Friday, May 7, 2010

The War Over Knowledge Part II and Immigration Solutions: A Primer

This post responds to the repeated query of blog commentators asking whether the NVL boycott against SB 1070 has a solution to the immigration issue. This is a two-part response. The second part concludes this post. The first part illustrates NVL joining the ranks of innumerable others outraged at Arizona’s injury causing legislation including the National Association of Chicana, Chicano Studies (“NACCS”), also comprised of inter alia innumerable professors.

NACCS arose in part from the civil rights era in protest against the omitted histories of the nation’s Chicanas/os and Indigenous communities from the education of the nation’s youths. To their detriment their communities were exposed to the history of Anglo America in the Conquest of the nation’s “origins.” While it took the protests of the era to challenge such narrow minded approaches to education, hundreds of omitted hidden histories would have benefited all children from exposure to the “other.” Compare for example with Arizona’s present efforts to eliminate La Raza Studies.

Other civil rights protests also connect the past with the present. For example when the first generation of that civil rights period spoke in Spanish their “teachers” charged young grade school students (and primarily impoverished) their precious pennies or would rap their hands sharply with a ruler.[1] Compare such measures with Arizona’s present day “auditing” of English teachers who speak with an “accent.” Experienced teachers that are perceived as “foreign-sounding” will soon be facing their walking papers to the detriment of students losing their well-trained and highly effective instructors.

Yet who is “auditing” the “auditors”? One of the nation’s treasures is the much appreciated dialectical differences that spread across the different states. When Rock Hudson was preparing for a movie role as a Texan, he had to be trained on a Texas drawl and word usage. Accordingly what type of their own dialectical distinctions do the auditors possess? In a state with much valued and the beauty of Indigenous languages, and with words borrowed from the Spanish (etc., mustang, rodeo) or Nahuatl (etc., mole, tamales) the “audits” against this group of English teachers is leaking racism all over the State's cultural heritage.[2]

Other civil rights protests of the time emerged against the Viet Nam war when college males were exempt from the draft and with extremely minor exceptions the sons of politicians instrumental to the “war” effort were also excluded from the draft. Instead many young Chicanos their Black and Indigenous brothers disproportionate to their populations were drafted and paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. Were they to magically appear in Arizona today and their histories erased (as with the present threat of eliminating La Raza Studies) what would they say to a nation that owes them so much? Apply that group of facts to the present war against terrorism —what would non-citizen Mexican soldiers who also lost their lives were to say if they suddenly appeared and faced such legislation? It is not much of a logic leap to conclude how Arizona would react to their being granted citizenship after their deaths.

Innumerable other examples exist, such as the Los Angeles Chicano Moratorium of the 1970s. What began as a peaceful protest against the disproportionate deaths of Chicanos in Viet Nam resulted in mayhem when “law enforcement officers” threw tear gas at the protesters. Many of the protesters, their families and children were forced to flee. Newspaper reporter Ruben Salazar who had begun reporting on the disproportionate Chicano deaths in Viet Nam while also fleeing the tear gas ran into the Silver Dollar Bar.

It is beyond the incredulous to discern how a deputy sheriff’s tear gas projectile “found” Ruben in the bar and killed him on the spot. Although Ruben’s death was ruled a homicide the deputy was never prosecuted and while nothing can compare to Ruben’s ultimate sacrifice compare this against the framework of Arizona’s exclusionary tactics to thwart the education of more diverse histories and the burdens marginalized communities bear. Ruben in reporting on the disproportionate deaths had also witnessed threats against his life. Space and time limitations disallow a more complete history and the role of young Chicanas in protesting the above and in sum, this post promised a response to the “query regarding a solution.”

First, learn the nation’s real history. The above are but a few examples with innumerable examples also surfacing from the Chicana and other Latina theorists who began writing about their long excluded communities. Numerous other examples include the war over knowledge taking place at Michigan State University.[3] The list is endless of harmful injuries to the nation’s marginalized but in the process educators who dare teach these hidden histories have lost their jobs, tenure or are being threatened with negative teaching evaluations from provosts who have never visited the professors’ classroom and in violation of due process. But for the teachers' concern in teaching about the "other" coupled with a non-tenured status, would such a provost have submitted a negative review in a highly unusual departure from employment rules? Underscoring the lists is the fact that many have gone without remedies proving yet greater harm to their communities.

Third, and accordingly the immigration “solution” does not respond to the universalism of legal formalism and demand excursions beyond its limitations. They obligate referencing the scholarship of those critical of false norms (in the present and the past) and reified false “standards.” Numerous scholars and activists including several of the editors of this blog have significant scholarship that deals directly with immigration issues. Not only do they challenge falsehoods (as our united boycott against SB 1070) they also offer solutions.

With yet other states also threatening to adopt the false idol of the Arizona bills—multiple solutions are offered and yet many of its drafters are not invited to participate in conferences nor invited to engage in solution targeted efforts. In many instances they also encounter rejections in their quest for new educational institutions with greater funds and access to power brokers. In short the solution to the immigration mess ultimately obligates reading beyond the limitations of legal formalism and wandering purposefully into the land of yet more complete and diverse knowledge.

[1]See e.g, U.S. Comm’n on Civil Rights: The Excluded Student Educational Practices Affecting Mexican Americans in the Southwest (1972).

[2]Compare in the present when a Dean at a top ten school chastised a graduate student for greeting her friend in Spanish at a meeting where Chicana/o students were protesting the demise of their Program.

[3]See War Over Knowledge February Post.


  1. Thank you for this excellent post! The war over knowledge is taking place on many fronts!

  2. A powerful post! Thank you! Give us more!


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