Advocating for Ethnic Studies in 2017

Lessons from Ethnic Studies on Strategic Courage

By Andrea Romero and Michelle Téllez

On May 5 2011, a small group of faculty from the Arizona Ethnic Studies Network gathered in Tucson following a devastating Tucson Unified School board meeting where the Mexican American Studies program in the district was ended. It was a blow that was felt deeply by us all. We came together as scholars from universities and colleges across the state to publicly voice our support for Ethnic Studies. This was in the aftermath of HB 2281 that banned courses that “(1) promote the overthrow of the U.S. government (2) promote resentment toward a race or class of people or are (3) designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group (4) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals” (AZ House Bill 2281, 49th Legislature, 2010). This bill was used to target, monitor, and dismantle a successful Mexican American Studies curriculum, despite the fact that external auditors determined that the courses were academically successful and promoted positive group interactions (Cabrera, Millem, Jaquette & Marx, 2014; Cambrium Audit, May 2, 2011). In response, we worked as a network to ensure our critiques were made public and to support those teachers and students who were being directly attacked. It was from this source of collective action that we drew strength, and from these activities was born new research, new relationships, stronger students, and a highly aware and involved community.

We find ourselves again at a point in U.S. history where higher education is under conservative scrutiny and new “watchlists” for “dangerous” professors are being created and used to threaten and intimidate scholars in the academy. We live in a country that has been shaped by a particular history of exploitation, genocide, and exclusion. In this, Arizona is not an anomaly, but the norm. However, given the legislative battles we have had in in this state over the last six years, it seems important to comment both on our experiences and on what we imagine our role as Ethnic Studies scholars to be in the coming years given the emergence of what mainstream media is calling the “Alt Right” movement with figureheads who have been igniting racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and homophobic incidents across the nation all of which have been emboldened by Trump’s campaign and election. We suggest that this is a moment to move towards meaningful, transformative dialogue through our public scholarship in Ethnic Studies. Continue reading

Two Essays on Our Work at Standing Rock

pregnant woman with earth in belly and water flowing around her

“Water is Life” drawing by Ruby Chacón. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Water is Life: Why Chicana/o/xs Should Support NoDAPL

By Marisa Elena Duarte

On Thursday October 27 militarized police forces from multiple states joined the Morton County Sheriff’s Department in North Dakota to initiate a violent series of crowd control tactics against the peaceful water protectors and land defenders blocking the illegal construction of an Energy Transfer Company (ETC) oil pipeline across land adjacent to the current boundaries of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The pipeline, designed to transport oil from the Bakken Oil Fields in North Dakota down to the Gulf Coast, and from there to various domestic and international markets, also threatens clean water and soil through the entire Midwest region, all the way down to the Gulf Coast of Mexico. In July, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the Army Corps of Engineers for constructing the Dakota Oil Pipeline (DAPL) through sites of Dakota and Lakota cultural and historical significance, in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act (Standing Rock Tribe v. US Army Corps of Engineers, Case 1:16-cv-01534). On September 9, US District Judge James E. Boasberg found that the Army Corps ‘has likely complied with the NHPA,’ thus allowing for continued construction. Shortly thereafter, the Justice Department, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior asked ETC to pause construction 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe, demanding further evaluation in particular with regard to care for Lake Oahe through the National Environmental Protection Act. Continue reading

The Latina/o/x Role in the 2016 Political Race

This week we feature Latina/o Studies scholars and writers Lisa Magaña, Christina Bejarano, and Daisy Hernández on the role of Latinas/os/x in today’s political climate and how the 2016 election will affect Latina/o/x lives.

Christina Bejarano, University of Kansas

Latinos play an increasingly important role in today’s political climate, both in terms of their increasing presence in the political environment and their growing voting power in the elections.  Latinos are a key voting bloc of swing voters that are courted by both political parties and they are forecasted to play a pivotal role in upcoming elections.  This particular election has brought a heightened sense of importance to the Latino vote.  However, this increased political attention comes with both negative and positive ramifications for Latinos. 

Word "vote" painted on fence

Photo by Flickr user H2Woah! Taken August 5, 2008. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The current political climate provides several clear issues of importance for Latino communities, which can be an additional motivator for Latinos to participate this election.  Latinos are concerned about multiple issues including their top concerns on immigration reform, improving the economy, and creating more jobs, as well as providing quality education and health care.  This election has also emphasized the need to address mounting anti-Latino and anti-immigrant discrimination in the country, as well as police violence and inner city tensions.  Many Latinos acknowledge the negative repercussions of the Trump campaign, which has created a more hostile and divided racial climate in the U.S.  This campaign has included unprecedented verbal attacks on the Latino community, including Trump’s continued racial slurs against Mexicans/Latinos and Mike Pence’s dismissal of “that Mexican thing” during the debates.  Latinos report this campaign has resulted in more people being more openly angry and hostile to them.[1]

Additional negative ramifications this election include renewed attempts to suppress Latino voting power.  Latino voters may face a wide variety of problems at the polls including long lines/wait times, lack of Spanish language assistance and information available, problems with identification required to register or vote, issues with voter registration, and voter roll file errors.[2]   The problems include structural barriers such as strict voter identification laws in many states (including Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas, and North Carolina), which disproportionately disenfranchise racial/ethnic minorities, the poor, and elderly among others. There are reported problems with the implementation of the strict voter ID laws, however many of them are still in effect for the 2016 election. In addition, Latinos may also fear possible voter intimidation at the polls, which may detract some from even attempting to vote this election. Continue reading

Attorney Susana Prieto-Terrazas, a Champion for Maquiladora Worker’s Rights

Image provided by authors of poster calling for workers to join march.

Image provided by authors. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Marlene Flores and Miguel Juárez

The maquiladora industry has long impacted the border region, especially the Ciudad Juárez-El Paso region. With the passage of NAFTA, neoliberal economic policies that have encouraged the freer movement of goods and services across the border have especially encouraged the explosion of the maquiladora industry. In a maquiladora factory workers assemble part of a product (such as a car door handle) and the product is shipped to the final country destination where multiple parts will be put together for the finished product. Maquiladora factories do not have to reside on the border but many of them do because of their proximity to another country and trade laws. Though promising stable jobs and a healthy economy, this industry has had detrimental effects on the workers themselves. Still recovering from a sluggish economy and heavily hit by the cartel violence from its peak in 2010, the region where maquiladoras flourish provides plenty of employment opportunities. There are over 300 maquiladoras in Ciudad Juárez that employ over 250,000 workers at substandard wages.

Maquiladoras (or maquilas, as they are often referred to) are famous for having large populations of women employed, though this has changed somewhat in recent years. [1] While this may provide a steady income, this has also had negative effects on the women and their families. They are not able to spend much time with their children and as a result, their children’s schoolwork and social skills suffer. The wages are low enough to barely survive but not enough for the workers to really climb any sort of reasonable socio-economic status. The obrer@s also suffer bodily injuries because of the intense repetitive motions they enact while working. Continue reading