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April 28, 2008

Big News: Arizonans Still Xenophobic Racists

This makes me so mad I don't even know where to put myself: an amendment to an unrelated bill would make race-based student groups illegal at Arizona's state-funded schools.

I'm not entirely sure where this is coming from. The article says the measure was in response to "controversy surrounding an ethnic-studies program in the Tucson Unified School District, which critics have said is unpatriotic and teaches revolution."

Knowing Arizona, that probably means something related to Spanish/English bilingualism and Chicano pride. Wooo. Real Scary.

And of course it affects all students of color.

The fact that I'm not at all surprised doesn't make this okay. When I started at the University of Arizona in 1987 (that's right, do that math) the school still had an "Oriental Studies" department that included East Asian as well as Arabic studies. You know, oriental studies: all those folks east of the Caucasus. (The what? Exactly.)

Needless to say, there wasn't an Asian, much less an Asian American, group on campus. I educated myself by stumbling across a first edition hardback of Aiiieeeee!!! in a (probably now defunct) used book store on Fourth Ave., a completely chance meeting that altered the course of my life. Seriously.

Nearly ten years later I moved to San Francisco specifically looking for an Asian American community with whom I could discuss the ideas that had been kicking around my solitary head for the better part of a decade without outlet. And I ended up cofounding an Asian American cultural festival and an Asian American magazine--both relatively small efforts with, I flatter myself, disproportional impact. Perhaps I again flatter myself, but I think I've contributed as much to the development and celebration of real American culture as Racistsentative Russell Pearce.

(Here's his contact info, by the way, in case you feel moved to let him know what you think of his one-note "patriotism":

Representative Russell Pearce (R-18)
1700 West Washington ! Phoenix, Arizona 85007-2844
Phone:  (602) 926-5760 ! FAX: (602) 417-3118
rpearce@azleg.state.az.us ! www.azhousetv.org)

That stumble across an important book just underlines the importance of institutions of higher learning as places where young adults can discuss and play out ideas in safety ... until they hit on something solid enough to last a lifetime. Imagine what I could have accomplished if I'd been able to connect to my identity in college ... or for that matter, become an early and educated ally to other racial/ethnic groups through my friends in school.

But it doesn't matter. Because my college years--the years when I needed an education in, and peer support for, my late teens/early twenties identity search, the years when everybody should be dealing with this search so that they can go out into the world as self-aware, educated, confident adults--were wasted as far as helping me to understand who I was in myself, who I was in the world, and how my racial/ethnic background contributed to roles I was forced to fulfill and roles I could choose for myself. That opportunity for me is gone because I went to college in Arizona.

It's not gone for others, though. In the sixteen years since I graduated, Arizona has changed. My university now has, on brief scan, four pan-API organizations on campus, and that's not including ethnic specific orgs. There's an East Asian Studies department, and an Asian American studies minor.

Many years' worth of Asian American undergraduates in Arizona have had the opportunity to engage their own identities in the  (relative) safety of  college, so that they can become educated, self-aware, and productive adults. And now Racistsentative Pearce wants to turn back the clock?

Fuck him. FUCK HIM. Please note the contact info above and tell him what you think of him.

via Angry Asian Man.


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There's no point in writing to Russell Pearce. He never learned to read.

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