[News] Scenes From Apartheid Arizona

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 6 11:07:55 EDT 2010

May 6, 2010

Scenes From Apartheid Arizona

Welcome to Operation Streamline


TUCSON HIGH SCHOOL: As I prepare to speak to an 
innovative class here about Indigenous 
philosophies, the students begin their class in the following manner:

In Lak Ech – Tu eres mi otro yo – You are my 
other self. I am you and you are me. If I hurt 
you, I hurt myself. If I hate you, I hate myself. 
If I love and respect you, I love and respect myself.

Students here, part of Tucson Unified School 
District’s highly successful Mexican American 
Studies (MAS) K-12 program (the largest in the 
nation), are taught this and other Indigenous 
concepts, including other ways of measuring time 
(Aztec & Maya calendars). Not coincidentally, 
academically, MAS students – many of who were 
doing poorly prior to entering this program – 
consistently outperform their peers, and it is 
virtually a college-bound factory.

State capitol, Phoenix, Arizona: 518 years after 
Columbus initiated the theft of a continent, 
Arizona’s state superintendent of schools, Tom 
Horne has just declared, via the passage of HB 
2281, that Indigenous peoples and Indigenous 
knowledge are [still] outside of Western Civilization.

In his relentless campaign against Ethnic 
Studies, the would-be governor has just 
engineered the passage of a new draconian state 
law that seeks to ban the teaching of ethnic 
studies [by withdrawing its funding]. This is the 
same state that recently passed the racial 
profiling SB 1070 law; the primary targets would 
be Mexicans and Central Americans with Indigenous 
features, suspected of being “illegal aliens.”

Despite the success of the MAS program, Horne has 
long expressed the view that the only things that 
should be taught in Arizona schools are things 
that originate in Western or Greco-Roman 
Civilization. While his bill affects the whole 
state, his actual target has long been Tucson’s program.

HB 2281 causes the geographic dislocation of the 
continent. Acting as Royal cosmographer, Horne 
has ruled that maiz (Mesoamerican) knowledge – 
indigenous to this continent and the 
philosophical foundation for MAS – is subversive 
and not part of Western civilization and does not 
belong in the West. Through the bill, he also 
mischaracterizes the program by claiming that its 
teachers preach hate, segregation, 
anti-Americanism and the violent overthrow of the 
government. The bill sets up an inquisitorial 
mechanism that will monitor books and curriculum. 
Horne has been especially critical of Rudy 
Acuña’s Occupied America and Paolo Freire’s 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (Separately, the 
Arizona Department of Education has banned 
teachers with heavy accents from teaching English classes).

Welcome to Apartheid Arizona. Despite Arizona’s 
oppressive climate, many claim that the use of the term apartheid is overblown.

Tucson federal courthouse: Like clockwork, at 
1:30 p.m., 70 short, brown men (sometimes a few 
women) occupy the left side of the courtroom, 
shackled at the ankles, the waist and the wrists. 
Within one hour, they are charged, tried and 
convicted en masse of being illegally present in 
the United States. After being dehumanized, they 
are then paraded out of the courtroom. Most have 
either served or are sentenced to the private 
detention facility, operated by the Correctional 
Corporation of America. This drama unfolds 
everyday here, every weekday of the year.

Welcome to Operation Streamline. Its goal is to 
criminalize every migrant that steps into this 
kangaroo court, while enriching CCA to the tune of some $15 million per month.

Southside Tucson: Several days BEFORE the state 
legislature passes SB 1070, a massive raid 
involving 800 military-clad U.S. federal agents 
swoops into this primarily Mexican-Indigenous 
community, occupying and terrorizing its 
residents, all for the purpose of arresting 48 
suspects in a human smuggling operation.

Maricopa County: While Sheriff Joe Arpaio denies 
a racial motivation, over the weekend, he 
showcases his 15th major “crime sweep” since 
early 2008 in Phoenix. The sweeps – which target 
Mexican-Indigenous communities – may have 
actually backfired. They provide a glimpse to the 
world as to how the entire state and nation could 
look like if SB 1070 is affirmed. To conduct 
these sweeps, Arpaio utilizes the state’s anti 
human smuggling law, accusing migrants of being 
accomplices in their own smuggling. Such a use of 
the law smacks of official kidnapping and terror.

While there were undoubtedly many Arpaio’s in 
South Africa during the apartheid era, there were 
no Operation Streamlines there. Kangaroo courts 
yes, but not daily one-hour mass-show trials.

The Arizona/Mexico border: In the realm of 
violence, Arizona is no South Africa, but we do 
have our own killing fields. For the past dozen 
years, some 5,000 migrants have been found dead 
in the inhospitable desert; medical reports 
confirm that many have died due to violence, 
including blunt trauma to the head (go to: 
That many thousands of migrants are funneled 
through the desert annually has long been 
official policy by U.S. immigration officials. 
Under international law, at best, this could be 
construed as negligent homicide.

Washington D.C.: Ironically, in response to these 
draconian laws and measures, even Democrats have 
been cowed into pushing for more apartheid 
measures (walls, more agents and the further 
militarization of the border) as a solution.

Just solutions for the problems listed here 
require calling for [international] agreements 
that place human beings at the center, without 
losing their citizenship, culture, rights or their humanity.

Roberto Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the 
University of Arizona, can be reached at 
<mailto:XColumn at gmail.com>XColumn at gmail.com

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