Posted on 01-19-2012
Tucson schools seize Chicano, Native books from classrooms
By Brenda Norrell
High school students from the now-forbidden Mexican American Studies classes in Tucson spoke out during Martin Luther King Day on Monday, protesting the school board and state of Arizona's decision to ban their classes and their culture.
Describing the seizure of books from his classrooms, one student said it was an attempt to "take away our power."
"Knowledge is power," he said, describing how education and knowledge form beliefs and, "who we are." He said school officials entered his classroom and removed all the books.
Another student described how ethnic groups other than Latinos at Tucson schools can still discuss their cultures, while Mexican
American culture discussions are now forbidden. Further, she says her teachers are now "under a microscope" and issues like feminism, oppression and Martin Luther King are forbidden topics.
Students, describing the trauma, said it was as if they were in Nazi Germany.
Tucson schools seized Chicano and Native American books from classrooms after the board voted Tuesday, Jan. 10, to forbid Mexican American Studies, rather than fight the decision by the state school head. The Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) board was threatened with the loss of millions of education dollars unless the classes were banned.
Louise Benally, Navajo resisting relocation at Big Mountain on the Navajo Nation, joined students protesting outside the board meeting on Jan. 10.
"It is time to slay the beast," said Benally, pointing out that the
same corporate beast that oppresses and forbids ethnic studies in
Tucson is the same corporate beast poisoning Navajo land with coal mines and coal fired power plants.
Simon Ortíz, Regents Professor, at the Arizona State University Department of English, American Indian Studies, and world acclaimed poet, author, responded to the banning of books by Chicano and Native American authors. "I am very stunned and very shocked and very pissed off the Tucson Unified School District would ban Mexican American Studies and books like Rethinking Columbus: The Next Five Hundred Years that includes works by Indigenous (Native) authors Leslie Marmon Silko, N. Scott Momaday, Winona LaDuke, Buffy St. Marie, Joy Harjo, Wendy Rose, Joseph Bruchac, Jimmie Durham, Peter Blue Cloud, Luther Standing Bear, Gail Trembly, Jose Barreiro, Phillip Martin, Suzanne Shown Harjo. The banning explicitly and pointedly shows it is not only Mexican American Studies and people and so-called illegal immigrants that are targeted but Indigenous studies and people as a whole"
Roberto Rodríguez, professor at University of Arizona, is also among the nation's top Chicano and Latino authors on the Mexican American Studies reading list.
Rodríguez responded to the banning of his books at Tucson schools. "The attacks in Arizona are mind-boggling. To ban the teaching of a discipline is draconian in and of itself. However, there is also now a banned books list that accompanies the ban. I believe two of my books are on the list, which includes: Justice: A Question of Race and The X in La Raza. Two others may also be on the list.
"That in itself is jarring, but we need to remember the proper
context. This is not simply a book-banning; according to Tom Horne, the former state schools' superintendent who designed HB 2281, this is part of a civilizational war. He determined that Mexican American Studies (MAS) is not based on Greco-Roman knowledge and thus, lies outside of Western Civilization. In a sense, he is correct. The philosophical foundation for MAS is a maiz-based philosophy that is both, thousands of years old and Indigenous to this continent. What has just happened is akin to an Auto de Fe -- akin to the 1562 book-burning of Maya books in 1562 at Mani, Yucatan.”
Along with the banned books, artwork and posters are also forbidden.
"As part of the MAS-TUSD curriculum, there are some 50 books. All have been or are being removed or confiscated from every classroom... which strikes the average person as odd... do they think that the presence of books that were formerly part of the MAS curriculum would be a distraction or bad influence. Apparently, those books don't belong in the classroom. So if officially, the 50 books (listed at the end of the Cambium report) are not banned, they are confiscated, or in the process of being confiscated... THUS THE BOOKS ARE NOW UNDOCUMENTED! They are as welcome in TUSD schools as undocumented migrants are welcome in this country," said Rodríguez.
"For us here in Tucson, this is not over. If anything, the banning of books will let the world know precisely what kind of mindset is operating here; in that previous era, this would be referred to as a reducción (cultural genocide) of all things Indigenous. In this era, it can too also be see as a reducción."
The reading list includes world acclaimed Chicano and Latino authors, along with Native American authors. The list includes books by Rudolfo “Corky” Gonzales, along with Sandra Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street;”Jimmy Santiago Baca’s “Black Mesa Poems,“ and Luis Alberto Urreas’ “The Devil’s Highway” and the popular book “Like Water for Chocolate.”
On the reading list are Native American author Sherman Alexie's books,“Ten Little Indians,“ and “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven.“ O’odham poet and professor Ofelia Zepeda’s “Ocean Power, Poems from the Desert” is also on the list.
DA Morales writes in “Three Sonorans,” at Tucson Citizen, about the role of state schools chief John Huppenthal. "Big Brother Huppenthal has taken his TEA Party vows to take back Arizona … take it back a few centuries with official book bans that include Shakespeare!"
While Tucson Unified School District officials attempt to twist and manipulate the facts, the truth is that all Mexican American Studies books, lesson plans and materials are now being confiscated by Tucson schools officials from the teachers and classrooms.
NPR was among the national news media that refused to ask the right questions on Wednesday and instead promoted the spin of Arizona and Tucson school officials. NPR and the national news media, by refusing to do real journalism, is fueling the racism in Arizona and the Arizona government's initiated hate crimes.
The questions the national news media should be asking are:
1. Were books seized from classrooms in front of students,
traumatizing them? (Yes)
2. Has Mexican American culture been banned and found illegal in Tucson schools? (Yes)
3. What has happened to the seven "deadly sin" books seized, among 50 on the Mexican American Studies reading list that were seized from classrooms?
The seven books that "Custer" Huppenthal found troubling includes Rethinking Columbus, with writings by leading Native American and Indigenous authors and thinkers.
NPR and other national news media are good examples of the collapsed media in the US. A quick phone call is not going to give you the truth. It is only going to result in promoting the lies and manipulations of government and political spin masters.
Unless you are present and talking to students, teachers, attorneys, and people on the streets here in Tucson you are not going to get the story right, or have the facts.
To view the banned Mexican America Studies reading list, go to WWW.ELSEMANARIO.NET.