ARIZONA BANS ETHNIC STUDIES: The Republican-dominated Arizona legislature has passed a bill that will end ethnic studies classes in the state. The bill bans classes that "promote resentment toward a race or class of people," "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group" or "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating pupils as individuals." Also prohibited: all those classes that "promote the overthrow of the US government." The legislation applies to public and charter schools, K-12. The bill’s author, Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction, is seeking the Republican nomination for state attorney general.
State Senator Linda Lopez, a Democrat from Tucson, who opposed the bill, suggested that it would prohibit teaching about September 11 because that would promote hatred of Muslims. Supporters of the bill somehow rejected that argument. Fox News reported the good news that the bill "does not prohibit the teaching of the Holocaust."
The bill, coming on the heels of Arizona’s new immigration law, which authorizes police to demand proof of legal immigration status from anyone in the state, will further help Democrats recruit Latino support, especially for Senators Barbara Boxer in California and Harry Reid in Nevada, both facing re-election challenges in November. Since 1994, when California voters passed the anti-immigrant Proposition 187, Latinos have voted Democratic in overwhelming numbers.
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated across the country on May 1 against Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation. Protesters in seventy cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Washington, chanted, "Shame, shame, Arizona," and carried signs declaring, Todos Somos Arizona—"We Are All Arizona."
The ethnic studies bill has been sent to Governor Jan Brewer for her signature. She must act on it by May 11. JON WIENER
HOPE IN ARKANSAS: Arkansas is the only state in the former Confederacy that has never elected an African-American to Congress or a statewide office. Joyce Elliott hopes to change that shameful history.
Elliott, a state senator from Little Rock, is running for the 2nd Congressional District seat vacated by Democrat Vic Snyder, who is retiring. Arkansas is a prime battleground this year, with a heated Senate primary [see "What’s Right With Arkansas?" on page 11] and three open Congressional seats. The Senate race has rightly attracted national attention, but so too should Elliott’s bid for Congress.
Elliott grew up in the dirt-poor town of Willisville, population 188, and was the first to integrate her local high school in rural southwest Arkansas. "That was ugly," she told me in Little Rock. "There were no soldiers, no cameras." She paid her way through college, taught high school English for thirty-one years and became a leader with the American Federation of Teachers before joining the state legislature in 2000.