Questioning the Dream Act: A
Speaks Out Latina
By Andrea Zamudio
In a time of xenophobic explosions occurring on a number of fronts in our community, it is essential that we defend culturally relevant education, one of the critical elements that has been a catalyst for substantial change throughout history. Unfortunately, the attacks on ethnic studies are nothing new. Since the inception of this nation, one key element that has been deliberately stripped from both indigenous and African people has been the right to education that preserves one’s cultural history. If the invading Europeans truly believed that natives and Africans were savages incapable of learning, why did they feel the need to create laws that prevented enslaved Africans from learning to read or laws that forced natives to attend “Indian Schools” where they were indoctrinated with a history told from the perspective of Europeans? Both were systematic means to prevent any form of resistance.
Unfortunately, these times of hegemonic imposition are not of the past. Among many others, the enactment of the
bill banning ethnic studies, HB2281, demonstrates a continuing attack on empowering communities of color through knowledge of self and of their culture. The law bans any ethnic studies course that “promotes the overthrow of the Arizona government, promotes resentment of a particular race or class of people, [is] designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group, or advocates ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals”. Yet one cannot avoid noticing that in no way is this law being applied equally. White culture also has specific ethnic and social roots, but since it was forcibly made the dominant norm in this country, it is not described as “ethnic”. Meanwhile, history told from a Eurocentric perspective is standardized and its biases go unquestioned. U.S.
Without the opportunity to have a more profound and equal understanding of historical facts and events, Latinos will continue to have no historical context about our struggles, or of what we rightfully should demand from this government—from requiring accurate, culturally relevant education, to a return to the original version of the federal DREAM Act, to requiring that the U.S. ends its militarization of sovereign Latin American countries. Instead, the endemic belief that we should assimilate and compromise will continue to prevail and true freedom for our families here and back home will never be realized.
The mobilization of tens of thousands of young Latinos for the DREAM Act shows the potential, power, courage, and skill that we have in our community. But this movement has also revealed the limitation of our cultural awareness and knowledge of our history. Throughout the development of the DREAM movement I have seen how activists and Latino organizations have opted to take on a patriotic stance, aming to demonstrate that our communities have assimilated and will do anything for this country, even giving their lives for corporate interests as part of the military.
The irony of the almost unquestioning support for the DREAM ac—without any regard for how the military provision will militarize Latinos into low-ranking, life threatening positions—is that this same military is, in large part, the reason for why we are here as immigrants in the first place. From the Monroe Doctrine to Manifest Destiny, the
has used imperialist ideologies to justify intervention after intervention. More telling is the establishment of the School of the U.S. Americas, a military school on U.S. soil, designed specifically to train right-wing military personnel to carry out infiltration tactics, torture, and even mass executions against their own people as a means to ensure that U.S. corporations will have the opportunity to exploit the people and resources of Latin America.
From organizing a military coup to murder democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973, to providing the Contras in
Nicaragua with weapons—to financing the rise of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic—there are no moral limits to the sinister acts of the military. The same underlying imperialist logic that was used to invade our homelands—and that continues to covertly subvert Latin American autonomy—can be seen in the hypocritical justifications for U.S. U.S. involvement in the current wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Can we as a community that has already endured such brutal oppression justify participating in such acts against other people of color? Can we advocate enlisting our youth to fight in the very military that bears responsibility for displacing countless Latino youth and their families?
Until our history is equally integrated into the “mainstream” history of this country, we must seek ways to create spaces within which we can educate one another on a history that has been purposefully neglected. Only this will allow us to develop the necessary cultural pride, geopolitical understanding, and respect for our ancestors that we need to demand what we deserve. The militarization of our youth in the
U.S. and of our sisters and brothers in Latin America is not justified—and in no way should we settle for anything that permits this. If the number of young Latinos that have organized for the DREAM act would demand a return to the original volunteer provision with the condition that if this was not changed they would retract their votes from the Democratic Party—-I suspect that our demands would be taken more seriously. After all, disrupting the flow of money to politicians and challenging corporate and state power is the only proven route to social progress.
Andrea Zamudio can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org