Corine Fairbanks in Native Condition. Discussion »
Will wake people up?
The recent decision to ban Chicano and American Indian books, which includes the award-winning "Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years", follows the four to one vote last week by the Tucson Unified School District. Then, school administrators told Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any class units where race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes.
This action led to the American Indian scholar Winonoa LaDuke to proclaim:
“I heard someone say that if states are the laboratory for democracy in the United States, then Arizona is a meth lab.”
This ban of books and authors by the Tucson Unified School District is a chilling step towards yet another form of "ethnic cleansing."
The action by the school board makes me wonder:
"What was the ethnic diversity of the 5 people that made this huge monumental decision and mess?"
"Do they represent the community of Tucson?"
Arizona has a large population of American Indians and also a large Indigenous population. It appears that the Tucson Unified School District wants to "white wash" us away, erase the past, and leave books that perpetuate stereotypes, and are saturated in lies.
Interestingly enough, dominant society forgets that we are not "a minority," we are Indigenous Peoples. We have rights under the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, such as under Article 8:
2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
Under this section, the Tucson Unified School District does not have a right to ban books that might be "race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes," because that would be in violation of depriving Indigenous people:
"of their integrity as distinct peoples and or ethnic identities."
In the United States, American Indian people have dual citizenship, our tribal nations have sovereign rights and we have First Amendment rights, as protected by the US Constitution. Public schools have challenged first amendment rights before with students that did not want to salute the flag for religious reasons.
The result of that case was the Justice Robert Jackson ruling that the Supreme Court must ensure:
"scrupulous protection of constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes."
Justice Jackson goes on to state:
"If there is any fixed star in our Constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."
It appears that Tucson Unified School District is not being "scrupulous in protection of constitutional freedoms" and attempting to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles, such as freedom of the press. Arizona is allowing the Tucson Unified School District to prescribe what shall be done in " nationalism or other matters of opinion."
There has always been a sort of "intellectual blackout" regarding American Indians by the dominant culture. White America does not want to see American Indians as intellectual, critical thinkers.
In order to be "experts" in anything, we have to be taught - more often than not - by non-Natives, read what THEY want us to, go to THEIR schools and get THEIR degrees.
We learn about America's finest heroes, and compassionate leaders, but we don't often hear about how almost of them authorized deliberate acts of ethnic cleansing against Indigenous people. The ban of books by American Indians and Mexican American authors is not only censorship of literature and critical thought, but only the beginning of further inherent rights being violated.
The United States has spent billions of dollars to vilify and criminalize Indigenous People; most recently this has been done under the disguise of "political correctness". Arizona should get the prize for disregarding being "politically correct." Arizona is straight up and honest about their dislike of anyone that is brown skinned. In one swoop, Tucson has potentially challenged the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and First Amendment rights of the United States Constitution.
As the rest of the nation watches, Tucson is now Arizona's shining star of racist bigotry.
Know your rights under the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People »
Corine Fairbanks is Oglala Lakota and is the director for the American Indian Movement Southern California Chapter. Ms. Fairbanks is a proud mother of five children. She is active on the Board of Directors for the American Civil Liberties Union Affiliate Santa Barbara chapter and also on the Grant Making Committee for the Fund for Santa Barbara.
posted January 20, 2012 2:30 pm est
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