On January 24, United Non-Discriminatory Individuals Demanding Our Studies (UNIDOS) staged protests in Tucson, Arizona, and presented plans to create a community grown School of Ethnic Studies, all as a way to reclaim their education. UNIDOS was formed after Arizona passed HB 2281, which bans ethnic studies programs in public schools, in the summer of 2010.
UNIDOS has been at the forefront of the battle against the ban on ethnic studies since it passed. UNIDOS and its supporters held a peaceful all-night vigil outside the Tucson United School District (TUSD) building, and conducted their own audit to review the positive impacts of ethnic studies. At the time, they found that ethnic studies had reversed national trends of drop-out rates and low achievement. The audit included testimonies from various college-bound students in the Mexican American Studies program.
“Ethnic studies played a vital role in my success as both a student and a member of the community. It provided me with the quality education that allowed me to make University of Arizona an option in my college career. Without Ethnic Studies, I wouldn’t have the tools I need in order to succeed at the university level,” said Gabriel Rocha, a University of Arizona Architecture student.
UNIDOS, in addition to creating a school where children could learn about their ancestors and culture, created a ten point resolution to keep ethnic studies in their schools:
- WE WANT OUR ETHNIC STUDIES CLASSES TO CONTINUE TO MEET CORE SOCIAL SCIENCE REQUIREMENTS.
- WE WANT THE REPEAL OF HB 2281.
- WE WANT ETHNIC STUDIES PROGRAMS TO EXPAND EVERYWHERE: FROM K-12 TO UNIVERSITY.
- WE WANT NO SCHOOL TURN-AROUNDS, NO SCHOOL CLOSURES AND FULL SUPPORT FOR RINCON HIGH AND PALO VERDE HIGH SCHOOL COMMUNITIES.
- WE WANT A TUSD GOVERNING BOARD THAT IS ACCOUNTABLE AND WILL STAND UP FOR ALL STUDENTS.
- WE WANT AN EQUITABLE EDUCATION FOR ALL.
- WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO ALL RACIST, ANTI-MIGRANT, ANTI-INDIGENOUS POLICIES.
- WE WANT FULL COMPLIANCE WITH OUR CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS
- WE WANT ATTORNEY GENERAL TOM HORNE, STATE SUPERINTENDENT JOHN HUPPENTHAL AND GOVERNOR JAN BREWER IMMEDIATELY REMOVED FROM POWER.
- WE WANT LOCAL CONTROL OF OUR EDUCATION.
In solidarity across the country, librarians, educators, writers, civil rights activists, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are together mounting a series of national actions to call attention to these educational and civil rights violations and to support local efforts to counter them.
Also on January 24, the American Library Association issued a condemnation and pushed for a repeal of the ethnic studies ban. On February 1, teachers and schools around the country began participating in the Rethinking Schools initiative, which has published a nationally acclaimed textbook, Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, which was infamously confiscated and banned from Tucson schools.
In Georgia a network of educators is sponsoring a “Teach-in” in Atlanta on Saturday, Feb. 4, to inform the community about what’s happening and work together to fight censorship and racism in schools.
“While the institution continues to fail us, the community continues to rise. Ethnic Studies is abolished inside the gates of our schools but not the streets of our community. Education is ours, from the roots our knowledge will continue to grow with autonomous education.” ~ UNIDOS
Ethnic studies programs are not just the result of Civil Rights activism in the 1960s. They also an attempt to provide students with a mutli-perspective telling of history and literature. All students benefit from these classes, without question.
In these ways and so many more, ethnic studies plays an important role in building truly inclusive democracies and systems of education. Show your solidarity with the students of Arizona by supporting their struggle against the ethnic studies ban. We also encourage all students to push for a truly inclusive campus by promoting sanctuary campuses–“to them we say unidos jamas seran vencidos,” or united you will never be defeated.