|Our América and the other América
Apparently, there indeed are two Américas. In one América, recognition
is given that we live upon Indigenous lands and that we now live in a
rich multicultural and multiracial society. In the other América, them
are fighting words.
Since the founding of this nation, the political lines in this country
have been drawn [and racially coded] between those who adhere to
American values versus those who adhere to un-American values –
between those who are authentically American versus those who are
deemed to be un or anti-American. This division, Harold Meyerson of
the Washington Post posits in "McCain's América" (May 14, 2008), is
what we can look forward to in the fall presidential election.
True, though when it comes to immigration, no need to wait for the
fall. Those who favor curbing immigration like to portray it as a war
over American values and Western Civilization. Some even link it to
the "war on terror." While some who specialize in scapegoat politics
do not bother to code their dislike of Brown peoples, many others are
quick to emphasize that they are anti-illegal immigrant, not
anti-immigrant. And yet many of their proposals – which call for a
national language, while encouraging massive racial profiling – have
little to do with illegal immigration.
For example, Arizona State Rep. Russell Pearce's proposal to amend
SB1108 would prohibit tax dollars to be spent on public schools that
"denigrate American values and the teaching of Western Civilization."
It would also prohibit race-based organizations (without exception) in
public schools. Clearly, his proposal has nothing to do with "illegal
immigration" as his primary target is the elimination of Raza Studies
at Tucson Unified School District – a national leader in K-12
curriculum development – and MEChA – Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano De
Aztlán. Neither of these exemplary educational organizations needs
defending. Rather, it is those that are attempting to legislate
censorship and thought control that need defending.
Pearce's amendment states: "A public school in this state shall not
include within the program of instruction any courses, classes or
school sponsored activities that promote, assert as truth or feature
as an exclusive focus any political, religious, ideological or
cultural beliefs or values that denigrate, disparage or overtly
encourage dissent from the values of American Democracy and Western
Civilization, including democracy, capitalism, pluralism and religious
Because there's no consensus on these topics, or on their definitions,
it would be impossible to enforce such amendments. For instance, would
teachers be able to teach that torture and the U.S. "right" to wage
permanent war against any nation – regardless if there is a moral
justification – constitute American values? Or would they teach that
they are aberrations of American values? Would they teach that
favoring corporate profits at the expense of workers and the
environment is an American value… or an aberration?
Truthfully, Americans have faced similar dilemmas since the arrival of
Europeans to this continent, including this nation's founding. Did
Indigenous and African peoples have souls and were they fully human?
Were they entitled to full human rights, including the right to their
own spiritual beliefs and cultures? Such questions led to land theft,
genocide and forced conversions and assimilation. It also led to
slavery, even close to 100 years after the U.S. Declaration of
Independence. It also led to unjustified and continued U.S. military
interventions throughout the Américas.
Not forgotten is that African Americans, American Indians and women
were deprived of full citizenship and their full humanity – including
the right to vote – for at least the first 100 years of the republic.
Asians and Mexicans (who also suffered massive land theft) were also
subject to exclusion and mass repatriations. All these groups were
subject to defacto and dejure segregation and discrimination. What is
the American value: the right of all to be treated fully human – or
the maintenance of that racial and gender pecking order?
Taken to its logical conclusion, under Pearce's proposal – teachers
and students wouldn't be permitted to study these topics and ask these
questions. This points to what is wrong with education in América:
politicians, not educators, are now in control of the classroom.
The history of this nation has been well-served by a dynamic struggle
over what constitutes "American" and human values (the two have not
always been synonymous). Without that struggle, slavery, legalized
segregation, discrimination and dehumanization would still be in
Fortunately, the march of history [and human rights] is always
forward. Apparently, not in Pearce's América.
© 2008 Column of the Américas
Rodríguez can be reached at XColumn@gmail.com or Column of the
Americas PO BOX 85476 - Tucson, AZ 85754. Columns are archived at: