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Outlawing Latinos’ Heritage

Posted on May 14, 2010

By Eugene Robinson

At least we don’t have to pretend anymore. Arizona’s passing of that mean-spirited new immigration law wasn’t about high-minded principle or the need to maintain public order. Apparently, it was all about putting Latinos in their place.

It’s hard to reach any other conclusion following the state’s latest swipe at Latinos. On Tuesday, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a measure making it illegal for any course in the public schools to “advocate ethnic solidarity.” Arizona’s top education official, Tom Horne, fought for the new law as a weapon against a program in Tucson that teaches Mexican-American students about their history and culture.

Horne claims the Tucson classes teach “ethnic chauvinism.” He has complained that young Mexican-Americans are falsely being led to believe that they belong to an oppressed minority. The way to dispel that notion, it seems, is to pass oppressive new legislation aimed squarely at Mexican-Americans. That’ll teach the kids a lesson, all right: We have power. You don’t.

Arizona is already facing criticism and boycotts over its “breathing while Latino” law, which in essence requires police to identify and jail undocumented immigrants. Now the state adds insult to that injury.

The education bill begins with a bizarre piece of nonsense, making it illegal for public or charter schools to offer courses that “promote the overthrow of the United States government.” Then it shifts from weird to offensive, prohibiting classes that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” that “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” and that “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” When you try to parse those words, the effect is chilling.


Square, Site wide

Is it permissible, under the new law, to teach basic history? More than half the students in the Tucson Unified School District are Latino, the great majority of them Mexican-American. The land that is now Arizona once belonged to Mexico. Might teaching that fact “promote resentment” among students of Mexican descent? What about a class that taught students how activists fought to end discrimination against Latinos in Arizona and other Western states? Would that illegally encourage students to resent the way their parents and grandparents were treated?

The legislation has an answer: Mexican-American students, it seems, should not be taught to be proud of their heritage.

This angry anti-Latino spasm in Arizona is only partly about illegal immigration, which has fallen substantially in the past few years. It’s really about fear and denial.

About 30 percent of the state’s population is Latino, and that number continues to rise. This demographic shift has induced culture shock among some Arizonans who see the old Anglo power structure losing control. It is evidently threatening, to some people, that Mexican-Americans would see themselves as a group with common interests and grievances—and even more threatening that they might see themselves as distant heirs to the men and women who lived in Arizona long before the first Anglos arrived.

To counter the threat, solidarity among Mexican-Americans has to be delegitimized. The group itself has to be atomized—has to be taught to see itself as a population of unaffiliated individuals. The social, cultural and historical ties that have united people across the border since long before there was a border must be denied.

Every minority group’s struggle for acceptance is distinctive, but I can’t avoid hearing echoes of the Jim Crow era in the South. Whites went to great lengths to try to keep “agitators” from awakening African-Americans’ sense of pride and injustice. They failed, just as the new Arizona law will fail.

It’s important to distinguish between Arizona officials’ legitimate concerns and their illegitimate ones. The state does have a real problem with illegal immigration, and the federal government has ignored its responsibility to enact comprehensive reform that would make the border more secure. But Arizona is lashing out with measures that will not just punish the undocumented, but also negatively impact Mexican-American citizens whose local roots are generations deep.

The new education law is gratuitous and absurd. Arizona can’t be picked up and moved to the Midwest; it’s next to Mexico. There have always been families and traditions that straddle the two societies, and there always will be. Mexican-Americans are inevitably going to feel proud of who they are and where they came from—even if acknowledging and encouraging such pride in the classroom are against the law.

You know kids. They’ll just learn it in the street.

Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)
© 2010, Washington Post Writers Group

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By velvel in decatur, May 14, 2010 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

Eugene, this is hogwash!!!

Schools are generally places to teach children to conform, that is, to brainwash the little darlings so that they will learn to flip burgers, mop floors, but not think critically.  No wonder teachers rank at the bottom of college achievement scoring.

Remember the children who were disciplined for wearing US flags on the noncelebration excuse for selling Dos Equis and Corona and Taco Bell known as “Cinco de Mayo?”  The administration wanted “compliance” and not thinking.

You want to shift responsibility for teaching children about their backgrounds from their parents and their churches and their neighbors to schools (not designed to do this) for what reason?  Maybe because you have no faith in their parents.

And then you leave this to the same book publishers and the politicians who are adept at—- remember—- teaching children in the Middle East that Jews are dogs and donkeys and eat babies brains and should be blown up, and that all Christians are Crusaders, and the Ku Kluxers who use schools to teach children that black folk are subhuman.

So quit whining and remember that we don’t need to be Balkanized.

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By P. T., May 14, 2010 at 10:05 am Link to this comment

Those people who call for a boycott of Arizona do not call for a boycott of Mexico over its treatment (including frequent police killings) of Guatemalan immigrants.  That is hypocritical.

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By Inherit The Wind, May 14, 2010 at 9:22 am Link to this comment

A refusal to allow a course of study of Latin American history as “ethnically biased” is simply racist.

I resent all anti-immigrant laws.  We are all children of immigrants.  This is nothing but White racist Jim Crow rearing its ugly head once again.

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By jay1953, May 14, 2010 at 9:17 am Link to this comment

The Anglo hordes came into the American Southwest like a plague, a pestilence that should have been fumigated like cockroaches.

The true historical legacy is not the rosy picture painted for us in the revisionist history books of elementary schools. The reality is that unbathed Anglo barbarian hordes of murderers, drunks, thieves, whores, opportunists, zealots, bums, vagrants, squatters are the ones that came to settle these lands. Spreading their diseases and leaving death in their wake. Today their descendants claim holy sanctity and legitimacy. Waging their relentless war of racial purity and exceptionalism moving their borders over other peoples lands. Imposing their exclusive racist laws with no historical legitimacy to do so. Most of the undocumented people didn’t cross the border, the border crossed them. Their descendants have lived in these lands for thousands of years with freedom of passage and movement which we want to deny them as a historical right. The United States is the newcomer, the intruders, the invaders. They are turning into occupiers. A settler state founded racist genocide.

The American disease of exceptionalism must be eradicated. The US must become a country that practices inclusivity instead of exclusivity. It is the only path to peaceful social harmony.

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By jay1953, May 14, 2010 at 8:48 am Link to this comment

Mr. Obama, tear down this wall.

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By jay1953, May 14, 2010 at 8:23 am Link to this comment


Sera posible que estos gringos malparidos sean tan racistas? Claro que si. Hijos de P. Despues se describen como progresistas. La hipocresia es abrumadora. Por eso todo el mundo quiere darles por el culo.

Pero ellos son una especie en declive y mas tarde o temprano perderan. Seran derrotados y vamos usar sus propias leyes y instituciones para hacerlo. El tiempo esta a nuestro lado. Ellos no se dan cuentan que estan formentando divisiones y asi la resistencia a ellos aumentan. Los Latinos tienen que unirse a los Afro-Americanos porque nuestro intereses so los mismos.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 8:22 am Link to this comment

Sorry, gringos, the jig is up.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

Want another example: Jack Johnson.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 8:15 am Link to this comment

“The Anglo-Saxon American[‘s] history is a history of recurrent outbreaks of blind rage against peoples who have begun to worst him. . . . Theoretically launched against some imaginary inferiority in the non-Anglo-Saxon man, either as patriot, as democrat or as Christian, they are actually launched at his general superiority, his greater fitness to survive in the national environment. The effort is always to penalize him for winning in fair fight, to handicap him in such a manner that he will sink to the general level of the Anglo-Saxon population and, if possible, even below it.

Such devices, of course, never have the countenance of the Anglo-Saxon minority that is authentically superior, and hence self-confident and tolerant. But that minority is pathetically small, and it tends steadily to grow smaller and feebler. The communal laws and the communal mores are made by the folk, and they offer all the proof that is necessary, not only of its general inferiority, but also of its alarmed awareness of that inferiority. The normal American of the ‘pure-blooded’ majority goes to rest every night with an uneasy feeling that there is a burglar under the bed, and he gets up every morning with a sickening fear that his underwear has been stolen. . . .

His political ideas are crude and shallow. He is almost wholly devoid of esthetic feeling. The most elementary facts about the visible universe alarm him, and incite him to put them down. Educate him, make a professor of him, teach him how to express his soul, and he still remains palpably third-rate. He fears ideas almost more cravenly than he fears men.”

H. L. Mencken

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By Laine, May 14, 2010 at 8:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you Eugene,
  As usual, you sum up the situation logically,cogently and correctly.The world is changing and that is the most frightening thing to those whose worlds and worldviews are the narrowest.The death throws of all the various permutations of fear and hatred are repellent and disturbing to those forced to witness and endure them (evidenced by some of the commentary posted here). The hopeful thing is that the end is in sight. Once an injustice as egregious as the folly being perpetrated in Arizona is exposed,it’s like lancing a boil. A lot of fairly gross stuff seeps out and then healing can begin. People may even start to question why Mexico bleeds people into the US. I venture to suggest that illegal immigration from Canada or France is not a huge problem. I wonder why not? I dare to suggest that maybe a rapacious culture of greed and exploitation internationally has torn the most deprived and vulnerable people worldwide loose from their national moorings and sent them like beggars scavenging for a living. What should they do ? Die? Disappear?It would be so much more convenient if they did. I mean why do they continue to plague their wealthy neighbour with their inconvenient attempts to work and live?Don’t they see that this country which was wrested from its owners a good bit of time ago now belongs to angry Caucasians?If they had any sensitivity at all they would just melt into the woodwork ,after (of course) vacuuming and dusting it and then cutting the grass in the back yard.

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By Liquor Store Larry, May 14, 2010 at 8:05 am Link to this comment

Eugenio Costa -

like so many of your countrymen, you come here both illegally and legally to do your complaining. Maybe if more Hispanics complained in THEIR OWN COUNTRY this problem would not exist in the first place. You turn Mexico into a cess pool and then come to the US and express your discontent at those who do not wish you to do the same here.

Mexico is a resource-rich country with an astronomically wealthy aristocracy who sip champagne and eat caviar at the expense of American taxpayers.

If those who immigrate here in violation of law “only take jobs that Americans won’t do,” why then has meat and poultry packing gone from the highest paid job in the industrial sector to the lowest? A Bear Sterns study contends that government figures are a bunch of BS and that the actual number here illegally is closer to 30 million.

Whether it is 12 million or 30, when there are only 1.1 million agricultural jobs in California, why then do we need a guest worker program? Could it be that when immigrants arrive here illegally, they also “don’t want the jobs that Americans won’t do,” thus we foster an eternal exodus of humanity who do “the jobs Americans won’t do” for 20 minutes each? Cesar Chavez stated that he could not unionize farm labor without stemming the flow of impoverished migrants and yet we celebrate his birthday but ignore his words.

At Ellis Island, immigrants entering America were screened for diseases. Did you know that illegals entering the country bring diseases that were all but eradicated but are making a comeback? According to the CDC, some are resistant to treatment and include hepatitis, tuberculosis and that old favorite syphilis, just to name a few. As a result of illegal labor, spinach is more dangerous than marijuana.

The most fundamental aspect of any country’s sovereignty is borders. Our addiction to what is laughably called cheap labor is costing us many billions annually, destroying our quality of life and is unsustainable.

Next time you are gloating over the price of strawberries, I suggest you check your tax returns, your schools, your children’s health, your prisons and your emergency rooms for a glimpse of the real cost. Eugenio won’t thank you but many Americans will.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 8:02 am Link to this comment

Badgers and wolverines!

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 8:01 am Link to this comment

Raccoon fights—wow.

And they don’t have to be trained.

They do it for fun.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

corr: WWI

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 7:52 am Link to this comment

Bull fighting good. Cock fighting all right (they fight naturally).  Dogs have to be trained to fight one another to the death and it is an unnatural perversion, sort of how an Imperialist military turns decent human beings into murderous psychopaths.

This idea of “monoculture” and the US is a total crock.

Only a Mencken “Anglo-Saxon” could come up with that nonsense.

And pass Prohibition into the bargain.

While the murderous psychopaths were away during WWII and couldn’t vote.

Meanwhile the murderous psychopaths have discovered French culture and return home with an appetite for wine and cheese and loose women.

But Eliot Ness, a lifelong alcoholic, busts up all the speakeasies and throws away good alcohol in the midst of a Great Depression.

If that is a primary culture, thanks but no thanks.

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By Liquor Store Larry, May 14, 2010 at 7:15 am Link to this comment

What a crock. With logic or the absence of logic such at this, you scratch your head and wonder why our neighborhoods are beginning to look like our prison yards. There is only room for one primary culture per country or what you get is a bunch of Balkanized separatists who are hostile to each other. If you are so full of empathy for Mexican culture why not allow cock fighting, dog fighting, bull fighting and other blood sports? You libs kill me, you act like you learned about life from watching cartoons. As Teddy Roosevelt so wisely said “this is a nation, not a polyglot boarding house”.

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By TheBrix57, May 14, 2010 at 6:22 am Link to this comment

Excuse me, but where exactly is the term Latino, Mexican, Hispanic or any other subset of the human race spelled out in any of these Arizona laws? Please point out the specific sentence and where it appears in the body of the text.

Ethnic studies are a great way to connect with your ancestors in a college level class where, you as the student, pay for an elective course that has usually nothing to do with your major. Requiring ethnic studies in a public school (K-12) does nothing for that child to graduate.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 6:13 am Link to this comment

Wa gotdang it, pardner, lookee here, fust what man rived in Arkansaw was one them Frenchified Talions with an Iron hand.

En his pappy vented sum kind surance palsy, calt the Tonto or sumthin like thet.

Musta had Injun blood.

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By godistwaddle, May 14, 2010 at 5:59 am Link to this comment

My forefather, Jacob **** arrived in Connecticut in 1634 and joined the expedition to exterminate the Pequot.  He and his descendents then invited their friends and neighbors and, eventually THEIR friends and neighbors across the continent of Europe to join them.  Then we said “we must limit immigration.”

Let us say a small group of Iranians settle in Virginia .  They loose a deadly disease, like smallpox or measles, which kills a very large number of Murkns.  According to your reasoning, they may invite fellow Iranians to help them exterminate the rest of the Murkns or so many as doesn’t matter, and then invite Syrians, Afghans, Indians, Lebanese, Egytians, etc., to join them. When Murkns who fled to Canada (like the Mexicans who fled to Mexico from Arizona during the “Mexican War”) attempt to return, they are told they are “illegal immigrants.”

So the argument goes, “Might Makes Right.”  Germany had every right to Austria and Czechoslovakia because it was more powerful.  It got in trouble when it took on even more powerful nations.  As long as you can murder enough people, you have the right to anything you want.

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By cwbystache, May 14, 2010 at 5:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Years ago I was waiting in line at the DMV here in Cochise County, Arizona, and found myself in a long delay behind a man insisting on changing his driver’s license number.  The trouble? There was within his license number a set of three number sixes, the mark of the devil, and that driver would not be so cursed.

I should have got out of Arizona then.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 5:48 am Link to this comment

Arizona—banning Spanish heritage.

Just goes to show you that, after Mencken, there is nothing in the world as dumb or ridiculous as a full blooded Anglo-Saxon Nativist Know-nothing.

He can’t even keep the name of the gotdang state straight.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 5:44 am Link to this comment

A: Hey, cowboy, where you all from?

B:Well, I hail from a dry state in the American southwest.

A: What state would that be?

B: Well, it begins and ends in “A”, just like the country you know. Very patriotic.

A: Texas?

B:[whispers in A’s ear]

A: Arizona!


A: Sorry, cowboy, you have spoken a Spanish word and have been deported to another universe, on—“WHAT’S OUR MERKIN HURTAGE”, the game show for one hundert percent red-blooded Merkin Paytrots.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 5:33 am Link to this comment

Arizona—that’s Spanish! How about giving the state itself a good Anglo name.

Hey, that would make a good contest for Truthdig.

Best new Anglo name for Arizona.

First prize: one week all expenses paid holiday in Phoenix.

Second prize: two weeks all expenses paid holiday in Phoenix.

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By ken, May 14, 2010 at 5:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am as liberal as anyone on most things but what is it about the words illegal and consequences that is not understood by so many usually literate people?

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 5:29 am Link to this comment

“Bandbox”, on the other hand, clearly a calque, betraying an effect of one natural language upon another.

Is Arizona going to purify their English dictionaries and throw out “hoosegow” and “rodeo”?

Geezus Maria y Giuseppe, ARIZONA is a got-dummed Spanish bird.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 5:24 am Link to this comment

John Edwin Sandys defines “no doubts get” as clearly a typing error.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 4:51 am Link to this comment

Eugene Robinson no doubts get the Che Guevara connection. It takes just a bit of mind. The secret is thus completely safe from the Nativist Know-Nothings of Arizona and elsewhere.

In the US nowadays having any mind or intelligence all—in any language, including English—is one of the hardest codes for most to decipher.

H.L.Mencken, of German ethnicity himself, diagnosed this nicely enough as the “Anglo-Saxon” disease.

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By Mundt, May 14, 2010 at 4:35 am Link to this comment

Today brings us our expected offering of absolute nonsense from Eugene Robinson.

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By PatrickHenry, May 14, 2010 at 4:00 am Link to this comment

The Arizonians are merely enforcing existing federal laws.

They are tired of illegals overwhelming their neighborhoods and towns and I don’t blame them.

La Raza that.

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By Eugenio Costa, May 14, 2010 at 3:36 am Link to this comment

“Thanks for Playa Girón. Before the invasion, the revolution was shaky. Now it’s stronger than ever.”

Che Guevara [Note to John F. Kennedy]

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