Displaced Women and Children

REUTERS/Alexei Osokin

I have been doing a lot of thinking on the rise of “Ethnic Cleaning” in our world lately. While there have always been examples of people turning on their neighbors and friends because of racial or religious differences from the burning out of entire African American communities in towns in the U.S. to the genocide against Jewish people and anyone who dared to support them under Hitler, sadly, we have examples great and small to choose from. Yet it seems to me that the modern period has seen much more frequent examples of ethnic cleansing across the globe. Worse, in most of these cases so-called super powers have done very little to stop them while they are in progress. We can mobilize an endless amount of troops to go fight for oil in the Middle East, regardless of how many innocent people on all sides die or are permanently warped by the experience, but we seldom rush into the face of great evil against minority people whose only crime is the color of their skin, hair, eyes, or the place where they worship. Human Rights and Corporate Interests are clearly unequal in the eyes of the modern states and we humans are losing.

This week, another vulnerable group fell prey to its neighbors while the world watched. Southern Kyrgyztan errupted in ethnic violence late Thursday when armed Kyrgyz men turned on their unarmed Uzbek neighbors. By Saturday morning, the second largest city in the region is in flames with 1000s wounded and the counted dead nearing the 100s. Uzbek areas of the nation are all but deserted and people fear that even if they survive the violence there will be no food, medical supplies, or water for them to survive the aftermath.

While men were targeted to be beaten and killed, fleeing women and children found themselves trampled in the rush to a secured border and the attempts to cross the intentionally ditched designed to stop them. Like in other ethnic conflicts, these women and children are likely being targeted for specific gendered violence and trafficking and without aid will continue to be into the future.

While you might be hoping to turn a blind eye to this conflict and wait for the moving Hollywood film that comes out in a year or two, the fact is both Russia and the U.S. are implicated in the conflict in Kyrgyztan. Both countries have military bases there and yet neither has responded with requested military aid to the people being systematically killed and burned out of the nation.

The failure to act on the part of either the U.S. or Russia is further complicated by the relationship of Kyrgyztan’s Prime Minister with both nations. Interim PM Roza Otunbayeva, is a college educated moderate with longstanding ties to Moscow, including teaching at Moscow University. She was also the UN envoy to Georgia when violence broke out there. And while Otunbayeva served in a government she herself said continued the corruption and nepotism of the nation’s past, she broke away from them in order to form a party and a platform that would see more egalitarian representation and inclusivity in the Kyrgyztan’s government and society. Her calls for help should have been met with at least some kind of response from Russians who know and have supported her and North Americans who want to continue to have a moderate in charge of a country where the hold a military base. And so one has to wonder why those calls have fallen on deaf ears except for minor humanitarian efforts on the part of Russia. With two major super power’s bases in the nation, violence should never have escalated unchecked to ethnic cleansing and burning cities. In fact a previous conflict between these same ethnic groups in 2007 was quickly put down by Russian troops, sparing huge casualties and/or genocide.

Otunbayeva is also the first female president CIS/SCO member state yet neither she nor the huddled and terrified female refugees of today’s violence have garnered much attention from mainstream feminist press. As of now, I have seen no calls to support a beleaguered female leader or women who are very likely being raped or rounded up for trafficking and certainly are homeless, displaced, and largely trapped at the border with burning cities on one side and ditches blocking their exit on the other. Unlike imperialist feminist calls to “save women” in the Middle East that aligned with western expansionism and hunger for oil and failed largely to ask what women living in the region wanted or needed, hold accountable military and counter-military strategies that targeted women and girls and made it less safe for them to go to school or be in public, or ensure that women’s rights were not discarded by this or any previous administration as they pushed forward, calls to support the women and children in Kygyrztan would align with the requests the PM herself has already made. She has asked specifically for military aid in stopping violence and detaining the engineers of ethnic cleansing in the state. She has also asked specifically for help with the people who have already been displaced and with containing and putting out the fires and other damage raging through the cities.

At this point NGOs in the region are trying to get outside aid to people and hoping that violence can be quelled long enough to restore the constitutional democracy Otunbayeva has promised.

It seems that we feminists need to take a wider and deeper look at the meaning of solidarity and global feminism. And that we people engaged in social justice also need to make more lasting connections between current processes (economic, political, and social) and old “coping skills” (marginalizing, enslavement, rape, and genocide). As I watched the news today I couldn’t help thinking about lost African American cities, the children who refused to save themselves at the cost of their targeted classmates in Rwanda while adult “peacekeepers” divested in Rwanda, the gains one, or possibly two, corrupt military bases could gain from widescale instability in Kyrgyztan, and the deadly shooting of a Mexicano in Arizona weeks before the new pass laws come into effect there. It may seem like these things are not comparable and certainly the scale of some far outweighs the scale of others. Yet, what I am arguing here is that there are cyclical patterns of power and control that ultimately erupt in violence whenever, as the saying goes, “good men do nothing.” Sitting at the intersections of feminism, critical race theory, and history, I think we have plenty of information to do things differently and I find myself wondering why people, especially women and children, have to suffer while we do not use it.


image two: displaced women and children look on with nowhere to go on Saturday in Kygyrztan. AP Photo/D. Dalton Bennett

Book Giveaway: Latin@ Lit Month

Hatchet Books is giving bloggers like yours truly the opportunity to give back to our readers through a book giveaway in honor of Latin@ Lit Month.

The Rules:

Tell me which three books from the list below you would like to have and why. Winner will be chosen at random. Deadline is May 31.

The Books:

Try to Remember By Iris Gomez

Hot (broke) Messes By Nancy Trejos

Waking Up in the Land of Glitter By Kathy Cano-Murillo

Little Nuggets of Wisdom By Chuy Bravo, Tom Brunelle

Lone Star Legend By Gwendolyn Zepeda

Into the Beautiful North By Luis Alberto Urrea

Amigoland By Oscar Casares


Sorry but the contest is open to U.S. and Canada only and books cannot be shipped to a Post Office Box.

More info

I will be reviewing some of the books on the list here on the blog as the month continues. You can also find out more about each book by clicking the links to Hatchet Books website.

Happy reading and good luck!

RIP Ethnic Studies

Despite repeated defeat with the AZ voters, Governor Jan Brewer signed a law banning Ethnic Studies in AZ. The bill, which was particularly designed to target successful Raza Studies at Tuscon United School District, makes it illegal to teach courses that are “designed for a particular ethnic group” or “advocate ethnic solidarity.” It also links these courses to terrorism by including a clause against classes that “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.” In both instances, the implication is that only people of color have ethnic pride, that pride is anti-American and anti-intellectual. Embedded in SB 2281 is the power to create independent review boards that can comb through any syllabus, lesson plan, or textbook order to remove material deemed in violation of this law. The consequences for instructors engaging in academic freedom are as severe as the fate of the learning material itself. At this time, failure to comply with the law will result in as much as 10% of the school’s budget being removed by the State. Ironically, the program that inspired this bill and its failed predecessors was created by a court mandate after the State of AZ was found guilty of discrimination. Raza Studies at TUSD is funded through the desegregation budget created as a result of the State’s failure to provide equal access to education for Latin@s and other marginalized students; currently the courses are provided in a district that is 56% Latin@.

It is nearly impossible to argue that AZ is not doubling down on an Apartheid like state system implemented less than 20 days ago with this newest addition of legal discrimination, SB 2281. The anti-ES bill intentionally targets a program that has a long history of

  1. connecting students to education
  2. helping to place students in higher ed
  3. creating critical thinkers whose knowledge and skills have been praised by higher ed recruiters

Essentially, Arizona’s government is willing to sacrifice student success now and in the future in order to remove certain people’s histories and cultures from the classroom. Like the pass law known as SB 1070, the racism underpinning SB 2281 serves to mask the economic, social, and intellectual impact of discrimination on the entire state. On the one hand, studies programs have been shown to create a wider range of critical thinking skills and interdisciplinary knowledge (the ability to understand and use material from multiple vantage points and disciplines) than other programs of study. They also help to retain students who are otherwise alienated from the educational process, including students from a wide cross-section of cultures and races looking to have a more inclusive educational environment. Identity Studies Programs also create and/or cultivate leadership as many of these programs embed development of and praise for leadership skills in their curriculum; part of that leadership, directly benefits the community as many of these programs also include service-learning, local internships, and civic responsibility opportunities as well. While these benefits maybe seen as “special programs” benefiting the “few” by people engaged in white entrenchment, statistics prove that there is a correlation between high employment rates, low crime rates, and educational attainment that behoove any local or state legislature to embrace educational programs that increase knowledge rather than dismantle it. While some may find the leadership component of these programs “frightening” because they fear a nation with brown (and black) people in government, the reality is that many of these leaders work to better communities across districts and to create safe places and programs for all citizens.

Ethnic Studies programs also generate considerable state revenue, some of which I mentioned in the previous post. In addition to the previous mentioned connections between revenue and education, this new law specifically threatens revenue generated by targeted programs that bring in Federal dollars and/or international prestige.

While the Superintendent, who has been on a personal crusade to remove Raza Studies for years, claims SB 2281 is only to stop a single program at the high school level, the Bill covers the entire state putting both individual classrooms and entire programs at risk. Programs like the Hispanic Center for Excellence mentioned in a previous post, which is a federally funded program designed to recruit, train, and retain Latin@ physicians, certainly “promotes ethnic solidarity” and is indisputably “designed for a particular ethnic group.” In fact, unlike Raza Studies, which is open to all students and has been cited as a place some white students found their voices and learned to love their educations alongside Latin@ ones, the Hispanic Center of Excellence does not recruit white students. While Raza Studies is funded almost completely by the State, the Hispanic Center of Excellence represent a national effort that both alleviates the funding burden and connects Arizona to other states, including physicians, professors, schools, and hospitals, engaged in the program. By applying SB 2281 equally, Arizona could not only lose a needed program but needed connections to other institutions that help create a wider field of knowledge, wider placement of AZ grads, and all of the economic and social capital that breadth represents. Not to mention the losses in the general health and well-being of the AZ population as communities continue to go under-diagnosed or treated due to a lack of cultural competence in the state.

On the other hand, SB 2281’s language could be applied to any educational program that the current government deems inappropriate on the basis of race of ethnicity. While the racism behind the law assumes that the only programs teaching ethnic pride are about people of color, the fact is Ethnic Studies programs exist as a corrective measure to the teaching of a single groups’ ethnic pride and history over that of everyone else involved in the building of this nation. While I’m sure Jan Brewer had visions of permanently removing the Brown Berets or the American Indian Movement from the curriculum, it probably never occurred to her that the law could be used to prevent “standard” history as well. Think of the examples:

  1. The Civil War – since the South was directly challenging the Federal government this would fall under the “over throw of the U.S. government” clause
  2. Parts of Contemporary Republican history – since these include the statements/leadership of several governors who have threatened sedition
  3. Most history of code breakers during major wars – in WWI Japanese Americans worked to break codes and translate documents, during the Vietnam war Native American Windtalkers created code that helped win the war, any unit about either of these groups would violate the “designed for/abt a particular ethnic group” clause
  4. The Buffalo Soldiers – see above
  5. The Harlem Renaissance – while this may get a pass given that funding for many of the arts came largely from extremely wealthy white patrons any course specifically about canonized artists, poets, musicians, etc. would once again bring up the “particular ethnic group” issue
  6. Irish immigration to the U.S. – not only are they a particular ethnic group but they are IMMIGRANTS too!!!
  7. The history of the railroads – while you could teach about the financial backing behind the rail roads, lessons involving who built the rail roads and how they were treated or the connection between the railroads and the genocidal politics behind Buffalo tours would get us back to that ethnic issue again …
  8. British Lit – as taught, this seldom includes Black British authors and therefore is targeting only one ethnic group
  9. American History under SB 2281 – since the ultimate goal is to remove reference to people of color this would create history courses that focused exclusively on one ethnic group or in the case of including a handful of poc in the curriculum, the ethnocentrism of the courses would fall under the designed to create pride amidst a single ethnic group clause
  10. American Literature – see above
  11. Social Studies would also be truncated as the civil rights movement(s), abolition, the Mexican-American war, Wounded Knee, etc. and even more modern examples like the Battle of Seattle or the Tea Party movement would all violate this law in one way or another

In fact, teaching Arizona’s own history becomes extremely problematic under this law given its clash of cultures from inception, it white supremacist publications by government officials and state newspapers throughout its founding and subsequent existence, and current links to eugenicist think tanks. All of these materials violate the new law.

The Legislature has attempted to cover themselves from lawsuits by claiming that programs open to all students and history courses about specific ethnic groups will not be subject to removal except in so much as they “violate tenets of the law.” There is very little language in the bill determining how any of these programs or courses could access exemption under the circumstances. Instead, the intended application of the law, to shut down Raza Studies, shows that these exemptions are legal maneuvers designed to keep the state from running afoul of Civil Rights Law while still defying it. Raza Studies is open to all students and does teach about a specific ethnic group that was mandated by a successful lawsuit against the state. If they are not exempt under this clause in the bill, it is unlikely that any program will be in practice regardless of the language. In the same way that no brown person will likely be safe to travel freely in Arizona regardless of supposed changes to the language of SB 1070 to protect Civil Rights.

The ability of both students and faculty to protest these decisions has also been severely circumscribed by SB 2281. The bill calls for the implementation of sanctions and expulsions for any student or faculty member “disrupting the classroom” on the basis of the new law. Including the ability to continue with an expulsion hearing even after students have withdrawn from a particular district due to sanction:

If a pupil withdraws from school after receiving notice of possible action concerning discipline, expulsion, or suspension, the governing board may continue with the action after the withdrawal and may record the results of such action in the pupils permanent file. (SB 2281)

This section of SB 2281 and its subsequent powers given both the principle and the teachers to sanction student protest, and or expressed concern about missing material in their education, will have lasting effect on both students and the educational system. When similar sanctions were proposed in my state for students participating in immigration rallies during school hours 1000s of students failed to participate in walkouts or teach-ins for fear of being expelled and losing their chance to go on to college. The fear of having their futures “completely ruined” by the State was powerful enough to silence some of the strongest leaders for equal rights. Arizona is essentially placing a gag order on young people and holding their future education and employment hostage to do it.

There is a national rally called for the end of this month to march on Arizona for the repeal of SB 1070, I assume this call will be expanded to include SB 2281 as well. I will post the fliers when I get a clean copy. There is also a rally today outside the Tuscon United School District Office Building to protest the shutting down of Raza Studies. The school Superintendent plans to personally shutdown the program today at noon even though the law does not go into effect until December.

I realize that MALCs is still working on the best possible way to support its overall membership and the people left behind in AZ, but I will not set foot in AZ as long as these laws are in place unless it is part of a national march against the implementation of Apartheid in the state.

It’s Seems MTV has Resurrected Ethnic Insults

In early N. American history certain ethnic and religious groups were not considered white, most notably the Irish, the Italians, and white Jewish people. Due to certain fears about economic and social allegiances forming between these groups throughout U.S. history, many of these groups were granted whiteness while the undercurrent of discrimination against them remained intact. In recent years, historians and cultural theorists alike have revisited the issue of white-not white in the history of these groups and what it has meant to their cultural formation as hyphenated N. Americans.

Now it seems MTV, which has moved from a place of selectively embracing black performers to largely exploiting them (including helping to invent the video whore first in white rock and then hip hop videos), has turned its attention to white ethnics. Their show Jersey Shore is causing controversy precisely because of the ways it re-racializes Italians . The turn is both interesting in its wrong assumption that no one would care and what it tells us about post-racial N. America. IE, when white liberals believe that African Americans are “off limits” in public, often racial anxieties get played out against white ethnics (as well as along other lines of oppression like classism, sexism, etc.)  The resurrection of this practice in the public sphere serves two purposes:

  1. the mediation of racial anxiety through the public resurrection of an “acceptable Other”
  2. the reinforcement of certain white people’s beliefs that they are more targeted and less protected than black people in the U.S.

The latter also serves to reinforce the very race divisions that prevented working class people from coming together across racial lines during reconstruction and industrialization and can be seen in some of the conflicts between white women and women of color in feminism dating back to the so-called first wave.

Alyssa Milano’s response video complete with the darkening of her skin and the extension of her bum follows in this vein:

The video both correctly identifies and trades on racialized stereotypes in the show. In other words, while the video highlights the racialization MTV is engaged in, it also re-posits whiteness by pointing to very specific stereotypes associated with blackness, skin color and bottoms, that are absent from Milano’s own features. There are several other stereotypes in the Jersey Shore that are ignored in order to do this and interestingly most of these have everything to do with gender.

Milano points to how poorly women are treated and how that is linked to the denigrating of Italian American Identity on the show. At the same time, the juxtaposition of her large bottomed brown-skinned body with a man urinating untintentionally calls into question the treatment of women more usually associated with these features and why these features make such things acceptable. And one has to wonder, how effective this video would have been if the women in the Jersey Shore simply had puffed up hair (another feature Milano emulates) without the drastic change in skin color and physical features? So what is being said about women here and how is it racialized in ways that are both critical and offensive?

Though these racialized explorations of [gendered] ethnic divisions are often associated with conservatives, and neo-nazis, MTV has also exposed it’s connections to liberals as seen here in this Michael Cera promo:

These connections call into question a growing trend in which hipsters are at the forefront of racially questionable media and/or business ventures that they excuse away based on a constructed identity that defines racism as outside of their social identity. By claiming an identity that is somehow exempt from racism, they are able to behave in racist ways, tell racist jokes, and even claim racist stereotypes and language for themselves all the while calling it ironic, subversive, or satire.  While their behavior is becoming less salient to actual progressives and communities of color, there appears no end to their willingness to mobilize racial oppression in the name of profit, whether that profit be made through the linking of hipster films like Youth in Revolt with MTV’s Jersey Shore or the intentional building of stores catering exclusively to middle class white people’s tastes (and hiring people who look down their noses @ or call the police on people of color) in gentrifying neighborhoods.

Ultimately, the questions MTV’s show raise are about much more than “just a tv program” despite what the stars of the show would have you believe:

Colonialism Day: Or How to Have a Conversation About Nation Building

While most people have long since moved on from Columbus Day as just another “holiday” where they can’t get to the bank or mail a past due bill, it still remains a contentious national holiday that educators and cultural activists grapple with every year.

Savage Family(1) “Don’t Forget Who We Are”

I am lucky to live in an area where universities, museums, cultural centers, advocates, and community leaders all work together to create “counter programming” around the first encounter between Columbus and the indigenous groups of the Americas. As part of that effort, we have slowly developed from a place of acknowledging genocide, to celebrating diversity, to critically examining nation building and what it has meant primarily for the indigenous peoples of the Americas but also all of the other cultural groups and identity groups (women, queer, two-spirit, black, differently-abled, etc.). That discussion has led us to think about nation building in critical post-colonial and anti-colonial ways that have also opened the door to questioning how a nation’s foundation & subsequent foundational myths embed enduring inequalities or potential equalities based on how it was founded.

I want to speak more about this on the blog, in order to highlight exactly what it is we are “celebrating” today that goes beyond genocide (my usual theme for today) as well as unquestioned national or ethnic (Italian) pride to discuss inequality, resilience, and reclamation. And I want to do so in a way that continues to shine a light on the domestic and sexual violence, unequal educational attainment, disproportionately high suicide rates, and other forms of colonial trauma that plague indigenous communities while we as a nation look away, forget, or pass & uphold laws that exacerbate the problem. Though this seemingly represents a narrowing of focus from some of my previous Colonialism Day posts which intentionally expanded the discussion beyond the U.S. to the entire Americas and Caribbean, trust that I’m still a historian and know the impact of American nation building was a global one.

So bear with me, dear readers, as I go a little academese on the blog and work out this post in small increments between amazing panels, events, and celebrations of indigenous culture that I am grateful to be invited to today. And if it isn’t done by sunset, I am going to take my cue from the Dine who say things are done in their own time and not by the clock.


(1) For those unfamiliar with Savage Family – This is their mission statement from their first album:

SAVAGE FAMILY (savage from the root words salvaticus and salvage meaning “of the woods”)/HGS (HIGHERGROUNDS OF STRUGGLE)is a collective movement of indigneous mc’s/lyricists and producers along with the many who have helped to establish the concepts and beliefs that drive our music. SAVAGE FAMILY /HGS is spread throughout the United Snakes primarily based out of the Northwest and the Midwest regions.WE ARE THE PEOPLE. THE UNWANTED, THE IGNORED, THE MARGINALIZED AND FORGOTTEN. WE DO NOT ASSUME THAT ONE IS ANY BETTER THAN ANOTHER AND HAVE COME TO THE REALIZATION THAT AS LONG AS OUR COMMUNITIES ARE UNHEALTHY WE CANNOT CONSIDER OURSELVES TO BE HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS REGARDLESS OF WHAT WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO ACHIEVE OR ACCOMPLISH. UNTIL ALL ARE FREE WE ARE ALL IMPRISONED AND WE HAVE COMMITTED OURSELVES TO LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND IN OUR STRUGGLE FOR TRUTH AND RECOGNITION OF OUR PURPOSE TO EXIST AS PEOPLE AND SPIRIT. The basis of the movement is to utilize traditional and contemporary wisdom of our indigenous peoples for the means of empowerment. The lyrics represent a voice of indigenous revolution for social change in communities that are plagued by the social ills created through colonization and genocide. SAVAGE FAMILY /HGS was not founded or established by one person or a particular group of people, instead the foundation of the SAVAGE FAMILY THEORIES OF (r)EVOLUTION movement is in our indigenous brothers and sisters worldwide and the ideologies that have driven our peoples since time immemorial. The movement has embraced the art of lyricism and spoken word to be a useful means of spreading messages of hope, pride, and empowerment into our communities. WARRIORS ARE BORN, SOLDIERS ARE MADE. “You can cut the flowers, but you cannot stop the spring from coming.” “ONE DOES NOT WAIT FOR ALL CONDITIONS TO BE RIGHT TO START THE REVOLUTION, THE FORCES OF THE REVOLUTION ITSELF WILL MAKE THE CONDITIONS RIGHT.”

Rally Next Week to Support Ethnic Studies in AZ

“People that insist that taxpayer money should not be used for ethnic studies forget that we are taxpayers, too.”Pricila Rodriguez former Raza Studies student

As reported last summer, the Arizona State Legislature continues mulling over a bill that would effectively ban Ethnic Studies in several schools and make it possible to get rid of Ethnic and other Identity Studies programs and student groups in the state as a whole. Supporters of the bill were specifically targeting MeCha, ES, and a specific high school based Chican@ Studies program, Raza Studies, that many high school students in TUCSD have credited for why they staid in school and went on to college. One of the staunches supporters of the change, Rep John Kavanagh made explicit the link between ending diversity curriculum, anti-immigration, and assimilationist politics when he told people who didn’t like it to “go back to that [other] culture” while defending the bill.

Recently, the newest incarnation of the Bill passed its first hurdle and was on its way to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for another critical vote before becoming law. The Bill gives the state permission to cut 10% of state funding every month from Tuscan School District (TUCSD) budget for non-compliance. Compliance on the other hand, would mean getting rid of no less than 22 courses from the curriculum including history, literature, social sciences, Government, and others that focus on Latin@ culture or multicultural curriculum. The one exemption is Native American Studies courses b/c they are protected by Federal Law.

Failure to eradicate these 22 courses from the existing curriculum would mean already cash strapped schools would be facing cutting teachers, admins, or other needed programs, in order to hold on to the Ethnic Studies curriculum in defiance of state sponsored assimilationism. If the law passes and they choose to comply, not only will the state be losing a program credit by many of its graduates with furthering their education and educational goals but it would also open the door to target other school districts and possibly state funded colleges as well.

Currently, the Bill is strongly supported by Tuscon Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, who admits to trying to dismantle high school level ES for two years prior to the current legislative battle. He referred to ES as both

cultural chauvanism,” (AZ Star)


harmful and dysfunctional” (AZ Republic)

making no link between the existence of ES and the erasure of Latin@ culture from the N. American experience in traditional curriculum. Nor did his equation of ES with chauvanism make room for the way in which the anti-ES bill was written to curtail curriculum that, as the Bill states, “denigrate American values and the teachings of Western civilization” as if Americans of color are outside of such value systems and civilization. In fact, Horne echoed the same racial distinctions when he said:

The job of the public schools is to develop the student’s identity as Americans (ibid)

implying that Americans and Latin@s are mutually exclusive categories.

Supporters of TUCSD Ethnic Studies curriculum are hilding a two-day march from Tucsan to the State Capital in Phoenix on June 28 and 29.

For more information, contact:

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, assistant professor at the U. Arizona, at: XColumn@gmail.com.

Books for Asian Heritage Month Take on New Meaning

We are nearing the end of both Latin@ Literature and Asian Heritage month. As a celebration of both of these themes, Hatchett book group has been doing a free book giveaway. I mentioned the Latin@ heritage month giveaway at the beginning of the month. Now I am mentioning the Asian Heritage giveaway, which I did not know about until today, to send you to the blogs that are participating but also because one of the books was written by Ronald Takaki.  As I said in a previous post, Takaki was an inspiration to generations of scholars, a powerful mentor, and a critical voice in infusing Asian American history back into the U.S. curriculum.  His quintessential book, Strangers from a Different Shore is one of the 5 books being given away.


Win these titles:

Free Food for Millionaires By Min Jin Lee
Trail of Crumbs By Kim Sunée
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles By Jennifer Lee
Transparency By Frances Hwang
Strangers from a Different Shore By Ronald Takaki

Contest sites:

MyShelf.com (exp. 5/30)
Travels of a Bookworm (exp. 5/31)
Feminist Review (exp. 5/31)
Stef at MySpace (exp. 5/31)
Bestseller’s World (exp. 5/29)
Books, Movies, Chinese Food (exp. 5/31)
Literary Escapism (exp. 5/31)
Reading the Leaves (exp. 5/31)
Lazy Daisey (exp. 5/31)
Bookloons (exp. 5/31)
Marta’s Meanderings (exp. 5/31)
Romance Reader at Heart (exp. 5/31)
Mixed Race America (exp. 6/1)
The Mystery Site (exp. 6/2)
The Reviews Page (exp. 6/2)
Bookin with Bingo (exp. 5/31)
Bookwormy Girl (exp. 5/31)
No Such Book (exp. 5/31)
Kiss a Cloud (exp. 5/31)
Stacie Vaugh’s Blog (exp. 5/15)
Kim Sunee Blog (exp. 5/31)
So Many Precious Books (exp. 5/31)
Drey’s Library (exp. 5/30)
S. Krishna’s Books (exp. 6/1)
Fete a Fete (exp. 5/31)
Diverse Books (exp. 6/1)

Another Example of Why Diversity in Education Matters

On December 9, 1969 Crystal City high school students walked out of their schools in protest over discrimination against Chican@s in the schools. They were led by two female students, Severita Lara and Diana Serena, and one male student, Mario Trevino. While their walkout was lesser known than those we often commemorate, these students complaints were similar to other Chican@ students protesting educational inequality around the country:

  • the unfair banning of Spanish in schools, including during breaks and in the lunchroom which led to an erasure of culture and stigmatization
  • equal access to counseling on advanced education and scholarships
  • equal access to career guidance
  • representation in the curriculum

They also wanted equal access to school leadership positions from which they had been historically excluded, like Student Body President, Homecoming Court, Sports Captain, etc.

In this clip, one of the leaders of the walkout, Severita Lara discusses what it meant to go to school without mentors, representation, or guidance:

The Crystal City walkout not only reminds us of the historical struggle for educational equality for Chican@s but also resonates with current events. The representative for Texas during the walkouts was George Bush senior. He met with Diana Serna about the walkout and all though he wrote her a pleasant toned note about her activism, he also warned her against participating in “anarchy.” His letter, copied below, subtly refuted the walkouts as a form of social justice activism and was only tempered later when the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights became involved a year later.

gb(for full page photocopy of letter see here; co Cara Mia Theater, 2001)

30 years later, President Obama has nominated the first Latin@ to the Supreme Court. Puertoriqueña Sotomayor is one of many Latin@s who benefited from the educational reforms brought about by the walkouts as they expanded opportunities and educational information for all Latin@s not just Chican@s.

Even as we look to her example however, we cannot ignore the attempt to reverse these historic gains in places like Arizona who would do away with MeCHa and ethnic studies first at the middle and high school level and then in higher education. The legacy of the Bush junior administration has been an accepted reversal in the way identity studies and equity programs are viewed. He has taught an entire generation that equal rights are special rights and that diversity curriculum is anti-American and/or anti-white. These sentiments continue to be repeated in attacks on the educational system, faculty of color, identity studies programs, and even Supreme Court nominees who graduated at the top of their classes.

In a comment on this blog, Historiann asked who would take up the mantle for this generation now that we are losing so many of are exceptional ethnic history and ethnic studies scholars. I put the question to my regular 1,000 lurkers today, and to any of you who just stopped by today. Who has inspired you? Do you strive to inspire? Would you be willing to walkout?

A play about the Crystal City walkout entitled Crystal City 1969, was put together by the Cara Mia Theater in Dallas Texas. Severita Lara will be speaking there about her experience this weekend. For more info contact them here.

Ronald Takaki Dies

takaki-r08Much like the late African American historian John Hope Franklin, Ronald Takaki’s intellectual and social contributions across disciplines is one that cannot be measured on a blog, in a NYT column, or in any other conventional way. He was instrumental in establishing Ethnic Studies, providing key texts in Asian American and multi-cultural history, mentoring students and inspiring colleagues. He died at just 70 years old, based on a decision to stop living with multiple sclerosis. His loss is heartbreaking.

Takaki’s book Strangers from a Different Shore is still quintessential reading. For many it provided the first indepth discussion of the Asian American experience they have ever gotten in school. His research for that book was as groundbreaking as Andy Smith’s work on Conquest, both books reshaped the ways we looked at oft poorly researched or erased populations or histories.

His Textbook A Different Mirror is standard intro reading material here at Pov U and dared to interweave the experiences of various people of color and ethnic white people to expose how race and racism work to create a supposed binary system of white and privileged vs. non-white (ethnic or white poor) and poc. I remember reading it in one sitting having waited excitedly for it to arrive. I’ve linked the first chapter in that book here, I often use the first paragraph to establish perceptions of citizenship and difference in my courses.

He was also an essential presence for students of color in general. He taught the first African American History course offered at UCLA. And he mentored black, Latino, and Asian students during his considerable career in the UC system. Takaki spoke about the need for multicultural requirements in education, the importance of mentors of color, and the need for diversity in faculty ranks, at universities and colleges around the country. Before passing, he became a mentor and a touchstone to students everywhere because of this tireless commitment to their success. He inspired many of my colleagues and graduate students to continue in their educations, to see themselves as subjects and intellectuals, and to reach for their potential.

Below, is his discussion of how having met and then being mentored by a faculty member of color changed his own life and a discussion about race, academe, radical pedagogy, and N. America. (It’s long, but well worth it):

Whenever I think of Ethnic Studies, Ronald Takaki’s name is one of the first that springs to mind. He was an critical force behind the creation of the ES Department at Berkeley. And while others mock the import of ES or daring to have or try to build an ES PhD, Takaki and others worked tirelessly to not only make it a reality but a critical force in the training of academics that now teach around the world.

I cannot put into words how important his work was for me to contextualize the Asian American experience for my students or to provide a broader socio-historical context for the memoirs and personal essays that so often typify the anthologized writing of Asian American feminists in the standard texts (when they are represented at all). All I can say is that Takaki challenged me to do better at filling in the blanks of my own education and making sure to honor all of the voices that make up our history. His talk above and much of his work provide critical context for the discussion surrounding the nomination of Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and the discussion about language requirements going on on many campuses and historiann’s blog right now. The sign of exceptional scholarship to me is always the ability to inspire, to change systems that needed changing, and to produce work that remains timeless. To lose two exceptional scholars in one year, is . . . words fail.

He will be missed.