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The importance of a socio-linguistic voice in a new post-modern era

In 1920, the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce advertised the city as “a modern town of 40,000 people, and the best kind of people, too. A very small percentage of the total population were Mexicans, Negroes or foreigners – a term used to identify Chinese immigrants, while the Native American population was disregarded within this state census. “You can’t go far in looking at the early history of the Valley without encountering that kind of casual racism,” stated the Chamber of Commerce as a means to boost American cultural values over those of the included other cultures.
Minorities – African Americans, Mexicans, Chinese and Native Americans – made up a significant portion of the population from the very earliest years. When Phoenix had fewer than 500 residents, half of them were Mexican. Early records define the word Hispanics, as a signifier for all/any individuals other than African Americans, Native Americans or Chinese, with little distinction made between those, of Mexican heritage, born in the U.S. after 1848, those born when Arizona was still part of Mexico, those who immigrated from the political and economic troubles in Mexico to find peace or opportunity in Phoenix, or, those who moved/migrated to the U.S. with Hispanic surnames from Texas or California. “Mexican,” therefore, became a default and generic descriptor, which itself becomes, over time, a racialized marker and stereotype.
Before Arizona achieved statehood, there were 19 restaurants in Phoenix run by Chinese families. These establishments had names like, “American Kitchen,” run by Sing Yee. They didn’t serve Chinese food, but they were run by Chinese immigrants, who functioned not only as restaurateurs, but, as the city’s primary grocers and launderers.
The first African Americans noted in the Phoenix records came with the Columbus Gray family from Arkansas in 1868. Mary Green – the first of many African Americans to come to Phoenix – arrived with her two children, while many others followed. The historian Matthew Whitaker wrote, “African Americans were pushed by circumstances and pulled by hope, eventually finding their way to Phoenix, where they believed social, economic and political betterment awaited them.” However, what remained to be found by these hopeful migrants was a cluster of segregation, racist communities, and little work outside of harsh manual labor.
There is no doubt that the founding fathers of Phoenix saw themselves as the cultural norm. They were White, spoke English, and wore the proper attire of suits and vests. Chinese, Mexican, Indian and Black were seen as part of the functioning community, but they were clearly seen as a racialized “other.” Likewise, the founding Phoenix fathers were also primarily descended from northern European stock, which meant that the prevailing prejudice included the “wrong” kind of White. This prejudicial attitude extended into how families composed and/or changed their names so that they could be accepted by, and within the larger Phoenix communities. As one Italian family account notes, “whatever you do, add an ‘e’ on the end or your name and tell them you’re French. They didn’t want Italians here.” This manner of segregation along racial lines firmed an unspoken ethic within the forming landscape of Phoenix, which would continue through the present era.
As Phoenix continued to grow so did a certain embarrassment about their non-White population. The Phoenix Herald wrote that the city needed to control “half-naked Indians who disgrace our streets, bringing a blush to the cheeks of our mothers, sisters and wives.” In response to this culturally accepted racist attitude, a city ordinance was passed in 1881 making it illegal for Indians to appear on city streets “without sufficient clothing to cover the person” or to be in the city after dark unless employed by a Phoenix resident.
In 1891, the Phoenix Indian School opened, and the Arizona Gazette wrote that, “hundreds of boys and girls were annually transferred from the native condition of indolence and uselessness into civilized and useful members of society.” One of the ways they attempted to make this transformation was to hire out the students as domestic workers, calling the opportunity an “outing,” as if it were a socially accepted event.
For many Phoenix residents, Indians were a popular tourist draw. It was not uncommon for community members to ask Indian School students to dress up in “war paint” for city parades. This aided in a sore historic reminder of American colonialism and the westward expansion. The geography of the roadways was drawn to designate east-west roads named for a particular U.S. President, whereas north-south streets were named for Indian tribes. As Phoenix itself began to grow, those streets named for Indian tribes were soon labeled with the numbers: Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue. This was, in effect, because the Indian names sent the “wrong message” about the forward looking, progressive image the city wanted to project. “Indians weren’t very modern,” says historian Philip Vander Meer. “If you wanted to project this image, then that would be the wrong one.” Following this progressive attitude and the need for Phoenix to position itself as an attractive contemporary location for incoming, acceptable – read: White – potential residents, it was noted by historian Vander Meer that Phoenix itself was to become a “get-up-and-go,” community. This, then, led to the confirmation of a racial standard which states that if Phoenix was to be consider a modern town – in the 20th century – they, “they [must] think that…a lively modern city, [recognized as a] get-up-and-go [city] is associated with Anglo Saxon and not with Hispanics, Blacks or Chinese.”
Despite this growing racist ethic, and without argument, the early Chinese residents were among the most industrious of immigrants. These migrant residents operated businesses and cornered the early market in groceries and restaurants. In 1880, Chinese accounted for about one percent of the total population of Phoenix. Non-Chinese residents were suspicious of them and enacted Chinese-directed taxes to discourage more Chinese immigration. The taxation was unlike the overt violence directed at Chinese in early California, which was tolerated and accepted. Chinese immigrants were forced to live in a small area of town, which contrasted with the original “Chinatown” in Phoenix, toward the southern portion of the city where the U.S. Airways Center now stands.
Hispanics fared better in the early growing years of Phoenix. They were initially too large a percentage of the population to legislate against, and too well integrated into the farming economy to ignore. The first elected constable/ chief of police, was Enrique Garfias, who was widely admired. When Garfias died in 1895, his obituary read “he gave the greatest satisfaction to the citizens of Phoenix. He was brave and conscientious and never failed in his duty, no matter how danger menaced him.” Yet, as Phoenix grew and began modeling itself on older, Eastern cities, the Mexican “look” of the adobes began to bother the city administration. When the floods of the 1890s washed away many of the south Phoenix adobes, they looked on it as a good time to begin the long and slow attitude of distancing of themselves from the Hispanic community. The floods provided the structure for separating the wealthier, white citizens, who bought the richer land elevated from the floods, and Hispanics were left in flood-prone areas of South Phoenix. This action was regarded as a positive action on behalf of the Euro-American communities and aided in the further establishment of an already underscored racist attitude within Phoenix. The Arizona Gazette wrote, “[h]ere are none of the sleepy, semi-Mexican features of the more ancient towns of the Southwest, but in the midst of a valley of wonderful fertility, has risen a city of stately structures, beautiful homes, progressive and vigorous.” By 1910, however, Hispanics accounted for only 10 percent of the population inside the Phoenix city limits. Yet, these actions – both candid and openly stated – remained consistent, entrenching an attitude of racism, which remains visible today in the Phoenix socio-political environment.
In response to, and in assistance for segregation, schools that had been bilingual were now made English-only. That same year, 1910, segregation was established in city schools. The Territorial legislature passed a law allowing segregation, but Territorial Gov. Joseph Kibbey vetoed the measure. Kibbey’s veto was overturned by lawmakers, and soon after Phoenix voted to segregate its own schools. This action, in effect, began to take hold throughout the state of Arizona. The fight over bilingual education is only one movement that helped to satisfy a racialized environment within Arizona. Gov. Kibbey’s reasons for vetoing the segregation measure were almost word for word the reasons given by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, when they ruled against school segregation in “Brown v. Board of Education.” Kibbey wrote, “[i]t would be unfair that pupils of the African race should be given accommodations and facilities for a common school education less effective, less complete, less convenient or less pleasant so far as the accessories of the school and its operations are concerned than those accorded pupils of the White race in the same school district; and the bill in terms contemplates nothing less,”
Residential segregation became the de facto, de jure strategy to keep white from black schoolchildren. Research by Whitaker, noted within, In Search of Black Phoenicians: African-American Culture and Community in Phoenix, 1868 – 1940, details the bitter fight between pro- and anti-segregation forces beginning in 1909, when the territorial legislature “passed a law permitting school segregation in Arizona.” According to the Arizona measure, school boards were free to segregate students based on race.
Response from the African-American community was swift and angry, further outraging the white territorial governor Joseph H, Kibbey. Kibbey continued his track record of vetoing such measures, calling this political strategy, “utterly ridiculous, un-Christian and inhuman.” The Arizona legislature overrode his veto, and in 1912, Arizona entered statewide as a segregationist state. A major supporter of segregation was Dr. Benjamin A. Moeur, who chaired the convention to draft Arizona’s Constitution for statehood. “You gentlemen can do what you please,” Moeur said in a fiery address to the convention, “but I for one won’t send my children to school with n******s.” Moeur’s language gives support to the opinion framed in 1915, by black Phoenician Frank Smith in a letter to the editorial page of the Arizona Republican: “There is more race hatred right here in Phoenix to the square inch than in any city I have lived in.”
While the temperament of racism grew throughout the state of Arizona, Kibby continued to fight segregation and racist political measures. Judgments in favor of statewide segregation – residential and within the school system – commented that they, the politically dominant White/Anglo lawmakers, couldn’t understand why “Africans” would want to attend White schools when they would be “happier with their own.” The Arizona Democrat newspaper editorialized, “The colored people in Arizona are nicely treated,” and continued with barely concealed threat, suggesting that, “they conduct themselves in such a manner as this kindly feeling will continue.” With all these actions, lawsuits, measures and legal strategies for and against segregation, forced relocation of immigrants, and an openly controlled sense of racial injustice, the population in Phoenix, in 1910, was 11,134, with 10 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Black, and 1 percent Chinese.
“Racial segregation in Phoenix matched the segregation of southern U.S. cities of the day, certainly in regard to African-Americans,” observes Prof. Thomas J. Davis of the Dept. of History and College of Law, Arizona State University. This is exemplified historically as during a 1921 Arizona Republican gathering where among those who gathered to celebrate Arizona’s statehood were dozens of African-Americans (men, women and children). In an expected move, “the children of Phoenix” – i.e., those in political offices and state officials – did not include African-Americans in the eyes of the state and were latter turned away. Seeing that the growing African-American communities within Arizona required some form of attention, separate gatherings were instituted and announced by Republican administration. This action was considered a “solution” to the African-American controversy while retaining a structure of racial injustice in favor of the white, republican politic, which became, throughout the years, the political platform for Arizona. This attitude accompanied those white immigrants who came to Arizona from the South and maintained their Southern attitudes and racial prejudices. In order to firm the racial ethic of Arizona, those African-Americans who sought to purchase homes within the Phoenix area – 150 African-Americans, or 2.7 percent of the total city population up to that point – were residentially segregated. Legislation was organized to locate the African-American community to areas specific within areas of Arizona, while white real estate agents simply refused to sell to blacks in white neighborhoods. Eventually, openly racist operations and housing discrimination was applied to all minorities seeking to live within Arizona. In 1920, for example, one white entrepreneur developed tracts in Tempe exclusively for African-Americans, a move designed to keep the modestly increasing African-American population well east of white-dominated Phoenix area. The evil of race hatred was long growing within the Arizona, giving credence to the importance for African-American civic leaders to stand against such tensions. African-American civic leaders fought hard against both the de facto and the de jure segregation with “agency and resilience in the face of malevolence and apathy,” writes Whitaker. Their actions became visible as in 1919, when African-Americans leaders formed the Phoenix Advancement League (PAL), and began a decades-long struggle against centuries-old prejudices. Their collaborative actions took aim at the racialized struggles, which plagued Arizona and were becoming widespread. However, from time to time, one African-American civic leader – often with the aid of limited EuroAmerican political assistance – or another would challenge the right of segregation, but such challenges came to nothing.
However, in 1953, taking up again the mantle of institutionalized racism within the Arizona school system, Arizona suddenly became an unlikely leader in civil rights when Maricopa Superior Court Judge Frederick C. Struckmeyer, Jr. handed down a decision in “Phillips vs. Phoenix Union High School District.” Struckmeyer, declaring that, “half a century of intolerance is enough,” ruled the Arizona law permitting school boards to segregate unconstitutional. Filing the case were prominent Phoenix attorney Herbert B. Finn and Hayzel B. Daniels, the first African-American to pass the Arizona bar. Neither lawyer was paid; Daniels paid the filing fee. Stuckmeyer’s ruling anticipated by a year the groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.
De jure segregation in the schools appeared to have come to an end. However, persistent de facto segregation in Phoenix neighborhoods meant that students attending neighborhood schools were likely to go to a school populated almost entirely by their own race and class. In 1985, the Phoenix Union High School District entered an agreement with the U.S. Dept. of Justice to desegregate through a series of measures designed to assure equal access to all educational programs. The programs involved included a dozen magnet schools. This amounted to de jure desegregation, the effectiveness of which remains as a “much debated” situation. In May of 2005, the U.S. District Judge Robert C. Broomfield lifted the desegregation order for the Phoenix Union High School District, calling the efforts over two decades “a success story” and pointing to higher academic achievement for all students in the district. Once a hotbed of racist oppression, later a spearhead for social change, Phoenix settled the issues upon a middle ground. The 2000 U.S. Census identified 5.1 percent of Arizona’s population as African-American, but the majority live in areas not far from the original black neighborhood of 1900. “A glance at the neighborhoods throughout the Valley in 2006 demonstrates the persistence of residential racial segregation,” the records state. “Black residents may dot various neighborhoods throughout the Valley, but the imperative realities of race and class continue to cluster the bulk of the Valley’s black population in south Phoenix. By no standard has there been much penetration.” In their 2005 book, Metropolitan Phoenix: Place Making and Community Building, authors Patricia Gober and Barbara Trapido-Lurie admit that, “Anglo Phoenicians are retreating from the city center and are isolating themselves in gated and guarded master-planned communities, rather than face the challenges of diversity.” Such retreat may signal a new need to reexamine the prejudices and policies of Phoenix’s majority population. One Arizona historian continues to state that, “I am not sure racial segregation in the Valley of the Sun was ever broken.”

Arizona’s Immigration Enforcement Law – The next wave of racism in Arizona:
In April 2010, Arizona enacted two laws addressing immigration, SB 1070 and HB 2162. These laws added new state requirements to crimes and penalties related to enforcement of immigration laws, which become effective on July 29, 2010. Before the laws could go into effect, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit asking for an injunction against these laws arguing that they are unconstitutional. On July 28, Judge Bolton granted the request for injunction in part and enjoined those provisions related to state law officers determining immigration status during any lawful stop. This requirement forces immigrants to carry alien registration documents, a prohibition on applying for work if unauthorized, and permission for warrantless arrests if there is probable cause the offense would make the person is removable from the United States. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer appealed the injunction, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Nov. 1, 2010. On April 11, 2011, the court upheld the injunction.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on a separate Arizona law enacted in 2007 that mandates use of a voluntary federal employment verification system and penalizes employers who hire unauthorized workers. On May 26, 2011, the Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s 2007 law that required the use of E-Verify by Arizona employers, punishable by suspension or revocation of the employer’s business license. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) preempts any state or local law from imposing civil or criminal sanctions – other than through licensing and similar laws – upon those who employ, or recruit or refer for a fee for employment, unauthorized aliens. The Supreme Court, by a 5-3 vote, found that language in IRCA did not preempt the state because it was a licensing law permissible under IRCA. The E-Verify program also did not preempt the state, “although Congress had made the program voluntary at the national level, it had expressed no intent to prevent States from mandating participation.” The ruling on the case is, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF UNITED STATES OFAMERICA v. WHITING (No. 09-115).

SB 1070, “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” was approved by the Arizona Legislature on Monday, April 19, and signed into law by Governor Brewer on Friday, April 23, 2010. SB 1070 includes provisions adding state penalties relating to immigration law enforcement including trespassing, harboring and transporting illegal immigrants, alien registration documents, employer sanctions, and human smuggling. The trespassing provision appears to be the first of its kind to be enacted in the United States. In the most recent reports by NCSL on state immigration laws, few states have attempted to create a state trespassing violation for unlawful presence. Similar bills were introduced but failed in Arizona in 2008 and 2009, as well as in Texas (2009), Colorado (2008), and California (2007).

On the same day Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill, she also issued Executive Order 2010-09 requiring the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board to establish training to ensure law enforcement officials and agencies apply SB 1070 consistent with federal laws regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all people and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens. The executive order also requires clear guidance on what constitutes reasonable suspicion. The concept and legal use of “reasonable suspicion” has been noted, by those opposed to this law, as being a legal justification for illegal racial profiling which, then, maintains a transparent level of prejudice and bigotry throughout Arizona. The board is to provide a list of the specific forms of identification that provide a presumption that a person is not an alien unlawfully present in the United States.

A series of questions have been raised about the implementation and constitutionality of Arizona SB1070. Some concerns include the costs to the state for enforcing federal immigration law, particularly in tight budget times. How is the concept and use of “reasonable suspicion of immigrant status” going to be interpreted? Who will monitor, and maintain the narrow list of documents eligible to demonstrate lawful presence? Court challenges have raised constitutional issues including due process, equal protection under the 14th amendment, the prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure under the 4th amendment, and preemption under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
On April 29, the last day of legislative session, the Arizona Legislature approved, and the governor signed HB 2162 that included provisions intended to address the racial profiling concerns. HB 2162 amended SB 1070 to specify that law enforcement officials cannot consider race, color or national origin when implementing the provisions of the original law, except as permitted by the U.S. or Arizona Constitution. The law clarified the original law’s language around “reasonable suspicion” by requiring state and local law enforcement to reasonably attempt to determine the immigration status of a person only while in the process of a lawful stop, detention or arrest, whereas the original language referred to “lawful contact.” HB 2162 also stipulated that a lawful stop, detention, or arrest, must be in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town of this state. HB 2162 lowered the original fines in SB 1070 for state or local entities sued by legal residents and found guilty of restricting the enforcement of federal law from a minimum of $1,000 to $500 for each day the policy is in effect. The law also lowered the fine for people who fail to complete or carry an alien registration document from $500 to $100 for the first offense. The law was scheduled to go into effect on July 29, 2010, 90 days after the end of regular legislative session. Parts of the law, however, were enjoined on July 28, 2010.

Following these legal strategies and racially biases footsteps of Arizona, as of November 2010, similar bills had been introduced in six state legislatures, including, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Michigan and Illinois. Each of these bills has, on their own, faced a backlash of resistance similar to those presented by the communities, which oppose the Arizona bills.

To counter the actions – both current and in the foreseeable future as it relates to immigrant status, racial injustice, and constitutional equity for citizens – six resolutions have been introduced in legislatures that address Arizona’s immigration law. The California Senate, Illinois House, and New York Senate introduced resolutions opposing the Arizona law, while Tennessee enacted a resolution supporting it. Resolutions both supporting and opposing Arizona’s law were introduced in the Michigan House. Each of these states have acted, by way of introducing and/or passing their own legal structures, to call attention to what is viewed as an unjust, illegal and racially founded legal techniques in the state of Arizona, thereby applying inter-state restrictions and actions against Arizona until such reconciliations – or legal removal – of these laws takes effect.
In California, SCR 113 urges various state and private entities to withhold financial support of Arizona businesses in response to recent Arizona state laws relating to illegal immigration. The resolution was introduced on June 23, 2011. The state of Illinois introduced HJR 119, which calls upon the Arizona Legislature to repeal SB1070 and asks Congress and the President to act quickly to enact comprehensive immigration reform. The joint resolution was introduced on May 4, 2011, adopted by the House on May 7, 2011, and is pending in the Senate. The legislature in Michigan drafted HR 291, which urges the repeal of SB 1070, and asks Michigan businesses and public and private organizations to refrain from doing business with or in the state of Arizona. The resolution was introduced on May 26, 2011. Michigan’s HR 295 expresses support for Arizona’s new legislation regarding immigration and opposes any boycott of Arizona businesses. The resolution was introduced on June 9, 2011. The state of New York introduced SR 5081, which denounces policy that encourages racial profiling and asks cooperation on all levels of government to enact immigration policies and laws. The resolution was adopted on May 4, 2011. Tennessee’s HJR 1253 commends Arizona on its upcoming Centennial and salutes the initiative of the Arizona Legislature and Governor Jan Brewer in their actions to protect their citizens and the border. HJR 1253 became law without the governor’s signature on June 19, 2010.

A number of challenges within the legal court system have followed these state bills. Presently, three individuals (two law enforcement officials and one researcher) and the Coalition of Latino Clergy filed the first challenges to the Arizona law based on equal protection, due process and preemption under the Supremacy Clause. A coalition of organizations including the ACLU, National Immigration Law Center and MALDEF filed a class action lawsuit against Arizona counties seeking a permanent injunction. The lawsuit states that SB1070 violates the Supremacy Clause, the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, the Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Equal Protection Clause guarantee of equal protection under the law, and Article II, Section 8 of the Arizona Constitution. The lawsuit was filed May 17, 2010 (U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona). On July 6, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the district of Arizona seeking a permanent injunction of SB 1070. The civil action states that SB 1070 is preempted by federal law (8 U.S.C. 1101, and following sections) and by U.S. foreign policy, and violates the Supremacy Clause and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. On July 15, 2010, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton heard arguments on a request for preliminary injunction filed by the earlier lawsuits and on Arizona’s request to dismiss those lawsuits. On July 28, 2010, Judge Bolton granted in part and denied in part the motion for preliminary injunction. The sections that were barred from taking effect (pending appeal) were: Section 2B, requiring law enforcement officers to determine immigration status during any lawful stop, Section 3, creating state crimes and penalties for failure to carry federally-issued alien registration documents, Section 5 making it unlawful for an unauthorized alien to knowingly apply for or perform work in Arizona, and Section 6, permitting an officer to make a warrantless arrest if the officer has probable cause to believe the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States. As expected, following this injunction, Governor Brewer filed for an appeal on August 26, 2010, which, to date – 2017 – is still pending legal action.

Educational Racism: Arizona’s Ethnic Studies controversy, HB 2281, 2010 – 2017:
In June 2010, a federal judge will hear Acosta et al. vs. Huppenthal et al., a legal challenge against House Bill (HB) 2281. State lawmakers passed the bill seven years ago to crush Ethnic Studies Programs -curricula addressing the history and present state of specific communities of color – in public schools. The bill prompted sustained activism to protect these programs, particularly for Mexican-American studies (MAS), which carries into the current trial. The trial’s outcome could set a precedent that impacts similar programs around the country, including those in Wisconsin and California. Some of the main points of this bill are:
1. The bill originated in apparent response to Dolores Huerta criticizing Arizona state Republicans at a public forum in Tucson.
The Tucson Weekly reports that MAS programs in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) launched in 1998 and continued without major opposition until 2006, when veteran Latinx labor organizer Dolores Huerta said that “Republicans hate Latinos” in a speech to Tucson high school students.
Huerta’s statement provoked vehement opposition from Republicans throughout the state and country, including then-Arizona superintendent of public instruction Tom Horne. Horne went on to become state attorney general, and the Weekly reports he publicly championed what would become HB 2281.
2. HB 2281 critiques and outlaws Ethnic Studies Programs using “anti-racist” and pro-government rhetoric.
The bill reads in part that, [t]he legislature finds and declares that public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people.
A. A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in its program of instruction any courses or classes that include any of the following:
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.
Sub-bullet three is especially relevant here as the TUSD enrollment demographics information from the academic year 2010-2011 shows that Latinx students made up 56.2 percent of its students, which is the highest of any racial group. That percentage rose to 63.7 percent for the academic year 2015-2016, which is the most current available data.
3. HB 2281 passed the same year as SB 1070.
Arizona house members approved HB 2281 in 2010, the same year their state senate colleagues approved Senate Bill SB 1070. The latter legislation lives in infamy as one of the country’s harshest anti-immigration bills. It allows law enforcement officers to question anyone they suspect is undocumented. Taking together, this means that school-going Latinx children of possible undocumented immigrants cannot learn about the history of activism and resistance waged against measures that target Latinx peoples.
4. Ethnic Studies Programs result in positive education outcomes for all participating students. A 2011 Yes! Magazine article cites a TUSD study that indicated students in the MAS program performed and stayed in school at improved rates. MAS programs were founded with the aim of reversing some disturbing academic trends for Chicano students in Tucson. This strategy worked as noted in 2011, where the high school dropout rate for MAS students in Tucson was 2.5 percent, as opposed to 56 percent for Latino students nationally. A study by Tucson United School District (TUSD) found that 98  percent of MAS students reported completed work toward successful graduation, and 66 percent went on to college. The program was widely regarded as helping Latino youth feel empowered and achieve their full academic and human potential.
A 2016 study from Stanford University researchers echoes similar findings for an Ethnic Studies Program implemented in San Francisco, assigned to ninth-grade students with low eighth-grade GPAs. The results of this study indicate that ninth-grade student increased their attendance and work ethic by 21 percentage points, GPA by 1.4 grade points, and credits earned by 23. These surprisingly large effects are consistent with the hypothesis that the course reduced dropout rates and suggest that culturally relevant teaching, when implemented in a supportive, high-fidelity context, can provide effective support to at-risk students.
5. Educators, students and activists continue to push for Ethnic Studies Programs in court and within their surrounding communities. As noted by Yes! Magazine, and the Weekly, the lawsuit takes its name from lead plaintiff Curtis Acosta, one of the developers of the Tucson MAS program, and lead defendant John Huppenthal, Horne’s successor in the superintendent position. The Huffington Post notes that Huppenthal once compared MAS to Nazi Germany’s Hitler youth program and vowed in a campaign ad to “stop la raza,” using a term popularized by Latinx activists in the 1970s to promote community pride and action against racial oppression. Huppenthal also endorsed then Arizona state senate president Russell Pearce, who openly supported White supremacists, in a 2011 recall election.
Huppenthal successfully banned MAS in Tucson in 2012, with the bill’s backing, but not before Acosta launched a lawsuit against the bill in 2011. The case was, eventually, successfully heard and appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which, then, moved the bill back to the lower court for further legal proceedings.
On May 11, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed House Bill 2281 (also known as HB 2281 and A.R.S. §15–112), which prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that:
1. Promotes the overthrow of the Federal or state government or the Constitution
2. Promotes resentment toward any race or class (e.g. racism and classism)
3. Advocates ethnic solidarity instead of being individuals
4. Are designed for a certain ethnicity
But the law must still allow:
1. Native American classes to comply with federal law
2. Grouping of classes based on academic performance
3. Classes about the history of an ethnic group open to all students
4. Classes discussing controversial history
Coming off the heels of SB 1070, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne was adamant about cutting Mexican-American Studies in the Tucson Unified School District. He devised HB 2281 under the belief that the program was teaching “destructive ethnic chauvinism and that Mexican American students are oppressed”. In January 2011, Horne reported TUSD to be out of compliance with the law. In June of that year, the Arizona Education Department paid $110,000 to perform an audit on the TUSD’s program, which reported “no observable evidence was present to suggest that any classroom within the Tucson Unified School District is in direct violation of the law.” John Huppenthal ordered the audit as part of his campaign promise to “Stop La Raza,” but when the audit contradicted his own personal findings of noncompliance, he discredited the work. Despite a formal appeal issued on June 22, 2011 by TUSD to Huppenthal, Judge Lewis Kowal backed the Superintendent’s decision and ruled the district out of compliance as of December 2011. On January 10, 2012, the TUSD board voted to cut the program after Huppenthal threatened to withhold 10% of the district’s annual funding. Numerous books related to the Mexican-American Studies program were found in violation of the law, were removed, and have been stored in district storehouses. Examples of the removed books are, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Bill Bigelow’s Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years.
Supporters of MAS see HB 2281 as another attack on the Hispanic population of Arizona. This is due partly to the fact that none of the other three Ethnic Studies Programs suffered such injustice actions. Support for the Ethnic Studies Programs subsequently came from scholars, students, and community activist groups. The Curriculum Audit of the Mexican American Studies Department refuted all of the violations under House Bill 2281. The audit instead recommended that the courses be implemented further, given the positive impacts of the courses on the students. In addition to the defense of the Ethnic Studies Department, the UN Charter of Human Rights challenges the bill as a violation of fundamental human, constitutional, and educational rights. A 2011 documentary, Precious Knowledge directed by Ari Palos and produced by Eren McGinnis for Dos Vatos Productions, argues that while 48% of Hispanic students drop out, TUSD’s program had become a model of national success, with 93% of enrolled students graduating and 85% going on to college. The film shows protests and student led marches within the Tucson and Phoenix areas as part of demonstrations against the Arizona decision.

Appeal of Arizona’s Ethnic Studies Ban:
The Mexican American Studies course was first brought under attack after the Deputy Superintendent of Public Education gave a speech trying to tell the students that Republicans don’t hate Latinos after an allegation was made toward Republicans. Student reactions against the bill has been noted by Superintendent Tom Horne as a sign of rudeness of students and teachers consistent with lessons taken from their Mexican American Studies courses. Superintended Horne has called for removal of these courses, which has not come into full affect. As a result, Horne has made efforts for a further bill to be put into law banning Mexican American Studies courses.
House Bill 2281 – approved in December 2010 – prohibited Ethnic Students and Mexican American Studies courses. To enforce Horne’s proposed bill, the district court gave the Superintendent of the school district the right to withhold funding to schools that continue to teach the Ethnic Studies courses. Judge Kowal ruled the course “biased, political, and emotionally charged,” and upheld the bill and the withholding of funding from schools.
An appeal filed in October 2010 challenging House Bill 2281 for violation of First Amendment as it points toward visible discrimination, and the Fourteenth Amendment for its void-for-vagueness upon civil rights. The initial appeal was filed by ten teachers, the director of the Mexican-American Studies program, three students and, their parents. Following these actions, those supporting the appeal have either been dismissed from their post, graduated, or lessened their pressure over time.
In March 2013, the Arizona appeals court ruled only in favor of the plaintiffs on the grounds that there was a First Amendment over-breadth violation to House Bill 2281. The plaintiffs decided, then, to further this appeal to the case.
On July 7, 2015, the appeal on the ban of the Mexican American Studies, “Maya Arce vs. Huppenthal”, reached a federal appeals court. Overseen by Judge Rakoff, the court reversed part of what the district court had ruled on banning the course. Judge Rakoff looked at the four categories – as noted previously – that constitute which classes are prohibited.
Rakoff’s statement stated that House Bill 2281 was created considering Mexican American Studies courses. Since Mexican American Studies courses were the only courses in Arizona to be banned, it became clear that the bill had targeted such courses and materials. This led the court to find the bill to be partially unconstitutional, as it did not require similar Mexican American Studies courses outside of the Tucson Unified School District to cease teaching such courses. The bill also did not ban African American Studies courses, which were, and continue, to be taught simultaneously.
Rakoff’s final ruling affirmed part of the bill to be unconstitutional regarding the plaintiff’s First Amendment right. However, Rakoff upheld the district court’s ruling that the bill is not overbroad. Rakoff sent part of the appeal back to the district court to review the claim that the bill is discriminatory. However, in August 2017, a different federal judge found that the bill was motivated by discriminatory intent and struck down the ban on Ethnic Studies Programs as unconstitutional. Though the start of the Ethnic Studies Program development – and subsequent movement – can be traced as beginning in the early 1900s, this educational directive began to take focus during the 1960s at colleges and universities. In the past decade, the growth of such a pedagogical direction has accelerated in K-12 schools, due mainly as a response to these Arizona laws which continue to legally battle, and ban, these curricula.
Arizona’s large Republican lawmakers are specifically targeting Mexican-American Studies (MAS) programs. Republican Tom Horne and John Huppenthal, who wrote the legislation, claim that such classes stoke racial tensions and “radicalizing students.” They pointed to the course materials – among them, Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Rodolfo Acuña’s Occupied America – and other materials, which they have deemed unacceptable and racially charged. In 2006, Arizona’s then-school’s superintendent and former attorney general – Horne – began his probe into the MAS programs after an incident when a labor activist told students that Republicans were racist. Horne concluded the MAS program violated school code, and the state threatened to withhold funds until these programs were stopped.
In 2010, Horne and Huppenthal passed HB 2281, prohibiting classes and materials that “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government,” “resentment toward a race or class or people,” or “ethnic solidarity.” This action came on the heels of the passage of SB 1070, which gave local police the authority to question a person’s citizenship.
Though this bill has the potential for far-reaching racialized pedagogy within Arizona, there were some Ethnic Studies courses, which were not affected by the bill. Huppenthal often mentions African-American Studies courses/programs as an example of those not affected – directly – by this bill. Regardless, Huppenthal remains firm in his decree that teachers of Mexican-American Studies classes at Tucson High, were – in his opinion – “indoctrinating students.” “They were doing a very simplistic application of Karl Marx’s dictum: All of history is the struggle between the ‘oppressor’ and the ‘oppressed,’ ” Huppenthal says. “And they were going to identify whites [Anglo Americans] as oppressors and Hispanics [Latino, Mexican Americans] as the oppressed.”
Some Myths and Truths about Arizona’s Ethnic Studies Ban:
“One of the things you would hear was that our classes were [in fact] hateful. That we were teaching resentment,” says Curtis Acosta, an 18-year teaching veteran of the Tucson Unified School District, who piloted one of the Mexican-American studies classes that sparked the controversy in Arizona. “That’s exactly the antithesis of what you would see.”
Acosta – and others – took note that when academic curriculum can directly affect a student, including from their socio-economic position within the community, then, that student has the potential of expressing their experiences, therefore articulating and completing an academic scaffolding founded upon this sense of personal, and social responsibility. Focused research has proven that while 48 percent of Latino students were dropping out of high school in the Tucson area, 100 percent of those students enrolled in Mexican-American Studies classes at Tucson High were graduating, and 85 percent were going on to college.

The Impact of an Ethnic Studies Curriculum:
“As students of color proceed through the school system, research finds that the overwhelming dominance of Euro-American perspectives leads many such students to disengage from academic learning,” Christine Sleeter, a California State University Professor in Ethnic Studies, writes in a 2010 NEA report. “Ethnic Studies curricula exist in part because students of color have demanded an education that is relevant, meaningful, and affirming of their identities.”
Something else happens in these classes: students develop “a sense of agency,” Sleeter writes. So, they aren’t just learning about history, they’re engaging with it and shaping it; reading the word and the world. A Stanford study finds similar outcomes, particularly for high school students at risk of dropping out. Taking a course, which examines, “the roles of race, nationality and culture on identity and experience” improved not only academic performance, but also attendance. Sleeter further notes that when academia is framed by a socio-political Euro-American hegemony, students considered outside of this “norm” either become academically “bored” whereas they, then, intellectually…or physically drop-out.”

Waiting on a Verdict: The legal outcome of HB 2281:
The bill is awaiting a ruling from a federal judge who will rule if the GOP state officials violated students’ constitutional rights when they all but abolished Tucson High’s Mexican-American studies program. Huppenthal has held steady, maintaining that Ethnic Studies courses and programs racialize the classroom. “To teach kids that they’re victims and they can’t get ahead in life because somebody’s holding them down, I think it’s a mistake,” says Huppenthal.
However, a new study from the Child Development Journal counters this argument stating that to teach students that, “the world is a meritocracy, free of systemic racism and colonialism,” becomes intellectually, physically, and emotionally detrimental to students of color. Acosta, who subsequently lost his class to the ban, has been helping other districts integrate Ethnic Studies courses into their school’s curriculum. No matter what happens, says Acosta, the legacy of the Tucson’s Mexican-American Studies program remains.

In August 2017, a federal judge overturned the Arizona ban on Ethnic Studies courses aimed at Hispanic students, stating that this action was motivated by racial discrimination and violated pupils’ constitutional rights. This decision was issued by Judge A. Wallace Tashima and came in response to the lawsuit enacted by students and parents challenging the law, which, consequently, ended the Mexican-American Studies (MAS) program run by the Tucson school district. “The Court is convinced that decisions regarding the MAS program were motivated by a desire to advance a political agenda by capitalizing on race-based fears,” Tashima wrote in his ruling. To date, officials from the Arizona Department of Education have not provided any comment regarding this legal motion.
A Tucson Unified School District member, Kristel Ann Foster, said she was “elated” to be able to restore the Mexican-American Studies program to classrooms. Tashima, however, backed a study conducted in 2012 – the year the Mexican-American Studies programs were dropped from the syllabus in Tucson – which found MAS helped improve the graduation rates and test scores of some of the district’s worst-performing students. It remains important to note that roughly 64 percent of Arizona’s school students are Hispanic, according to Arizona’s data. The MAS programs – which were the target of these bills and following controversy – included units on Mexican-American history, art and literature.
The attorney for the parents and students, who brought the lawsuit, Steve Reiss, described the ruling as an “extraordinary” win. “To show that a state passed and implemented a law with discriminatory intent is extremely hard these days,” stated Reiss. In counterpoint to this decision, Horne has stated that public schools should teach students from different backgrounds to treat each other as individuals. “This decision promotes a program that does the opposite: divides students by race and promotes ethnic chauvinism,” Horne said in a statement.

These most recent legal measures acted in part and full, within the state of Arizona places another mark along the torrid racialized history, which Arizona has developed since becoming part of the American republic. Immigrants – albeit Chinese/Chinese-American, African-American, Mexican/Mexican-American – and the Indigenous Native Peoples of the region have all undergone various forms of bias, legal injustice, racial tensions and prejudice stemming from a socio-political ethic of racial hegemony and political profit. However, without the labor, cultural contributions, and political activism form these various ethnic communities, the Arizona landscape would widely be barren and monochromatic. The fact that wealthy EuroAmerican/Anglo settler/landowners aimed their political gains toward reducing the significant and potential contributions from these ethnic communities lays the foundations for the conservative political bend of Arizona. This socio-political leaning, in favor of a Western EuroAmerican/Anglo colonial ideology, continues to struggle with the dynamic histories of the various ethnic and immigrant communities, which are the staple of the Arizona cosmology. To eradicate these contributing cultures, then, would be to erase a large part of the Western U.S. and its colonial history. By attempting to legally reduce the ongoing work, community participation, cultural contributions and growing population of various ethnic/immigrants in the state of Arizona demonstrates how racially unjust is the current social climate for this state. The fact remains that, until the present legal matters facing the education, work/labor force, cultural expressions, and residential position of those deemed – historically and contemporarily – “untouchable,” the racial struggles within the borders of Arizona will remain in contest. Without a balanced acceptance of both the dynamic, and rich, im/migrant and ethnic communities in the history of Arizona, this state cannot, and will not, be able to address their present socio-political and legal injustices with a resolution capable of securing the will of “all men – regardless of race, color, or creed.” Rather, maintaining such current inequitable and legally defiant operations continues to position Arizona as one of the country’s most racially vulnerable states. It becomes important, then, to reference the past cultural histories of Arizona, which contributed to the current state corpus, to ascertain a potentially positive, balanced and politically equitable Arizona for generations to come.