As a result of several recent draconian laws, Arizona’s image has taken a drubbing internationally. And yet, Arizona is but the spear. In reality, its politics are not that dramatically different from other states and not that different from Washington. That more than a dozen states are waiting in the wings with copycat legislation and that the Obama administration continues to view migration through a law enforcement and military prism is plenty proof.
Those politics, fueled by hateful and cowardly politicians and the hate-radio universe, are undeniably anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant. Yet in truth, they actually are anti-Indigenous. In effect, the politics that we are seeing are undeniably but an extension of Manifest Destiny. Its modern expression is a Manifest Insanity – an attempt to maintain the myth of America – conceived of as a promise of a pristine, God-given home – reserved for English-speaking White Anglo Saxon Protestants, this amid the “browning” of the nation.
These Arizona laws are part of a spasmodic reaction to this demographic shift, an attempt to maintain a political and cultural dominance over [brown] peoples seen as less than human and as defeated peoples. These laws seek to maintain this narrative of conquest. This is why the loss of lives of some 5,000 Mexicans and Central Americans – primarily Indigenous peoples ––in the Arizona/Sonora desert in the past dozen years, mean little in this clash. The same is true in regards to the recent killings of two Mexicans by U.S. agents along the U.S./Mexico border.
For those who are attempting to uphold this dominance, this browning represents a time reversal – a cultural and political reversal of the so-called triumph of Western Civilization. This is what Arizona represents; a civilizational clash and a clash of narratives over the myth of America itself. Nothing less.
Rodolfo Acuña, author of Occupied America, came to Arizona last week, offering a stark reminder about this clash. His book – along with Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed – has been at the center of the anti-ethnic studies firestorm and law – HB 2281 – signed last month by Gov. Jan Brewer (She had signed SB 1070 – the racial profiling law – the previous month). The controversy surrounding his book has been fueled by an extreme Eurocentric ignorance. For several years, State Superintendent, Tom Horne, has been pushing an “Americanization” agenda, insisting that Arizona students be exposed only to “Greco-Roman” knowledge. Knowledge centered elsewhere is generally considered subversive and un-American, including Mesoamerican or Maize knowledge – knowledge that is Indigenous to this continent It is this knowledge that is at the philosophical heart of Mexican American or Raza Studies. Arizona is not alone in this insanity; Texas Education officials recently banned the inclusion of labor leader Dolores Huerta in Texas school curriculums.
Horne, via HB 2281, has long-claimed that Raza Studies preaches hate, results in segregation and promotes anti-Americanism and the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. Truth is, he has had a vendetta against Raza Studies since Dolores Huerta proclaimed in 2006 at Tucson High that Republicans “hate Latinos.” Horne, who constantly denigrates her as “Cesar Chavez’s former girlfriend,” and his allies have spent the past several years trying to prove her right.
As Acuña found out in Arizona, for some, having a different philosophical center, in and of itself, constitutes a threat to this cultural and political domination. More than that, it threatens the national narrative of having tamed a wild, savage and empty continent… of having conquered, exterminated and civilized “the Indians.”
Enter Occupied America and it upsets the carefully crafted myth and narrative of the United States as the land of freedom and democracy or Paradise on Earth.
Raza Studies critics in Arizona – including media professionals – are barely familiar with Acuña’s book (He matter-of-factly tells them to read his book before attacking). At best, they spar over its title and a few catch phrases (mistranslating La Raza to mean “The Race” as opposed to “The People”) and attempt to denigrate an entire discipline on the basis of their ignorance. Yet, at the core, the critics are correct. Ethnic Studies indeed is a threat to the myth of America – the mythical America where genocide, land theft, slavery and dehumanization are denied or are but mere footnotes, as opposed to being the recognized foundation of this nation (Unchallenged, this glossed-over view is what permits U.S. citizens to view permanent war as a God-given birthright). With such a denial, the concept of Occupied America – an occupied continent – becomes unfathomable. The narrative of an empty continent, incidentally, is what permits the myth of “no occupation.”
The best Raza Studies critics do is attempt to dehumanize Mexicans/Chicanos. In their conjured up narrative, Mexicans/Chicanos are neither legitimate Americans, nor legitimate human beings. Neither are they afforded the status of Indigenous peoples; at best, they are mongrels, undeserving of full human rights. This dominant narrative is dependent upon this process of de-Indigenization and dehumanization. Those of us that cannot be deported (can’t wait for next year’s Arizona battle over the 14th amendment and birthright citizenship) are welcome here, as long as we participate in our own assimilation or ethnic cleansing and are happily subservient and willing to accept this nation’s mythologized narrative.
That’s the definition of Manifest Insanity.
ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at XColumn@gmail.com