Ethnic Studies 101

Dear Mexican:

I have a sister. And I read your column each time it comes out in the Tucson Weekly. Once, we were talking about all the hatred against Mexicans in our state, and my sister said, “Sis, why do they hate Mexicans so much in Arizona? Why do they hate us so much?” I asked if she wanted me to ask that question in ¡Ask a Mexican! She said, “You think he would reply?” I said, “Let’s find out.” Would you please see if you can reply? We know you like us to use a funny name, so my sister said to sign …

Encabronada en Tucson

Dear Pissed-Off in Tucson:

Wow, you and your hermana must be mega-nerds to have a conversation about whether I’d answer your question! Where were ustedes in college when I needed some company? Anyhoo, the two of you as faithful readers should know my contention that Mexican hating has long been a characteristic of the American Southwest, due to its proximity to Mexico and forgotten pasts that we are condemned to repeat. Everyone now knows your home state’s war against Mexicans, especially given that Gov. Bruja — I mean, Jan Brewer — signed another Know-Nothing bill in addition to the racial-profiling-loving S.B. 1070. This new bill, H.B. 2281, bans ethnic-studies classes in Arizona public schools. The law’s proponents claim that such a discipline teaches racial division, but what they don’t like is that what’s taught is the unvarnished, ugly truth of its home state. To give you just one egregious example: Did you know that in 1904, a group of Mexicans in the Arizona mining towns of Clifton and Morenci tried to adopt 40 Irish orphans, only to see their new wards kidnapped by gabachos who were furious that Mexicans dared want to raise white children? And that the gabachos weren’t prosecuted for their terror? True story, one that Know-Nothing Copper Staters desperately try to keep out of classrooms lest children connect the dots between past injustices and present-day stupidities — better to keep the masses dumb than honest, you know? If the American psyche has always possessed a synapse of xenophobia, then the Arizona mind’s chunk of hate is a pinche cerebral cortex. Sorry that you and other good people must live among such a bola de pendejos.

Dear Mexican:

The Texas Board of Education voted to remove Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers union and a well-known Xingona, because they didn’t like her politics. How long will this Manifest Destiny crap last?

Michicano in Texas

Dear Wab:

FOREVER. You refer, of course, to the people in charge of textbook standards for the Lone Star State’s public schools, people so ahistorical that they banned Huerta’s legacy from being taught because of her socialist politics, but they approved of another committed socialist (Helen Keller) because state-sanctioned historians have reduced her to some blind broad. What people opposed to Chicano studies and other subaltern peoples’ histories don’t realize is that such schools of thought arose only because “respectable” scholars never bothered with the stories of Mexicans, being more content to document orange-crate labels than the people who picked the crops. Chicano studies don’t peddle lies but rather foster a grown-up perspective on our great land instead of an untruthful John Wayne dream world. And so I conclude this columna with the words of Carey McWilliams, the legendary progressive historian whose 1949 book, North From Mexico: A History of the Spanish-Speaking People of the United States, still remains a prophetic vision of Mexicans and how gabachos view them and their relationship to them more than 60 years after its publication: “When one examines how deeply this fantasy heritage has permeated the social and cultural life of the borderlands, the dichotomy begins to assume the proportions of a schizophrenic mania.”

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