Roberto Rodriguez


The Mexican American Studies trial is underway in Tucson’s federal court, and yet the historic trial will never receive the national coverage it merits. The trial will determine whether the 2010 anti-Ethnic Studies HB 2281 legislation, which resulted in the elimination of Tucson’s highly successful K-12 Raza Studies Department, and which was initiated by former state schools’ superintendent, Tom Horne, was motivated by racial animus.

At stake here is whether Arizona can determine what constitutes permissible versus impermissible knowledge in its schools, this within the context of a “civilizational war.”

That is akin to asking whether former Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio is biased against Mexicans? He too is facing a federal trial as a result of defying a federal judge’s 2011 orders, between 2011-2013, to stop his discriminatory and draconian immigration raids and practices.

It is also akin to asking whether the state of Arizona, as exemplified by former Gov Jan Brewer, has been motivated by racial bias in its continual campaign against DREAM/DACA students. The latest development has come by way the State Supreme Court, which ruled that Arizona DREAM students, unlike in other states, are ineligible to receive in-state tuition. Also, the Maricopa Community Colleges have decided to appeal the decision.

Is there any conscious sentient being alive today that doubts the answer regarding Arizona’s racial climate, especially in regards to the state’s war against Ethnic Studies and its war on [Mexican] migrants by way of the state’s 2010 racial profiling SB 1070 legislation, which put Arizona on the map, while triggering an international boycott of the state?

To document the highly charged racial politics of the state, I recently examined all the letters to the editors and comments section of the Arizona Daily Star and the Arizona Republic for the years 2010-2012, in regards to both of these pieces of legislation.

Did I find any evidence of racial hate in these thousands upon thousands of letters and comments? A resounding yes, and generally, for every 10 hateful letters, there was but one positive letter, this virtually on a daily basis. And this was Arizona’s mainstream media, not the even more rabid, extremist media. These were the kinds of letters one would not want K-12 students to read, even though it was children and students and their parents who seemed to be the primary object of this vicious hate. These included veiled and not-so-veiled death threats and incitement to race war and of course, racial slurs, directed primarily at the Mexican and Mexican American population of the state. The climate created at this time in the state of Arizona begs the question the need for the trial. How could any serious person actually doubt that HB 2281 was not motivated by racial hate?

The real question is why the drive to eliminate the program? This is what is generally overlooked; Horne and his successor John Huppenthal, were obsessed with the notion that the department was teaching things outside of Western Civilization and outside of Greco Roman culture, thus advancing the notion of a civilizational war. And just what was it that they objected to? Its philosophical core was the indigenous-based concepts of In Lak Ech and Panche Be - You are my other me (the Golden Rule) and To seek the root of the truth (critical thinking). These are maiz-based concepts, indigenous to this very continent, though outside of “Western Civilization.” To ban this knowledge in Arizona is definitely par for the past 525 years on this continent.

Roberto Rodriguez is an associate professor in Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona Contact Roberto at