Friday, October 8, 2010

Kyrsten Sinema Lecture on HB2281

Notes on /Themes from Kyrsten Sinema’s Lecture on Anti-Ethnic Studies Bill (HB 2281)

HB 2281 and SB 1070 are continuations of a string of anti-immigrant bills… each a little more extreme than the next, whetting the public’s appetite and creating a climate of hatred, suspcion, etc. Essentially, several years of passing many small bills criminalizing and restricting opportunities of undocumented people has solidified public prejudice. -- It’s easier for white citizens to nurse a hateful & exclusionary “us vs. them” attitude when immigrants are targeted by law-making authorities & institutions. Immigrants are also scapegoats for AZ’s climate of fear around economic struggle, they’re blamed for economic ills.

A few MYTHS being perpetuated about ethnic studies (aka Tom Horne’s arguments against Raza Studies):
  1. Ethnic studies are only relevant to the people of the ethnicities whose history is being taught.
  2. Exposure to alternate lenses of U.S. History (anything but the dominant narrative) is dangerous.
  3. Students are docile angels until they are brainwashed by ethnic studies education…. And then…. ANARCHY!

Let’s break these down a little bit.

1). The assumption that people cannot benefit from learning other’s perspectives/experiences is ridiculous. This idea only encourages self-segregation. Further, the encouragement of people of color to “stick to their own camps” inhibits power in numbers through solidarity. For white folks, a critical cultural lens informs how oppression is perpetuated and resisted. Ethnic Studies give those in oppressor groups opportunities for self-reflection and transformation.

2). Empowering those in oppressed groups only appears dangerous to those who are threatened by equality. It seems the idea here is to discourage any type of critical thinking, lest we begin to critique the way power, privilege, and access to resources are distributed in our society! Ethnic Studies encourages critical & free thinking - the very suggestion that this is dangerous speaks volumes.

3). The idea here is that this Raza Ethnic Studies Program brainwashes students into being angry, radical, socialist rebels who will rise up and overthrow the American government (Kyrsten quipped that this is more likely for anyone taking a U.S. Gov’t course… haha). Kyrsten has a point though, any honest inquiry into U.S. history which brings all the voices to the table would probably motivate one into action towards justice. Again, this is a great example of “white male paranoia” mentioned in our reading “Denials of Inequality.”

-It’s US vs. THEM (inclusion in/exclusion from “circle of the beloved”) …Creating sense of division and an external threat

-The only images&voices we value are those of white males in our communities and classrooms

-People of color (and their perspectives & cultures), especially Latino/a folks, and most of all immigrants ARE NOT WELCOME

-People of color’s histories are separate from / irrelevant to United States history

Employ a diversity of tactics! Educate yourself and others (once you’re informed, you’re pissed off and motivated), get involved with the Aztlan Center on campus (first meeting open to everyone 1:00 @ san juan building on Oct. 15th), vote / write letters to politicians, challenge language of hatred and division (i.e. using the term “illegal aliens” etc.), create an alternate narrative of a wider circle of inclusion (not “us” / “other” but taking care of & valuing each other as humans)... foster compassion… create visions of unity and SOLIDARITY.

Bringing all the voices to the table. Immigrant women are probably the most disatvantaged in our very own prescott community. Politics of inclusion. Critiquing the notion that the only important narrative is the dominant narrative. Solidarity.

anyone have any additions? thoughts?



  1. Beautiful, brilliant, and - as ever - articulate, Kelsey. Thank you for synopsizing Kyrsten's presentation for folks. I'd also add the encouragement to each and every one of us to become bilingual. Kyrsten shared that AZ will be majority Latino/a (i.e., more than 50%) by 2020, and the rest of the nation is within a few years of that, so despite the fear and resistance some powerful folks are evidencing, the reality of the nation in which we live is that it will be (at the very least) dual language within our lifetimes. We live in a beautifully, multiculturally diverse country, and in the spirit of solidarity, I profoundly hope we'll all become bilingual to truly connect, communicate, and activate social justice with our siblings in this interconnected web of existence. -Jordana

  2. P.S. I hope it was clear that by "siblings" I meant not our blood relatives, but all those with whom we share this human existence. :)