Lift the ban on Mexican-American Studies in Arizona

Hispanic? Chicano? Mexicano? Latino? Tejano?

Do you know the differences between these? If you don’t, then that’s one of many reasons why we need M.A.S (Mexican-American Studies) courses in our high school classrooms.

I’ve already explained in a previous column how Latinos are the most underrepresented ethnic group in Hollywood movies. But blockbuster movies are trivial compared to how the state Legislature banned ethnic studies in Arizona high schools in 2010.
 

 
The Texas State Board of Education introduced last Friday the possibility to implement Mexican-American Studies courses in Texas high schools. Fifty-one percent of the 5 million Texas students are Tejanos. Why are we denying these students their right to learn about how Mexicans developed the state of Texas?

Hopefully the school board sees the benefits of M.A.S. courses for Chicano students who have been proven to graduate high school at higher rates and do better on standardized tests.

If Texas can add M.A.S courses to its curriculum, it’s time to lift the ban on ethnic studies in Arizona classrooms. Our history is being whitewashed; my history is being forgotten. Why is Arizona ignoring the fact that most of the western U.S. once belonged to Mexico?

Jan Brewer signed into law almost four years ago the ban on Mexican-American Studies drafted by the Arizona Legislature. Their reasoning was that these classes would cause students to become anti-American and it supported the overthrow of the U.S. government.

This reasoning is ludicrous. How does recognizing historical events such as the Mexican-American War, Mexican Cession and the Chicano Movement in the ’60s threaten our students? Shouldn’t we do whatever it takes to improve academic success for all students?

Jan Brewer does not care about Mexican-American students. If she truly cared about the welfare and academic success of all students, she would recognize the proven benefits of these classes.

Gov. Bruja, I mean Brewer, does not have a college degree, nor does she care about the history of this state or the students. Her only concern is to her own political agenda, and she does not realize the negative implications it has on students such as myself. She claims that schools should treat students as individuals. The problem with this statement is that my individualism is affected by my Mexican roots.

Growing up Chicano meant a lot of things to me. My family owned a traditional Mexican dance group, which performed all over the state of Arizona. Spanish was spoken all around me. Mexican food, Mexican music and Mexican friends were a part of my life. But I wasn’t in Mexico. I am an American born in Phoenix. This is what Chicano means to me: Living in America with Mexican-born parents or grandparents.

Chicano is hard to define, as many people disagree who can actually call him or herself a Chicano or Chicana. Actor, comedian and activist Cheech Marin explains his revelation of his Chicanoismo. He points out the irony of being able to acquire a Ph.D. at Harvard in Chicano Studies, yet the U.S. government still forces us to identity ourselves as Latino/Hispanic when the Census comes around every 10 years.

This ban on Mexican-American Studies in Arizona does not make sense. This is something I would expect to encounter if I lived back east where there are less people of Mexican descent. But this is Arizona, a state that birthed the greatest Chicano of all time, Cesar Chavez.

Although I’m a proud American citizen, I continually have to defend my presence and history in this country. Edward James Olmos explains the constant validation of Mexican culture in the U.S. in this biopic of Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla. “We gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans, we gotta be more American than the Americans, both at the same time. It’s exhausting!”

Men with my brown skin did backbreaking labor in the fields to feed this country. Women with my brown skin labored long hours in sweatshops to clothe and dress this country.

Now people with my brown skin, who have greatly influenced this country, are being forgotten. Mexican-Americans occupy all levels in this nation from politics to military to Hollywood. We are here, and we are not leaving.

Reach the columnist at gromero7@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @gilromeo92