Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Few Thoughts On the Mexican American Studies Trial

Posted By on Wed, Jul 26, 2017 at 2:35 PM

The Mexican American Studies trial is over. Judge Tashima's decision could come in a few days or a few weeks, though from what I've heard, we might have to wait until the end of August. The defense of the MAS program can win in four ways. The judge can rule that the anti-MAS legislation, HB 2281, violated the equal protection clause with respect to the students in the program, or HB 2281 violated the first amendment rights of those involved in the program. Either ruling would mean ARS §15-112, the law created by HB 2281, will be tossed out. He can also rule that Huppenthal's enforcement of the legislation to dismantle MAS violated one or both of the issues, at which time Huppenthal's decision against the MAS program would be voided. If Tashima rules in favor of the defense on any of the four points, it will be an important victory for supporters of the Mexican American Studies program  Multiple rulings for the defense will be a triumph.

I would love to see Judge Tashima rule for the program and against the anti-MAS law and Huppenthal's enforcement. The whole affair smelled of politics and racism from the beginning.

Here's a question. Are Tom Horne and John Huppenthal a couple of racists who went after the Mexican American Studies program because they hate brown people? If the judge thinks so, the defense is going to win big. But that's not necessary. Even if they were the two least racist white folks on the planet, if they promoted a racist agenda to further their political ambitions, Horne's bill—he essentially wrote HB 2281—and Huppenthal's implementation of the bill could still be racially discriminatory.

A case in point. Remember George Wallace? He was the Alabama governor who stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama auditorium in 1963 to block two African Americans from registering, leading President Kennedy to call out the national guard to allow them in, effectively desegregating the university. But when Wallace ran for governor in 1958, he looked like a different guy when it came to racial issues. By the standards of the south, he was a civil rights moderate, so much so that his candidacy was endorsed by the NAACP. He ended up losing the primary to John Patterson who had the support of the Ku Klux Klan. Stung by his defeat, Wallace said, "You know why I lost that governor's race? ... I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I'll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again." And he never was. In 1963, he famously stated his platform as "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." For Wallace, virulent racism was more career move than personal conviction.

During the MAS trial, Tom Horne claimed he isn't a racist, but he couldn't claim he wasn't ambitious. When he was Superintendent of Public Instruction, he envisioned himself sitting in the governor's chair after a brief stopover in the attorney general's office. All he needed was an issue to get him noticed, and it was handed to him in 2006 when labor activist and civil rights icon Delores Huerta uttered the phrase "Republicans hate Latinos" during a speech to students at Tucson High. The story blew up and became a cause célèbre among Arizona Republicans. For awhile it even went national, making it all the way to Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox. Horne saw his chance. He transferred the conservative fear of this one "uppity brown activist" to the entire Mexican American Studies program, painting its teachers and administrators as revolutionaries who wanted their students to rise up and reclaim the southwest for Mexico. The steps of the TUSD administration building became Horne's home away from home. He was a regular visitor, holding press conferences to condemn the program. Immigration and fear of the growing Hispanic population were already rallying cries for conservatives. Horne claimed a slice of the racist, xenophobic pie as his own.

Is Horne a racist? If not, he played one as Superintendent of Public Instruction. He wrote HB 2281, a bill whose sole purpose was to dismantle MAS. It was an educational companion piece to the "Papers please" bill, SB 1070. Both passed in 2010. The godfather of SB 1070, then-Senator Russell Pearce, is a racist whose bona fides go back years. He recently renewed his credentials by crawling out from under the rock where he's been hiding and threatening to sue the Arizona Board of Regents to stop "dreamers" from qualifying for in-state tuition. The thought of undocumented young people, who are in the country because their parents brought them here, getting a higher education which would benefit themselves and this country just sticks in Pearce's craw. I don't think Horne's system is fizzing with the same strain of racist rabies that motivates Pearce. Most likely, Horne's motivation is more opportunistic than racist—exploiting others' racism for political gain. But that shouldn't matter in Judge Tashima's decision. If his anti-MAS law had a discriminatory effect, it should be taken off the books.

Is Huppenthal a racist? If you pore through the comments he made anonymously on blogs across the state, it's hard to absolve him of the charge. He wrote, “No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv stations, no spanish newspapers. This is America, speak English.” And, “I don’t mind them selling Mexican food as long as the menus are mostly in English.” And, “Yes, MAS=KKK in a different color.” However, like Horne, his motives for the anti-MAS campaign he mounted likely had more to do with furthering his personal ambition than promoting a personal racist agenda. But again, the distinction between racist motivation and discriminatory effect isn't the point. If Huppenthal's obsession with wiping out MAS resulted in racial discrimination, Judge Tashima should void his actions.

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