Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
What happened last week in Tucson was outrageous.
The Tucson Unified School District, after voting to ban Mexican American Studies, went into the classrooms and took books away from young people, books that the state, in its hateful law, has deemed unacceptable.
These books specifically include:
Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement, by Arturo Rosales
Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic
500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth Martinez
Message to Aztlan, by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuña
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson.
The school board said it was simply responding to an order by a reactionary judge, who cited these seven books. But the school district took away additional titles as well, as it swept through the Mexican American Studies classrooms. (See Brenda Norell’s reporting hereSee Brenda Norell’s reporting here.)
Other books on the now-banned curriculum of Mexican American Studies that were to be “cleared from all classrooms” include:
Rodolfo Anaya, The Anaya Reader
Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands
Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Jimmy Santiago Baca, A Place to Stand, and five other books by him.
James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time
Ana Castillo, Loverboys and So Far From God
Cesar Chavez, Address to the Commonwealth Club of California
Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek
Junot Diaz, Drown
Martín Espada, Zapata’s Disciple
Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate
Bell Hooks, Feminism Is for Everbody
Dagoberto Gilb, The Magic of Blood
Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities
Luis Rodriguez, Always Running
Roberto Rodriguez, Justice: A Question of Race
Luis Alberto Urrea, By the Lake of Sleeping Children and Nobody’s Son
Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States
(Shakespeare’s The Tempest was also on the list but after Salon exposed that fact, the school district hastened to say that Shakespeare wasn’t off limits.)
The school board didn’t need to go in and take books out of the hands of students. It could have appealed the court’s decision, for instance. It could have stood up for academic freedom.
Instead, it caved in, and taught the students an object lesson in cowardice and racism and censorship.
But the students aren’t taking it lying and down. And neither are the authors, nor Latino and Native American activists.
“I am very stunned and very shocked and very pissed off,” said the poet Simon Ortiz, who is a professor English and American Indian Studies at Arizona State University.
“Democracy has been dealt a blow,” says Rodolfo Acuña. “The actions of these racists has contributed to disillusionment among many students. . . . In ending the MAS program, the State of Arizona is complicit in condemning many Latino students to failure.”
This is about the freedom to teach and to learn, and the freedom to study the various histories that make up the competing telling of U.S. history.
This freedom—real freedom—the rightwing just can’t handle.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Pundits Slight Ron Paul after Strong NH Showing."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter