Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies

2011

United States

Activism & Resistance Education Media & Culture

Within weeks of enacting Arizona's immigration law SB 1070, Governor Jan Brewer signed House Bill 2281 into law, giving the state's superintendent of schools the discretion to ban classes centered on ethnic studies.

Specifically, HB 2281 enabled a ban on courses that “advocate[d] ethnic solidarity” or “promote[d] resentment toward a race or class of people.” This law was the culmination of a battle over the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program, which offered electives in Mexican-American history and Latina/o literature. While opponents of these classes charged them with promoting “ethnic chauvinism” and “resentment toward whites,” students, teachers, and other advocates of Tucson’s program argued they promoted critical thinking on issues of race and identity.

See also: States police & punish undocumented immigration, 2010-2011.

Moreover, data showed that students who took courses centered on topics of race and identity were more likely to graduate high school and attend college. As a result of the law, more than eighty books were listed for removal from school libraries, including, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed“, “Chicano!”, “The History of the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement“, and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. Ethnic studies activists continue to fight to overturn the ban. Notably, this 2011 Ban established a precedent for banning Hispanic-authored books. In 2013, for instance, the state of Arizona banned “Dreaming in Cuban“, a finalist for the National Book Award written by critically acclaimed Cuban American author, Cristina García.