History is always told from the side of the victors; as a result, US history textbooks are usually written with a European bias. The founding fathers are glorified and their wrongdoings are glossed over through the rewriting of history. The stories of enslavement, racism, and internment camps are all censored to protect the reputations of our white forefathers. In 2007 Tom Horne, the superintendent of Tucson Public Schools, began the creation of a ban towards Chicano studies in all Arizona school systems. The controversy over whether or not the Chicano studies “teach kids that they are oppressed, that the United States is dominated by a white, racist, imperialist power structure that wants to oppress them” (Gershon). Fueled tensions between Chicano students and white school administrators. Hornes attempts to ban Chicano and Mexican American studies are an outwardly biased and racist attempt to silence a culture of color: it forces the Chicano students to assimilate into a common white identity and lose their native culture. It reminds us of the way early American settlers forced Native Americans to forget their culture, live on reservations, and conform to our religion. The outcome of this forced assimilation breeds conflicts even today, most recently the issue of the Dakota Pipeline.
In Michael Walzer’s essay ‘What Does It Mean to Be an ‘American’, he argues that there has been a constant battle between “Those Americans who attach great value to the oneness of citizenship”, who “seek to constrain the influence of cultural manyness”, and those Americans “who value the many” but ‘disparage the one’ (Taking Sides, 28). Hornes opinion that the Chicano studies create an equality gap between white students and Mexican students aligns with the views of an American that values the one; an American who cannot respect a multicultural society. Hornes attempts to silence Mexican studies reveal a degree of racism in which he views Mexican culture as less important as American culture. Although, I agree that it is important to mainly focus on American culture in an American school (as conservatives argue) these views are outdated and force ethnic students to have to chose their cultural identity, rather than accept and learn about both at their free will. By forcing young, impressionable, Mexican-American students, it harbors internal racism, and discourages the multicultural revolution that technology and global business has inspired. According to the US Department of Education, “If we give students the gift of bilingualism, of multilingualism – if we give students the gift of those skills and those opportunities – they have a better sense of themselves, their community, and their future, and a better appreciation for our diversity as a country”. Especially nowadays, where employers seek out bilingual and multicultural employees, by refusing to teach about different cultures we can’t compete in the global economy.
As previously mentioned, the attempt to ban Mexican-American studies reveals a more modern form of racism used on immigrants. The rhetoric authored in the ban on Chicano studies relates to the early 2000s mentality of Arizonans about illegal immigrants; the state was mostly conservative, anti-immigration, with a large population opposing any Mexican immigration at all. In statements released on the ban of Raza studies, Hornes claimed that there were mentions of anti-American communists such as Che Guevara and Lenin (Precious Knowledge). The negative associations that Americans have with these figures, alongside with racist controversy on Mexican immigrants, makes a perfect concoction of hatred towards the Raza studies, and towards Mexican themselves. In Stephen Steinberg’s essay on race and the melting pot, he claims that “The fault line dividing ethnic groups in America is no longer nationality or religion, but race’ (Taking Sides, 41). “This can be proven by the high amount of new immigrants that form tight knit communities with “flourishing economies in the US’ (Taking Sides, 42). These communities enhance our multicultural society, and give immigrants the freedom to choose their culture, rather than be forcefully assimilated into our predominately white culture. The Raza studies helped to form this tight knit community, and gave Mexican students a chance to express themselves in a safe learning environment. Unfortunately, despite the first-hand account from Mexican students saying they felt more productive than ever, Republicans still felt negatively towards this positive community, claiming it was alien and isolating. As stated by the conservative writer, Lawrence Auster, it is not the majority cultures job to ”include alien traditions in order prove it’s own moral legitimacy’ (Taking Sides, 45). Auster’s claim that including other cultures is purely for moral reasons is completely inaccurate. It is beneficial to society as a whole through business and economy, as well as to the subcultures. Immigrants take a lot of the jobs highly skilled Americans don’t want, and therefore boost are economy.
Regardless of race, it is completely necessary to allow for the emotional and intellectual growth of immigrant American citizens through courses like the Raza studies, because it ultimately helps the entirety of the US. As wonderfully stated by Philippe Legrain, “Opening up our borders would spread freedom, widen opportunity, and enrich the economy, society, and culture’ (Taking Sides, 55). The arguments from the side of banning of the Raza studies are heavily formed with racial bias and discrimination towards Mexican cultures. Tom Horne’s prejudice reveals itself in what is thought to be a political demonstration to appeal to a majority of the Arizona red state. He ran for Attorney General in 2010, and won against Felecia Rotellini. This begs to question of the motives behind his attack on the Raza studies. Was it for political gain? Regardless, it was a selfish act to jeopardize the minority students at his school district for political gain. The students were thriving and the graduation rates were increasing among hispanic students as a result of the direct correlation between them and the Raza studies.
Overall, the attack on Raza studies was deeply rooted in racism. There was no reason for it to be shut down; the students were thriving and they were learning about their cultures in a safe environment. The only true reason why it would be taken away is due to racial bias and the fear that learning about other cultures is anti-American. Luckily, the ban on Chicano Studies was removed in 2017, and was ruled to be a result of racial bias.