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Jeff Biggers

Jeff Biggers

Posted: April 29, 2010 04:58 PM

Desperados! Now Arizona Lawmakers Want to Ban Cesar Chavez and Mexican American Studies in Schools?

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The white-washing of Arizona -- and its glorious history -- marches on.

In a thinly veiled attempt to censor thriving Mexican American Studies/La Raza courses in Tucson, Arizona, and essentially eradicate 450 years of Mexican and Mexican-American history, culture, heritage from the curriculum and consciousness of Arizona students, state lawmakers in Arizona reportedly approved the shadowy HB 2211 bill last month -- passed through the state senate this week -- that would restrict "any courses or classes" that "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group" or "advocate ethnic solidarity."

According to news reports, the bill would also "ban classes that 'promote resentment toward a race or class of people' or "stir up resentment."

Resentment? Is teaching Arizona children that Arizona native and Chicano leader Cesar Chavez led nonviolent marches on behalf of farm workers stirring up resentment?

Introduced by state Rep. Steve Montenegro, an immigrant from El Salvador, the bill has been the brainchild of Canadian-native state school superintendent Tom Horne for several years. Born in Montreal, Horne has referred to ethnic studies programs in Arizona as "extremely dysfunctional."

Let's put aside the historical reality that Mexicans and Mexican Americans have been instrumental in building the Arizona economy of cattle, copper, citrus and tourism, served in our armed forces in huge numbers, and have defined Arizona culture over the past several centuries, from the cowboy/vaquero to its modern New West borderland traditions.

Let's talk about Arizona la raza hero Cesar Chavez.

Perhaps before Arizona goes any further in their anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican American legislation -- especially lawmakers like El Savaldoran Montenegro, Canadian Horne, and California-raised Governor Jan Brewer -- they might want to brush up on their Arizona history, and learn that the studies of contributions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans from Arizona, like Cesar Chavez, are nothing to fear, but an opportunity to celebrate for all students in Arizona, and the nation.

As Robert F. Kennedy once proclaimed, "When your children and grandchildren take their place in America, going to high school and college, taking good jobs at good pay, when you look at them you will say, 'I did this. I was there, at the point of difficulty and danger.' And though you may be old and bent for many years of hard labor, no man will stand taller than you when you say, 'I marched with Cesar Chavez."