Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies, Again

In 2012 Arizona passed a bill (HB 2281) targeting the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson Unified School District’s schools. The state dismantled the program and received national attention in the process.

Now, years laters, the Arizona head of public education, Superintendent Huppenthal, has declared more classes in Tucson to be illegal. In his last day in office (Huppenthal lost his re-election campaign after he was revealed to be the one behind a slew of anonymous racist and bigoted online comments) Huppenthal sent a letter to Tucson Unified School District citing reasons why certain classes are in violation of the law. Below is a sampling of that evidence.

Promoting Resentment Toward a Race of People

One piece of HB 2281 (A.R.S. § 15-112(A)(2)) outlaws material that “promotes resentment toward a race or class of people”. I agree that we don’t want to be teaching hate in our classrooms. Lets see some of the examples that Huppenthal claims violate this section of the law…

-An essay prompt “Why was American slavery the most brutal in history” was found to be illegal because it “promotes resentment toward a race or class of people”.

-The concepts “Hegemony, Social Reproduction Theory, Theory of Surplus Equality, Schooled by Social Class, Cultural Capital, Subordinate Group, Dominate Group, Colonization, Theory of Inequality of Language, Racial Justice Theory, Resistance Theory, Race, Racism, Strategic Conjuncture, Oppression Fatalism, Privilege, Subtractive Schooling, Agency, Transformation, Resistance Dystopian Parody” were all found to be illegal because they “promote resentment toward a race or class of people.”

-The prompt “Write about 3 ideas in the Declaration of Independence that are lies, hypocrisy, and break the social contract between new democracy colonial leaders, and the society they are representing” was found to be illegal because it “promotes the resentment toward a race or class of people”

-An example thesis for the prompt “offer your stance on the impact that European colonization had on the Natives of ‘The New World'” reads… “European colonization of ‘The New World’ has a horrifying and negative effect on the Natives that had been there for thousands of years”. This example thesis was found to be illegal because it “promotes resentment toward a race or class of people.”

mas protests

Advocating Ethnic Solidarity

Another section of the law passed in 2012One piece of HB 2281 (A.R.S. § 15-112(A)(4)) outlaws classroom material that “advocates for ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals”. Let take a look at some of the activities that Huppenthal thinks violate this section…

-Legendary Hip Hop artist KRS-One wrote a 4,000 word “Introduction to Hip Hop” which includes this 50 word excerpt that Huppenthal didn’t like, “Hiphop Kulture = or, Hip Hop’s culture, is the name of our unique community; it is the name of our tribe. Hiphop Kulture is the manifested character, patterns, beliefs, sciences and arts of OUR collective consciousness; it is our reality and mental landscape. Hiphop Kulture is an international community of specialized urban people.”  This excerpt was found to illegally advocate ethnic solidarity. *UPDATE: KRS-One is scheduled to perform in Tucson AZ on Jan 27th @ The Rialto (buy tickets)

-In one teacher’s syllabus it says, “In this class we will study the history and culture of Chicano, Mexicano and indigenous people throughout the United States and Mexico. This class is intended to get students to become critically conscious about the society that we in and the history that has made it what it is today”. Again Huppenthal declares these sentences illegal because they advocate for ethnic solidarity.

Overthrowing the United States Government

One piece of HB 2281 (A.R.S. § 15-112(A)(1)) outlaws anything in the classroom that “promotes the overthrow of the United States government”.   Not surprisingly Huppenthal even found a case where a Tucson class promoted an overthrow of the US government…

-Analyzing the lyrics of  “Take the Power Back” from Rage Against the Machine’s 1993 self titled 3x platinum album was found to promote the overthrow of the US government and thus is illegal.


While HB 2281 seems absurd, or at least unnecessary, the way it has been applied to specific cases has been absolutely despicable. Prompts about slavery and about the colonization of America are found to be illegal because they “promote resentment toward a race or class of people”? The concept of colonization itself is somehow deemed illegal?  Telling students they will be taught US history through a “critically conscious” advocates ethnic solidarity? And incorporating lyrics from a multiplatinum selling album is said to promote the overthrow of the US government? All I can say is that the biggest thing that promotes resentment and requires ethnic solidarity is the attack on knowledge that the state of Arizona is perpetrating.

Notes and Related Articles