American Renaissance, June 2011
Lies and Intimidation
On April 23, 2010, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed SB (Senate Bill) 1070 into law, making it a offense for an alien to be present in the state without proof of legal entry. Although the bill was supported by strong majorities not just in Arizona but the entire country, enforcement of most of its provisions has been held up in federal court.
Less well known than SB 1070 is another bill Governor Brewer signed into law just a few days later. HB (House Bill) 2281 bans high school courses that promote ethnic solidarity, “the overthrow of the U.S. government,” and “resentment towards a class of people.” The law was directed at the Mexican-chauvinist “La Raza” or Mexican-American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District, which promotes resentment towards whites.
Mexican-American studies, which have been taught in Tucson for a dozen years, use Rodolfo Acuna’s Occupied America as a textbook. The book waxes nostalgic for the 1915 Plan of San Diego, according to which “supporters would execute all white males over age 16,” and “the Southwest would become a Chicano nation.” The book also quotes Texas University professor Jose Angel Gutierrez, who is famous for saying: “We have got to eliminate the gringo, and what I mean by that is if the worst comes to the worst, we have got to kill him.” Raza courses fulfill the district’s American history requirement for high school graduation. [Dave Gibson, Angry ‘Raza Studies’ Mob Shuts Down Tucson School Board Meeting, Norfolk Examiner, April 28, 2011.]
In January of this year, when the new law took effect, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal told the Tucson school district that its Mexican-American courses were covered by HB 2281, and that if it kept teaching them the district would lose $15 million in annual aid.
The defenders of Raza studies reacted in their usual way: law suits, intimidation, and, lies. Augustine Romero, the director of the program at the Tucson school district has been claiming for years that he has “nine cohort studies” proving that “the students that partake in Ethnic Studies courses, as proven by test results, are more likely to pass the Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) exam than those students who do not partake in said courses; have a 97 percent graduation rate, and have a college matriculation rate 193 percent greater than the national average.” Local and national media have repeatedly parroted these claims, in an effort to make HB 2281 sound like a mean-spirited attack on doughty young high-achieving Chicanos.
This February, school board member Michael Hicks had the district’s statistician look into these claims but Mr. Romero would not produce his data. The statistician then did his own investigation and found that every claim was false. According to a report released in March, students who “take one or more Mexican American Studies (MAS) classes are far less likely than other students to pass the (Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards) the first time.” (italics added) Arizona students get five chances to pass the very undemanding test, and by the time they have taken it five times, students who took Raza studies pass at about the same rate as people who do not.
The 97 percent graduation rate was also baloney. The district-wide graduation rate (people who made it through in four years) in Tucson in 2010 was 84 percent, and the rates for Raza students were no different. Poor students who took Mexican American Studies and were touted as having benefitted miraculously, had a graduation rate of 79 percent. Nor is there the slightest evidence that taking courses in Mexican supremacy makes anyone any more likely to attend college. Mr. Romero has not been disciplined for his fabrications. [Doug MacEachern, Bogus Arguments for Tucson Ethnic Studies Finally Debunked, Arizona Republic, March 6, 2011.]
In the meantime, as lawsuits held up the outright ban on Raza studies, Tucson school board member Mark Stegeman scheduled a vote on April 26 to at least make Raza courses electives that would not fulfill the US history requirement. He was thwarted when hundreds of protestors stormed the meeting. Several students chained themselves to board members’ chairs and prevented the vote. Police made no arrests, and school board president Judy Burns unbosomed herself of the usual mush: “Frankly, I don’t want to arrest students for speaking out about something they’re passionate about.”
The school board rescheduled its vote for May 5 — and got the same rough treatment. Mr. Stegeman had set aside a half hour for public comment on the vote, but a lot of Hispanics wanted to comment, and they took up well over half an hour. Mr. Stegemen eventually called a halt to public comment so the board could vote, and the audience started whooping and running around. This time police made seven arrests, but Raza activists again succeeded in delaying the vote. Again the school board president excused the students and promised no disciplinary action: “Yes they interrupted our meetings, but they weren’t being listened to either,” she explained.
So what now? The school board has postponed its vote indefinitely, and instead will hold an “Ethnic Studies” forum where everyone who wants will have a chance to vent. [Jennifer Waddell, Board Pres. Admits ‘Mistakes Were Made’ at TUSD Meeting, KGUN9-TV, May 5, 2011.]
After Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden, it was reported that his code name was Geronimo. Indian groups say they are insulted. Jeff Houser, chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe says that “to equate Geronimo or any other Native American figure with Osama bin Laden, a mass murderer and cowardly terrorist, is painful and offensive to our Tribe and to all Native Americans.”
“If we are carelessly stereotyped as enemies of the state by the highest levels of government, then how will our voices ever be relevant,” asked Tina Osceola, a representative of the Seminole tribe, adding, “That is not the change we expected and were promised by this president.” Leon Curley, a Navajo from Gallup, New Mexico, sounded hopeless: “We’ve been oppressed for so long, it just doesn’t matter anymore.”
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly wants the Obama administration and the Pentagon officially to change the code name “so that U.S. history books will not continue to portray negative stereotypes of Native Americans.”
The Defense Department says no insult was intended but refuses to explain why it chose the name Geronimo. A spokesman pointed out that code names are more or less random, and used simply to conceal identities. Others have speculated that bin Laden got the name because he eluded capture for many years, just as Geronimo did.
On May 5, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a previously scheduled hearing on racist stereotypes and their impact on Indians. Nearly every witness complained about the Geronimo code name, as did Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), who chaired the hearing. He said he had asked the Pentagon for an explanation but was told that none would be forthcoming because of military secrecy.
Not all Indians are on the war path. Louis Maynahonah, a Navy veteran and chairman of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, doesn’t think the code name was an insult. He points out that during the Second World War the paratroopers who shouted “Geronimo” as they jumped out of airplanes were not trying to insult the chief. He also notes that calling an attack helicopter an “Apache” is a tribute to his tribe’s fighting skills. [Some Native Americans Angry Over Use of Geronimo’s Name in bin Laden Operation, Associated Press, May 5, 2011. Senate Indian Affairs Committee Hearing on Stereotypes, Indianz.com May 5, 2011.]
According to a report by something called the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund, 47 percent of Detroiters are “functionally illiterate.” Karen Tyler-Ruiz, director of the fund, explains what that means: “Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job — those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what’s on the bottle, how many you should take . . . just your basic everyday tasks.”
Many people in the Detroit suburbs are also functionally illiterate: 34 percent in Pontiac and 24 percent in Southfield. Miss Tyler-Ruiz says only 10 percent of those who can’t read have gotten any help for their problem. She thinks her report will result in better training for local workers in the uplift industry. Miss Tyler-Ruiz adds that there are parts of Washington, DC and Cleveland that have high rates of illiteracy as well. She did not note what else those areas had in common.[Report: Nearly Half of Detroiters Can’t Read, WWJ Newsradio (Detroit), May 4, 2011.]