Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tucson Uprising for Ethnic Studies

In case you haven't already seen footage of the lockdown at the TUSD (Tucson) meeting by a group of students calling themselves UNIDOS, here is a video of the action.  The ethnic studies program has been under attack recently.

From my distanced position, it has seemed that the movement to defend ethnic studies has shied away from outright accusing standard education as racist.  Even as a white person, I feel that my education was indoctrination into this white supremacist, colonialist, sexist capitalist society by telling us blatant lies or half-truths and lots of omissions.  Why didn't I learn about Malcolm X or any number of important figures who represent a threat to the mentality that the education system is meant to maintain? 

You might also listen to Tim Wise on this video in which he makes some interesting points about white people not wanting brown students to know their real history or they might hate white people.

I imagine that what is taught in the ethnic studies classes are much closer to the truth than other classes.  But because proponents of ethnic studies are accused of reverse racism and promoting hate of the US government, people are going to tend to avoid giving anyone any more evidence to back up these accusations.  Reverse racism is a crock, and I hope Nonetheless, I would also like to add that someone (I'm pretty sure it was Linda Paloma Allen) made the point in an indigenous panel recently that often the book "Occupied America: A History of Chicanos" is used in these ethnic studies classes, and while this book has a lot of valuable information, it marginalizes the local indigenous folks (like the O'odham).  Although they are not Chicanos, if you're going to write a book called "Occupied America", do a little bit better job of representing those who were occupied in America (and by Mexico previously).  I read the book a few years ago, and hadn't quite noticed this, but as I re-read parts of it when I was working on writing something about the "Baja Arizona" idea (which also had a proposed name of "Gadsden" which is lacking in any consideration of context), and did notice quite an omission.  Of course it is believable that a lot of information is readily available, but something tells me it could've been included.  And given that some folks find it so easy disregard the local struggles of indigenous people, if anyone is going to teach or read the book they should find some supplemental materials.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Constitution and Citizenship based on Genocide

While looking at the various pieces Indigenous feminist Andrea Smith (also part of INCITE!) I came across this discussion about the myths around the constitution, democracy, and "our founding forefathers". I was particularly interested in this because of my examination into what's being framed as an attack on the 14th amendment; the attempt to end (or reinterpret) birthright citizenship to exclude children born of undocumented parents.

I have been concerned with the tendency by the left to defend the sanctity of the constitution- to base the defense of immigrants solely on this amendment as if the writers of the amendment were unquestioningly right, and to change the constitution or its amendments is to be an enemy of democracy.

It is important to discuss immigration outside of the context of the constitution not only because the authors of the constitution and its amendments were not infallible, but also because the closing of borders, the criminalization of people and the reasons people are migrating to the U.S. are based on the same logic of colonialism, domination, and capitalism. Not only this, but it doesn't make sense to talk about something that is already illegal (unauthorized movement) in terms of the law.  The defense of the amendment is only the defense of the children of the undocumented, not the undocumented parents themselves.  We mustn't fall into the trap of defending those who are already "legal" and not those who are "illegal".  Not to mention, I kinda doubt that undocumented immigrants for the most part give a crap about the US constitution.

For all these reasons, now is the time (if not before) to call into question the idea of citizenship in the first place.  What does it mean?  How does citizenship benefit the power structures?

In this essay, "American Studies without America: Native Feminisms and the Nation-State", Smith is discussing Judith Butler's analysis of Bush and the war on terror, but compares it to some of Butler's theory on gender and bodies (which is written in very academic language and is hard to paraphrase- the entire article is under the cut because i don't think it's available to the public).

In even radical critiques of Bush's war on terror, the U.S. Constitution serves as an origin story—it is the prior condition of "democracy" preceding our fall into Bush's "lawlessness." The Constitution's status as an origin story then masks the genocide of indigenous peoples that is its foundation. Thus reading Butler against Butler, a Native feminist analysis might suggest that her analysis of Bush's policies is predicated on what David Kazanjian refers to as the "colonizing trick"—the liberal myth that the United States is founded on democratic principles rather than being built on the pillars of capitalism,  colonialism, and white supremacy. In this way, even scholars such as Butler and Kaplan, who make radical critiques of the United States as an empire, still unwittingly or implicitly take the U.S. Constitution as their origin story, presuming the U.S. nation-state even as they critique it. Consequently, the project of imagining alternative forms of governance outside of the United States remains impoverished within the field of American studies. Certainly, Native feminism should provide a critical resource for this project because the United States could not exist without the genocide of Native peoples—genocide is not a mistake or aberration of U.S. democracy; it is foundational to it.
As Sandy Grande states:
The United States is a nation defined by its original sin: the genocide of American Indians . . . American Indian tribes are viewed as an inherent threat to the nation, poised to expose the great lies of U.S. democracy: that we are a nation of laws and not random power; that we are guided by reason and not faith; that we are governed by representation and not executive order; and finally, that we stand as a self-determined citizenry and not a kingdom of blood or aristocracy . . . From the perspective of American Indians, "democracy" has been wielded with impunity as the first and most virulent weapon of mass destruction.
From this perspective, the Bush regime does not represent a departure from U.S. democratic ideals but rather the fulfillment of a constitutional democracy based on theft and violence.
It's worth pointing out here, as well, that some argue that the constitution was based on slavery as well, or at least the framers specifically avoided speaking on the ethics of slavery, and therefore condoned it.