As many of you have surely heard, Arizona recently passed a law allowing officials to ask for papers, search and detain (if papers are not produced) anyone who appears to be in the country illegally. In other words, Arizona has legalized the racial profiling of Hispanics.
While I don't believe that illegal immigration is right-- I believe that citizenship should be more accessible so that people don't have to come here illegally-- I feel that a law like this is unacceptable. I have a hard time swallowing the fact that sb1070 could truly be passed in good conscience, as if the people who voted on it don't understand its deeply racist implications. After all, this means people can be harassed by police based on the color of their skin or their accents. And while I have no doubts that this happens often anyway, police officers are basically being given license to search any Hispanic (or Hispanic-looking) person they please without the necessity, even, to have further suspicions, such as a tip that a particular person is an illegal alien.
And let's not even begin with the "illegal aliens are-- guess what-- people, too" argument, because it will simply get me too frustrated. Yes, if someone has immigrated illegally, it's wrong, but I don't feel that infringing on their human rights is necessary for such a crime.
My real point is, I read something extremely troubling today that I wanted to bring to your attention, and that will hopefully spur you to write an e-mail or a letter to Arizona's Governor, Jan Brewer.
Arizona is cutting ethnic studies programs and restricting teachers' ability to teach according to the way they speak (implied: that they sound Hispanic).
In the article at FOXNews.com, State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Horne is quoted as saying:
"Traditionally, the American public school system has brought together students from different backgrounds and taught them to be Americans and to treat each other as individuals, and not on the basis of their ethnic backgrounds," Horne said. "This is consistent with the fundamental American value that we are all individuals, not exemplars of whatever ethnic groups we were born into. Ethnic studies programs teach the opposite, and are designed to promote ethnic chauvinism."
However, all I see in this quote is one word: assimilation. The American public schools teaches student to be Americans? If ethnic studies classes are banned, all I see happening is an effort to homogenize our culture, a culture that is, by the way, simply an amalgam of different beliefs and nationalities. Ethnic studies does not teach separatism. Learning about other cultures or taking pride in one's own is not separatism.
Furthermore, this article on the same topic at the Huffington Post brings in another shocking issue: teachers with accents are being told they cannot teach English
According to the article:
"Meanwhile, in a move that was more covert until the Wall Street Journal uncovered it, the Arizona Department of Education has told schools that teachers with "heavy" or "ungrammatical" accents are no longer allowed to teach English classes."
(Please check out the Wall Street Journal article, which elaborates a bit on the anti-immigrant sentiments of this stipulation).
While the idea that one must have a grasp of the English language to teach English is perfectly understandable, why must this also be targeted at teachers with accents? Why can't this sort of rule be applied across the board? English teachers must speak English well-- and I challenge you to convince me that there aren't people with "heavy" accents who speak just fine. The "or" in sentence implies that heavy accent alone is enough to prevent a teacher from teaching, and I think that's wrong, especially in this day and age where a good teacher is hard to find. What if a wonderful, effective, passionate teacher has an accent? Are they discriminated against, too? My guess would be "yes."
An Arizona principal says it perfectly:
"These teachers 'are very good educators who understand the culture" of their students,' said Ms. Agneessens, Creighton's principal. 'Teachers should speak grammatically correct English,' she acknowledged, but added, 'I object to the nuance of punishment for accent.'"
You can visit this page to find Governor Brewer's mailing address, as well as an e-mail form and phone number.
I sent an e-mail earlier today, and I'm urging you all to do the same. This is a matter of human rights and I believe a sign of a slippery slope ahead. Racial profiling is wrong, and as a country that once prided itself on being a "melting pot" and a nation free of persecution, it should not be legalized.
If we are civilized human beings, organized racism should not be legalized. It should be fought, tooth and nail, until this truly a free nation.