"Rude as Heck": Anti-Racist Student Resistance and the AZ Mexican American Studies Ban

Authors: Gloria Howerton*,
Topics: Social Theory, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Education, Schools, Students, Resistance, Anti-Racism, Latinx
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Mid-City, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The attempted erasure of Mexican American history and culture in public K-12 classrooms in Tucson, Arizona is rationalized through rhetoric concerning “rude” anti-racist student protest. Since 2010, the Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) § 15-112 has been used as justification to end Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD) Mexican American studies (MAS) courses. Former state superintendent Tom Horne wrote the bill that became ARS 15-112, admitting that he targeted MAS because he believed a silent protest at a TUSD high school was arranged by MAS students and teachers. He justified the ban by arguing that this counts as evidence that MAS taught “rudeness.” In the recent 2017 trial concerning the constitutionality of ARS 15-112, Horne used the term “rude” to describe MAS students nearly 20 times in a single day. Schools in the United States are linked to the maintenance of inequality among disparate racial and ethnic groups. Schools in the US often promote "equal opportunity" via training non-white students in becoming "whiter" while denying their own backgrounds. When MAS students pushed back against this erasure, Horne and fellow Arizona politicians attempted to discredit their political resistance by calling them “rude” and “disrespectful,” in much the same way anti-racist protesters are currently being denounced for rudeness and disrespect from street-level protests to NFL protests. I consider the use of the “rhetoric of rudeness” in shutting down anti-racist protest, as well as the continued resistance that pushed the legal case against ARS 15-112 through multiple levels of the judicial system.

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