"Horne's Law" or Horne's Great Deception
Cultural genocide and the attempt to kill ethnic studies
Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Author's Note: "This column is not related to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, though it should be noted that the Cesar Chavez building at the University of Arizona was also attacked at about the same time: 10am Sat. Jan 8.
Published on LatinoLA: January 9, 2011
Glass door of the main entrance to the Cesar E. Chavez Bldg at the University of Arizona was shattered by a large rock a little bit before the sat. jan 8 shooting spree of Rep. Giffords along with 17 others in Tucson."
If there ever was a doubt that there is a full-scale assault on brown peoples in this country, with Arizona at its epicenter, the first week of the year has dispelled it. To say that war has been declared upon us would only be partially accurate because these attacks can actually only be understood as a continuation of a 518-year war against Indigenous Peoples across this continent.
In just the first week, right wing forces have once again gone for the jugular, attacking the body, the mind and spirit of peoples whom continue to be blamed for the woes of this nation. For instance, Tucson's highly successful Mexican American Studies program (MAS-TUSD) ÔÇô with a maiz-based curriculum at its philosophical core ÔÇô was declared illegal Jan 3. At the same time, troglodyte legislators from 40 states, including here in Arizona, unveiled plans to nullify the 14th Amendment and return the nation to the 19th century. And in a few days, legislation will be introduced in Arizona where schools, via their students, will be required to identify the citizenship status of their parents. In effect, children will be turning in their parents. What's next: the criminalization of migrants and profiting off of their misery?
This is where that old adage is appropriate: For every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction. Well, not quite. Those resisting this outright declaration of war against our humanity want little to do with reaction. Those resisting, affirm our humanity on a daily basis by not forgetting to celebrate who we are. We are guided by beautiful Indigenous principles of what it means to be human: In Lak Ech, Panche Be and Hunab Ku. And when need be, we protest, we march, we rally, we vigil, we run, we walk ÔÇô always guided by principles of creation, rather than reaction. This we call a creation/resistance culture. We continue to create and celebrate, despite the war in our midst. This is why many of us, in fact, recognize no artificial man-made borders and why we continue to openly challenge the right of any governmental entity anywhere to dehumanize and declare any human being "illegal." This is something we don't hide from, but instead, affirm.
The only thing right about the extreme political right wing forces in this country is that they are correct that this is a civilizational war. It is a war between the forces of creation vs. the forces of reaction ÔÇô those who believe in supremacy and dominance vs. those who believe in equality and justice for all. This is the only way to understand what is happening. This has nothing to do with what is "legal" or "illegal." This is truly about what is moral vs. immoral ÔÇô what is humane vs. what is inhumane. The truth is, supremacists in this country ÔÇô whether of a racial, cultural, political or spiritual nature ÔÇô have stepped up their war against what they see as the "invading brown hordes" ÔÇô peoples whom the supremacists believe are less than human and have no business in this country ÔÇô regardless of how long they/we've been here.
Brown peoples in this country, in effect, constitute the unfinished business of Manifest Destiny. To the adherents of this antiquated and discredited philosophy, brown peoples represent defeated and conquered peoples ÔÇô peoples in the way of the triumphant march of so-called Western civilization. Yet, they/we also represent a reminder. Memory. Also, they represent peoples who have managed to scale and cross impregnable barriers: walls and metaphorical moats. In the eyes of supremacists, the Indigeneity of these brown peoples are not even acknowledged but denied; instead, they are viewed as dehumanized mongrels who represent the despoiling of all things pure and divine ÔÇô definitely not White nor Indigenous, and most assuredly, not truly human.
Despite that view, many of these peoples do not actually make it across those walls; thousands upon thousands of bodies are strewn across the deserts, mountains and riverbanks. But its not even bodies that are scattered; often, it is but remains that are recovered (253 bodies recovered this past year: http://www.derechoshumanosaz.net. In an irony of history, not to be forgotten is that the racial profiling in question is Indigenous. Historically, most people caught in this profile by the migra are peoples who crossed no borders ÔÇô artificial or otherwise; many of us actually have roots to this country and continent going back many, many thousands of years. The controversy regarding sb 1070 is that local police are also now being given the same right to profile as their border patrol colleagues. And truthfully, they already profile and cooperate with the migra, even without sb 1070.
From a moral standpoint, the notion of conferring and imposing an illegal status on peoples Indigenous to this continent by peoples whom barely have but a 518-year presence here is mind-boggling. It is also a crime against humanity to infer an illegal status upon anyone. Yet, if they want to enter into a debate regarding the legal realm, perhaps the appropriate question is: how did peoples from across the ocean establish their legality on this continent? Which document conferred upon them their "legal" status? Which document transferred legal title to them the land we are standing upon? Or was it simply accomplished by force of arms? Still waitingÔÇª
In 2011, in Arizona, the first salvo in this civilizational war was fired by the outgoing state school superintendant, Tom Horne, finding and declaring Tucson's highly successful Mexican American Studies program as illegal per a clearly unconstitutional hb 2281 piece of legislation. Never to be forgotten is that it is not a moral or constitutional law. He made his theatrical declaration hours before he was sworn in as Arizona's new attorney general. His successor, John Huppenthal ÔÇô who has endorsed Horne's decision to eliminate MAS-TUSD ÔÇô campaigned on a platform against La RazaÔÇª not the program, but La Raza. This is not accidental. The right wing claims La Raza means the race. This means he openly campaigned against "The Race" [brown peoples]. Can anyone imagine him successfully running against another race: Blacks, Italians or Jews, etc? Does anyone who campaigns to eliminate a people [or a program] have any credibility or moral authority to decide the future of this program?
The most grotesque aspect of Horne's finding is that he obscenely claims he is an adherent of Martin Luther King Jr. ÔÇô and that his effort and the efforts of the state legislature and the governor to eliminate Ethnic Studies in general, and Mexican American Studies in particular ÔÇô is driven by MLK Jr's ideal of judging a person "by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin." And yet, it is precisely Horne, who through his incessant and dehumanizing campaign to eliminate Mexican American Studies since 2006, who has already caused harm to peoples and communities under siege, precisely because of the color of their skin. He has also wrought harm to them precisely because he has attempted to delegitimize not just the program but the discipline, this while attacking their history, identity and culture. To flip MLK Jr's ideals on their head ÔÇô in support of his position that in effect promotes a supremacist and ultra-nationalist and chauvinist ideology ÔÇô is akin to the devil quoting the Bible. Few people on this planet will consider Horne, Huppenthal, Gov. Jan Brewer, State Sen. President Russell Pearce and Sheriff Joe Arpaio to be adherents of MLK Jr. Quite the contrary. In the realm of human rights, they are the proverbial foxes guarding the hen house.
Equally grotesque is the claim that Horne's findings are based on a law (hb 2281), as if it were sacrosanct, as if it were written in stone. Essentially, he created hb 2281 ÔÇô a statewide measure designed to eliminate ethnic studies at the K-12 level. To claim that he is following the law in finding MAS-TUSD out of compliance is beyond absurd circular logic. HB 2281 prohibits classes that:
1) Promote the overthrow of the United States Government.
2) Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3) Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4) Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
How does one debate nonsense? To say that the above four points are false is not enough. The very existence of this law is what is absurd. Nothing about Mexican American Studies at TUSD is unique. It is similarly taught at the University level nationwide. The same holds true for African American Studies, American Indian Studies as well as Pan Asian Studies. All classes are open to all and the fact that most students in MAS are Mexican Americans ÔÇô and that the classes target them [successfully] is not a bad thing. To object that students are taught the truth about the history of oppression, about discrimination and the history of segregation is the equivalent of "killing the message and the messenger." It is to promote a pedagogy of whitewashing as the only acceptable curriculum in this state. Horne leaves little doubt that the actual reason he objects to MAS is that its philosophical foundation is Indigenous and resides on this continent, as opposed to "Western Civilization." Even a geographic dislocation takes place in Horne's mind. Indigenous America apparently is not part of the West.
Above and beyond the political and philosophical dispute, MAS-TUSD boasts a 97.5 percent graduation rate and more than a 70 percent college going rate. Students enrolled in the program also score much higher than other students in standardized tests. At a time when the dropout rate for people of color is from 40-60 percent nationwide, one would think that the state would be bending over backwards to expand and export this program. Not only is there nothing illegal about it, but the Indigenous-based curriculum teaches its students to see each other in everyone and to be good human beings. What is illegal or immoral about that? Where is the hate? Actually, we know where the hate is, particularly in this state.
In May of 2010, five UN special rapporteurs denounced both the racial profiling measure sb 1070, and hb 2281 as potentially subjecting immigrants, minorities and Indigenous peoples to "discriminatory treatment." In regards to hb 2281, they wrote: "such law and attitude are at odds with the State's responsibility to respect the right of everyone to have access to his or her own cultural and linguistic heritage and to participate in cultural life. Everyone has the right to seek and develop cultural knowledge and to know and understand his or her own culture and that of others through education and information." http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10035&LangID=E
For example, HB 2281 is in clear violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: Specifically, it violates Article 29:
1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
( c ) "The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own."
The convention states this: "These basic standards--also called human rights--set minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be respected by governments. They are founded on respect for the dignity and worth of each individual, regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability and therefore apply to every human being everywhere. With these rights comes the obligation on both governments and individuals not to infringe on the parallel rights of others."
While some will argue that the cultural rights of Mexican-origin peoples are guaranteed by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ÔÇô the truth is, the rights of all human beings, including the right to history, culture and identity ÔÇô we are born with. Unless people expressly agree to give up their rights on a legal document or treaty, we keep our rights. In this instance, no such document exists that has taken away these rights ["reserved rights doctrine"].
That Horne claims otherwise is but a self-delusional assertion based on his own narrow ideology; it is certainly not based on any established civil or human rights law. The four points in Horne's 10-page document are not simply ludicrous ÔÇô because MAS-TUSD does none of the above ÔÇô but it is also immoral and in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution, and in complete and total violation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and especially the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Adopted by General Assembly Resolution 61/295 on 13 September 2007.
Perhaps Horne might want to argue that Mexican Americans are not in fact Indigenous peoples (good luck with that argument) because otherwise, virtually every article within the 2007 declaration protects their right to learn, study and develop curricula that teaches their history, culture and identity. For instance:
1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons. http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html
Truth is, sb 1070 is also not simply in violation of the above declarations, but with virtually all international treaties and conventions.
Rather than comply with a clearly immoral hb 2281, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of 11 plaintiffs late last year that challenges the constitutionality of the law itself ÔÇô specifically the 1st and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. And thus the courts will decide. A problem for Horne in the courtroom will be one of definitions. He will have to be forced to define words/concepts such as ethnic and ethnic studies, Western Civilization, Indigenous, American and Un-American ÔÇô words that have not been previously litigated in a courtroom. Primarily, he will have to define and defend why some disciplines fall under his ban, while others don't, such as MAS vs. European History, etc.
What is already clear is that Horne's finding in fact is a direct attack and challenge to the Indigeneity of Mexican Americans. That the MAS program stresses their Indigeneity is seen as an example of the program being out of compliance (page 3). The inquisitional aspect of the finding is that it continues to isolate books such as Occupied America (Acu??a), Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire), The Mexican American Heritage (Jimenez)ÔÇª and two hip-hop groups: Aztlan Underground and El Vuh.
As of Jan 3, TUSD has 60 days to bring the program into compliance (by March 3), but according to Horne: "The only way in which compliance can be effective within the next 60 days is by elimination of the Mexican American Studies Program." This is proof that this immoral hb 2281 was not designed to "fix" the program, but rather, to eliminate it outright. As noted, Horne's successor Huppenthal is demanding that TUSD dismantle MAS immediately. If not, TUSD will lose some $15 million, an amount the district can ill-afford to lose, and an amount that the new TUSD superintendent has stated he will not sacrifice. At best he has spoken of a possible compromise. Should we look forward to an Inquisitional "auto de Fe" ÔÇô a modern mass book-burning? Incidentally, he has also said he will next target Ethnic Studies at the University level.
Details aside, this struggle indeed is civilizational. Witness a speech Horne gave before the Heritage Foundation: It is noteworthy for 3 reasons.
1) That he delivered this speech (Lecture #1023, Heritage Foundation, May 14, 2007) to the premiere ultra-right wing think tank in the country is telling; historically, they have always been hostile to public education and are not particularly known for the defense of the civil and human rights of anyone, particularly people of color.
2) Here's a quote from the speech: "I am a proponent of a curriculum developed by E. D. Hirsch, called Core Knowledge. Students get a content-rich curriculum in American history, the Greco-Roman basis for Western civilization, and science beginning in kindergarten, first and second grades." Apparently, things Indigenous ÔÇô which is the philosophical foundation for Mexican American Studies ÔÇô do not jibe with things Greek and Roman. And things Indigenous, such as maiz culture ÔÇô as taught in MAS ÔÇô are considered un-American. And he has long proclaimed this in his battle against MAS.
3) Amazingly, his drive to have the state impose its view on a local district ÔÇô TUSD - goes against not simply conservative values and principles, but against his very own! From the conclusion of his speech: "And let us finally learn our lesson. There is an iron law of nature that transcends all nationalities. You can call it Horne's Law if you wish. If you permit a bureaucracy to micromanage a continent-wide, complex system, extreme dysfunction will result. Just ask the Russians."
Why don't we just ask Horne: Can you please reread your conclusion and can you elaborate on the micromanaging thing and its consequence?
Lastly, the move to nullify the 14th amendment by 14 states is nothing short of amazing, but again, nothing surprising in these times. The body, the mind, the spiritÔÇª memory. And now newborns. And now, children turning in their parents.
And thus a return to the idea of Creation in a time of Resistance, in a time of repressionÔÇª and can I say it: a time of oppression? (this is strictly prohibited by hb 2281 ÔÇô page 7).
These battles in Arizona are not new, nor unique: just perhaps more intense. They are stressful, but the affected communities are resilient. Why else would hundreds of thousands come out to protest racial profiling in Phoenix? Why would people run through the desert in 115-degree heat to defend their programs? Why would Indigenous people risk their lives and take over a Border Patrol Station in Tucson? Why would students and community members get arrested and why would high school students walk 13 miles across Tucson?
Perhaps because they/we know that our very existence is threatened.
* A caveat regarding this conflict is that 5 of 15 protestors who were arrested in May have been found guilty in defense of this program (this includes myself). A date for sentencing has not been set. Three others are still awaiting their trials.
* A second caveat: The judge killed Sat. in Tucson, John M. Roll, had also been assigned to handle the hb 2281 lawsuit.
Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com
* For more on the lawsuit, go to: saveethnicstudies.org.
Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez:
Rodriguez is a professor at the University of Arizona
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