On Friday, an Arizona state court upheld most provisions of House Bill 2281, a measure that suspended race-related courses, such as Mexican-American studies, in Tucson public schools. The bill aims to remove courses intended for particular ethnic groups with the promotion of ethnic solidarity.
The author of the bill, Arizona Atty. Gen. Tom Horne, called the ruling on HB 2281 a “victory for ensuring that public education is not held captive to radical, political elements and that students treat each other as individuals — not on the basis of the race they were born into.”
But rather evidently, the legislature passed constitutionally dubious HB 2281 in order to inhibit the awareness and advancement of Mexican-American identity. Even the judge who upheld the law noted this: “This single-minded focus on terminating the [Mexican-American studies] program, along with Horne’s decision not to issue findings against other ethnic studies programs, is at least suggestive of discriminatory intent,” U.S. Circuit Court Judge Wallace Tashima wrote.
With Asian-American studies and African-American studies standard choices for pupils across the United States, it is absurd for Arizona to ban Mexican-American studies. First, the classes are not forced upon students. Second, giving students the option of learning about an entirely different heritage actually enriches them.
Moreover, if students are confined to cookie-cutter content pertaining to only Caucasian settlers and innovators in their history courses, society cannot develop a culturally aware generation. Especially in a globalizing world, it is important for our students to learn about the plights and successes of other ethic groups.
And such ethnic studies appear to have positive effects for students: A University of Arizona report found that students in Tucson’s Mexican-American studies program had better test scores and graduation rates than those who did not participate, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Furthermore, HB 2281 reflects the racial tensions and prejudice within Arizona. In the past, many have argued that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and other officials have promoted a slew of measures aimed at suppressing Latinos in Arizona. From the controversial passage of the anti-illegal immigrant Senate Bill 1070 (which many claimed promoted racial profiling by law enforcement) to a more recent executive order prohibiting undocumented immigrants with temporary legal status in the United States from receiving state or local benefits, the work of Arizona’s leaders with regard to Latino citizens is questionable.
Luckily, the law is being challenged by Mexican-American studies student Nicholas Dominguez and his mother Margarita; the case is bound to reach the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to The Huffington Post.
Hopefully, the judicial system will appropriately strike down HB 2281 in the future and allow diverse cultural studies to continue in Arizona and across the country. The Arizona heat might sear the earth, but we cannot allow any individual or court to burn away the great strides civil rights leaders have made in this country.
Rini Sampath is a freshman majoring in international relations.