long ‘battle’ to defend Ethnic Studies in Arizona we mostly focus in this blog on the legal and political dimensions of this epochal campaign for our freedoms of thought and association. We must on occasion remind ourselves that this struggle is really about the regenerative and emancipatory education of human beings and especially children and young adults. I woke up today and found that my friend Paulo Freire López had posted the photograph of this young girl on Facebook along with this caption:

This lil girl is standin up for Ethnic Studies … She demands the right to learn her culture and history … She demands that we ALL should have this right … That we ALL should learn about ALL oppressed peoples … She is willin to put in work out of her luv for The People and make the sacrifice … Do u got her back!?

We better back her up. Darle esquina, as we like to say in south Texas barrios. I have her back and will continue to support the cause by donating time and money. Please see the links at the end of the post to learn more and make donations for the defense of our public school teachers who are being subject to racist harassment and persecution by right-wing lackeys of the unethical partisan thugs that control Arizona, for now.

The photograph also brought me back to consider ideas I’ve had for some time about the future of Ethnic Studies. Whatever happens over the next 5 to 10 years today’s children will actually determine the future of Ethnic Studies. Today’s youth will be tomorrow’s teachers and professors.

Paulo’s photograph makes me feel completely reassured. The young girl’s eyes convey fearless determination even as her lips display a clear sense of seriousness with just a tinge of sadness. The overall effect sends chills down my spine: In that determined serious face I see the future because it asserts the simple fact of demography.

The inevitable shift toward a minority majority will soon be upon us: When this young girl becomes an elder, she will be part of a majority population of color; a rainbow of diverse ethnicities. This will assure that Ethnic Studies survives and expands. It will be part of how we redefine what it means to be American. I expect this young girl will remain thoughtful, determined, and serious; I also suspect she may have a lot more to smile about when she turns 50. But we do not have to wait fifty years to expand Ethnic Studies. We must build and expand now.

The opening quote from Gandhi is instructive to the current situation in Arizona. I think if anyone needs to read and reflect on its multifaceted profundities it is primarily fearful haters like Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal.

When I mentioned this quote and idea about their need for reflection to a friend of mine he said: “That really speaks to how weak and fearful Horne’s own culture is.”

The unconscious mind by Rabindranath Tagore. Courtesy of Depart

I could not agree more. A strong culture does not have to demean or oppress other cultures. A strong culture has no need to exclude or banish; it does not crouch on some throne and swat at other worldviews like so many muted annoying flies. It does not pretend to be alone or superior. It does not need to use force to remain viable or appreciated.

Indeed: Only those who are insecure and weak (internally decadent) are compelled to feign superiority. This has always been the case; witness the decline of the Roman Empire. The declaration of superiority and singularity does nothing to satiate the emptiness and fear inside; and it sure does not convince the Others that there is some special, irrevocable privilege or natural order to the world that grants such insecure and weak cultures a damaged and damaging sense of superiority.

A resilient culture adapts to changes in the environment; it embraces diversity; thrives on change; and makes knowledge a polyvocal and pluriverse affair.

I will add this in closing: The history of education can teach us a lot about irony. Stow Persons in his insightful and pithy book, Ethnic Studies at Chicago, 1905-45, recounts the story of how it was that the term “American” for all practical purposes came to mean “Anglo-American.” It mostly had to do with Anglo control of the machinery of government. However

The first major challenge to Anglo-American supremacy came in Pennsylvania in the 1750s, when the large migration of Germans threatened to “Germanize” that colony. The reaction of the Anglo-Americans led by Benjamin Franklin and William Smith proved to be typical of their [Anglo] responses to ethnic challenges for the next two centuries. Franklin and Smith declared Anglo-American culture to be in jeopardy, doubting its ability to “Americanize” the mounting number of Germans who were swarming [sic] into the colony. They proposed a range of measures…[including] disqualification for any position of trust, honor, or profit for those who could not speak English; restriction of further German immigration…(1987:2) [brackets added]

Here we go again? Horne is certainly no Ben Franklin when it comes to intellect or political savvy and Huppenthal sure as hell is not as capable, smart, or articulate as Wm. Smith. Once again there is a fear of the Other in the air. Arizona Anglos apparently feel threatened and believe their culture is in jeopardy. Like the Pennsylvania elite of the mid-18th century, they are banning books, suppressing the culture of the Other, restricting immigration, and disqualifying the non-English speakers from holding positions of trust, honor, or profit.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: Tucson Freedom Summer – I | mexmigration: History and Politics of Mexican Immigration.

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