Everyone knows that Arizona is the center of the anti-immigrant movement. But not enough people know that it is fast-becoming the center of the anti-intellectual movement too. And just like Arizona’s anti-immigrant laws spread, so too will Arizona’s censorship laws spread. For right now, the target is Mexican-American Studies. But how far will Arizona go? Banning Women’s Studies could be next.
Arizona House Bill 2281 prohibits public education courses that promote the overthrow of the government. For now, the law is being used to prohibit only Mexican-American Studies. However, this law is so vague that it can be used to ban many other courses as well. And because of the current political climate, I am certain that reactionaries will go after Women’s Studies.
After all, all they have to do is find one line, in one work, by one writer, from an entire list of books in the curriculum that is critical of the U.S. government or judicial system. Then they can ban every book in that course. So, let’s say a conservative legislator finds one line in a book that says something negative about, say, former President George W. Bush, or critiques the gender make-up of Congress, or points out the inequities of our judicial system. Any of these can be construed as “promoting the overthrow of the government.”
I bet there is even a sexist legislator somewhere who has his finger on the line that he will use to prohibit Women’s Studies in his state, once he gets the chance. Because once one voice of diversity is successfully silenced, narrow-minded elected bigots set their sights on others.
Arizona HB2281 and its far-reaching potential is the reason why the Librotraficante Movement launched its 50 for Freedom of Speech observation across the country this September 21, 2012. We want to raise awareness of this issue and gather donations for La Raza Defense Fund created to help two teachers who are being sued as a result of their activism.
From New York to San Francisco to Los Angeles, from Chicago to Iowa City to Milwaukee, and even to places that you never imagined had a large presence of Latinos, Librotraficante events took place—in cities like Manhattan, Kansas, Lincoln, Nebraska, Louisville, Kentucky, and others.
Read Related: In Defense of Books, Not Banning
Readings of powerful prose and poetry kicked celebrated exhibits of contraband books by Mexican-American writers, which will stay up through Banned Books Week, through the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, and up to the elections. Many of these events were the first literary events that our allies organized. But they won’t be the last. Already, each site is saying: What is next? Let’s do more.
If you want to be a part of the movement, join us. Just visit our website to download your kit, and keep us posted: at Librotraficante.com.
We will win this battle. We are committed.
As you may recall, The Librotraficante Caravan smuggled banned books back to Arizona in March of this year, and captured the American imagination in the process. More than 1,000 books were donated; we opened four underground libraries, and we unleashed the Latino Literary Renaissance.
Our work continues. We just opened our sixth underground library and have sites for our seventh and eighth. And when Arizona conservatives go after Women’s Studies and try to ban more books, Librotraficante will be there to ensure that freedom of speech is protected, and that banned authors’ voices and words are heard.
We will not rest until Arizona House Bill 2281 is repealed. We know that this law will not withstand Supreme Court scrutiny. However, if it takes two or three years for HB2281 to be repealed, we will lose too many kids to the drop out rate, to gangs, to the trauma of having to watch their teachers be forced to box books by our most beloved authors. Which books will their teachers be ordered to box up next? Women’s Studies? African-American Studies?
This Hispanic Heritage Month, we have to really fight for not just our own heritage, but for freedom of speech, the freedom to celebrate diversity and divergent views, and the freedom to read and learn the subjects of our choosing. Or, who knows, one day Hispanic Heritage Month could be banned for focusing too much on one group, for teaching ethnic solidarity, for promoting the overthrow of the government.