Arizona judge declares ban on Mexican-American studies course to be unconstitutional

Federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima wrote that "both enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus."

Published August 23, 2017 11:17AM (EDT)

 (<a href=''>KPG_Payless</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(KPG_Payless via Shutterstock)

A federal judge has ruled that an Arizona ban on ethnic studies classes is inherently racist.

The statute in question prohibited classes from promoting resentment toward individual races and classes or advocating ethnic solidarity instead of individualism, according to a report by the Associated Press. Although Federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima had previous upheld most of the law, a federal appeals court sent the case back for a July trial in order to ascertain whether racism had been a motivating factor in its passage.

He decided that had been the case, arguing that "both enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus." He stopped short of calling for any specific remedy or offering a final judgment, even though the plaintiffs' lawyers had hoped he would throw out the law.

Tom Horne, who drafted the law as superintendent of public schools and defended it as state attorney general, condemned Tashima's ruling on the grounds that it enables a class which "divides students by race and promotes ethnic chauvinism." He was motivated to push for the bill after high school students taped their mouths shut, turned their backs on and eventually walked out of a presentation by one of his aides who was arguing that Republicans do not hate Latinos.

Horne has argued that Mexican-American Studies classes, which he had never attended, encouraged racism against white people from the students.

One of Arizona's most notable current residents, Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, became infamous for allegedly targeting Latinos for racial profiling during his tenure and violating a court order to stop patrols that targeted him. Former Gov. Jan Brewer achieved similar notoriety earlier in the decade for passing an anti-immigration law that critics also felt would lead to racial profiling.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Arizona Ethnic Studies Mexican Americans Racism