Racist bill unfairly denies ethnic studies and organizations at schools

Cindy Von Quednow

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Censorship, imprisonment, persecution and prosecution.

In time of war, the U.S. government has gone to extreme measures to limit the amount of “anti-American” speak and sentiment. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and the Homeland Security Act of 2002 are two examples of this. However, as time goes by, America seems to be creating a war within itself. The war on terror has molded into a war on immigration and ultimately a war on culture, ethnicity and everything that is deemed different or “other.”

Last month, the Arizona State Legislature endorsed a bill that would ban ethnic studies and race-based organizations from public schools in the state because they promote anti-Western and revolutionary thinking. If passed, SB 1108 would deny funding to schools that violate the provision. Chicana/o studies, MEChA, Black and Native American organizations will be affected by this ridiculous and outright racist bill.

Opinions aside, however, the bill’s author, Rep. Russell Pearce, is a stark Republican who contradicts his values in writing this bill. Although he is a strong supporter of securing the border with Mexico (no surprise there), he is also a fan of “improving education” and small government. His hypocrisy is evident in that he wants to do away with educative programs and increase government control of schools.

What Pearce and his supporters want to do is homogenize the school system by getting rid of dissenting ideas that could potentially threaten the status quo. Cultural activism, and activism in general, obviously scare government officials who want to eliminate diversity and instead continue the notion of America as a “melting pot.” As Rep. John Kavanagh, a member of the Appropriations Committee, explained in a recent interview with “The Arizona Republic:” “This bill basically says, ‘You’re here. Adopt American values.’ If you want a different culture, then fine, go back to that culture.” In other words, “You’re in America, get used to it.” But what is it that we have to get used to exactly? This country is made up of a variety of beliefs and creeds and it is precisely that diversity that makes it so unique.

It is a shame that ethnic studies and organizations are targeted simply because they are ethnic, another word for “other.” Despite the fact that these groups are very different from each other, they are bunched together and labeled as the enemy that must be quieted or stopped entirely.

It is obvious that ethnic groups and programs are being targeted because they push a “subversive” agenda of ending racism and promoting peace, unity and education. It seems we have forgotten this nation was founded on revolutionary ideas that contradicted dictatorships and monarchies. Today fundamental principles of democracy like freedom of expression are ignored and squashed.

According to the U.S. Constitution, these groups and programs are practicing their right to exist and criticize supposed American ideals that are deeply rooted in racism. The reason they “preach” what they do is because they are made up of traditionally marginalized sectors of society that have felt the negative effects of U.S. imperialism. Unfortunately, that is not taught in schools. Instead we read that Columbus sailed the ocean blue to discover the New World, and Ronald Reagan ended Communism.

Then we go the college, where many discover the other story. We meet new people, our minds are expanded and hopefully, we get professors who are “sarcastic, cynical and jaded,” as a professor I took my freshman year called herself. We join a student organization or take an ethnic studies class and we don’t become indoctrinated, but educated about what really goes on in the world outside our plastic bubble.

Imagine if what is happening in Arizona happened in California, one of the most diverse states in the nation. There would be uproar, especially at CSUN, where we have pioneer programs like Chicana/o and Central American studies.

As a student of this very diverse campus, I am proud to say I have taken non-American courses, and am part of a non-American organization, but does that make me un-American? Yes, my eyes have been opened to the atrocities the U.S. has committed all over the world in the name of freedom and democracy. Yes, I am now fully aware of the lies I have been fed my whole life. And yes, I am a product of Reagan-era immigration. Despite all this, I am not anti-American, because I have hope that things can and will change.

So, let me take the liberty to say there is something severely wrong with this country. Capitalism, globalism and imperialism have plagued us, and will continue to plague us unless something is done about it. Government officials, the media, and yes, even history books constantly tell us that everything is peachy keen, but any “dissenter” will tell you otherwise. How then do we expect to learn “the truth” when these dissenters are blacklisted? Take an “ethnic studies” class, join a “race-based” organization, and watch out for the man.