By Luis Torres, Freelance Journalist, Special to the Latino Journal
|Dr. Rudolfo Acuña, Professor|
The event, which caps a week-long conference at the Westin Pasadena Hotel organized by the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, is being presented by a volunteer, nonprofit group known as the Los Angeles Committee to Support Ethnic Studies.
The event, being held Saturday, April 2 at 6:30 pm, is open to the public.
Speakers will present an overview of what supporters of ethnic studies call the attack on ethnic studies in the state of Arizona. A law went into effect in January that essentially bans the teaching of ethnic studies in Arizona, including Chicano Studies. A group of parents, teachers and students in Tucson has challenged that law by filing a lawsuit. The event at the conclusion of the conference at the Westin Pasadena is aimed at supporting the citizens of Tucson who are challenging that law.
Tucson civil rights attorney Richard Martinez, who is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit which is intended to preserve ethnic studies, says he is grateful for the support that California Latinos are demonstrating. “This is something that transcends Tucson and the state of Arizona, it ultimately affects all Latinos,” said Martinez. “We in Arizona are pleased that California Latinos are beginning to show such support for the effort to ensure justice for the Latino community in Arizona.”
The law essentially banning ethnic studies comes on the heels of Arizona’s controversial law (SB 1070) that allows local law enforcement to demand proof of legal residency from individuals. Critics of that law claim it opens the door to “racial profiling.” A federal court judge has put a temporary hold on many of the provisions of that law. The issue may end up in the United States Supreme Court.
Arizona governor Jan Brewer has said publicly that the law does not encourage racial profiling: “When I signed the bill I said SB 1070 represents another tool for our state to use as we work to address a crisis we did not create and that the federal government has actively refused to fix. The law protects us all, every Arizona citizen and everyone here in our state legally.”
The event Saturday will feature speakers who will explain the background and context of the status of ethnic studies in Arizona. There will be a presentation by Richard Montoya of the acclaimed satirical acting troupe Culture Clash. It will be hosted by educator Felicia Montes and Gustavo Arrellano who writes the newspaper column “Ask a Mexican.” Entertainment will be provided by the Mexican folkloric group Las Cafeteras.
One of the organizers of the event, veteran Cal State Northridge Chicano Studies professor Rodolfo Acuña, said the event, among other things, is intended to dispel misconceptions about the purpose of ethnic studies.
“The event at the Westin Pasadena Hotel will provide an opportunity for the community at large to learn about the importance of supporting ethnic studies in our universities and public schools,” said Acuña.
He added, “Ethnic studies is not about isolating students, but about having all students explore the full cultural and historical diversity that is woven into the broad fabric of the overall American experience, and that’s clearly to the benefit of all of us in this country.”
Acuña said ethnic studies have helped minority students achieve academically. “Chicano Studies, or La Raza Studies as they are called in Tucson, were established precisely because the schools were and are failing. They evolved around identity which cried out to be repaired, that cried out to be respected and now ethnic studies are under attack,” he said.
“Recent events in Arizona threaten what generations of Chicanos have fought so hard to achieve,” said Acuña.
The attorney general of Arizona, who was state superintendent of schools when the law was passed, disagrees with Acuña. Tom Horne has said publicly that the law curbing ethnic studies is necessary, claiming ethnic studies is divisive: “It is dividing kids by race. They are teaching a radical ideology, including that Arizona and other states were stolen from Mexico.”
The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies was established in 1972. It is the academic organization that serves academic programs, departments and research centers that focus on issues pertaining to Mexican Americans, Chicanos and Latinos. The association’s annual conference allows for the presentation of scholarly papers and presentations furthering the discipline as well as examination of issues relevant to the Chicano community.
More information about the event can be obtained at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or at: SaveEthnicStudies.org.