Whitewashed History

I have to agree with the letter writer who complained that the Chronicle of Higher Education ought to cover recent events in Arizona more thoroughly (“Controversial Arizona Law Deserves Scholars’ Attention“). A new law, HB 2281, represents the cutting edge in the long-expressed desire of the right-wing to eliminate ethic studies, as a part of their larger drive to end diversity programs in education. It’s another example of the irrationality of white supremacy, its profound fear that if it does not fully assimilate the other, its own unique identity will disappear.

In Arizona, the formula is very simple: either the people who are ethnically Mexican– most are not recent immigrants, of course–drop their own language and culture and adopt European American (“white”) cultural traditions and the English language or European American culture– and the English language–will be lost forever, at least on the American continent. White culture, this assumes, isn’t strong enough to co-exist with other cultures. Ethnic studies are designed to remedy this profound paranoia about the danger implicit in other cultures.

It’s not automatic or necessarily easy, but multiple cultures can and do co-exist peacefully.The “white” paranoia, too, is rooted in a profound misunderstanding of American history that downplays if not ignores the dynamics of multiple cultures that has shaped U.S. history, for good and ill, from the central role of slavery in the early U.S. economy to the Indian genocide to the Civil Rights movement to La Raza. H.B. 2281 is trying to create a dangerous institutionalized amnesia, the very opposite of what it means to be educated.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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