On April 21st Sandra Soto gave a powerpoint presentation entitled "Wearing Down Arizona" where she explored the xenophobic nature of recently passed Arizona laws HB2281 (ban against ethnic studies programs) & HB1070 (new immigration law most known for requiring Mexican Americans to carry "papers"). I am particularly interested in the Soto's comments on HB2281. One of the most important claims that she makes in regards to the theoretical work that Arizona's ban on ethnic studies has done is its commitment to the claim that any attention to race or racism, even as a topic of study, is in itself racist. A common form of colorblind rhetoric that I believe right wing conservatives use in order to displace the conversation of identity politics and the problematics of racial hierarchy in the current conjuncture.
Overall I found Soto's presentation to be very compelling, but I was particularly interested in the following claims that she made. First, in describing the conjuncture she states that the neoliberal state aims to create and perpetuate dead citizenship. By dead citizenship Soto is describing a conjuncture where instead of inviting rigorous public debate and critique as a necessary component of democracy the nation has moved toward a more privatized and symbolic form of political engagement. Second, in describing the campaign strategies of HB2281 chief author Tom Horne, Soto points out the ways that through narrative illustration Horne uses images of "militancy" as defiant, disrespectful and hyper masculine to reaffirm the idea that ethnic studies programs are a divisive project. This narrative of militancy is used to defend Arizona's need to dismantle ethnic studies programs, which are allegedly teaching students to "misbehave". It is also worth noting that these representations are clear linkages to the "militancy" of radical black and brown movements of the 1970s and 1980s social movement era, which became the birth place of ethnic studies programs.
As former Chair of the 2010 Twin Cities Ethnic Studies Week committee and now National Coordinator, I am particularly interested in the ways that this xenophobic language becomes a part of the nations popular discourse, which the media disseminates. I am also working to think more critically about the ways that the "left" finds itself disabled by this type of colorblind rhetoric, which is well-known for recycling civil rights rhetoric for its own political gains. If anyone knows of any recent articles that I should look toward to further explore this topic please let me know!