Targeted Mexican American Studies Teachers in Tucson Set Up Defense Fund « SpeakEasy

Targeted Mexican American Studies Teachers in Tucson Set Up Defense Fund « SpeakEasy.

First they came for their nationally acclaimed Mexican American Studies courses. Then they came for their books and confiscated them from the classrooms. Next they came for their jobs.

As the latest episode in the witch hunt of the outlawed Mexican American Studies program in Tucson by extremist lawmakers, two celebrated teachers are now facing a dubious and highly disturbing lawsuit for “defamation” by a disgruntled former teacher backed by the Ethnic Studies destroyer, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and his right-wing allies.

To support the targeted Mexican American Studies teachers Sean Arce and Jose Gonzalez, education and civil rights advocates have created a special defense fund to cover the mounting legal expenses, such as depositions, video taping of depositions, and transcriptions of depositions.

In one of the most bizarre, if not ironic, twists, the lawsuit by former teacher John Ward–who taught a Mexican American history course nearly a decade ago and embraced his role as a FOX News media darling–falsely claims his “good name and reputation as an educator have been damaged” by the Mexican American Studies (MAS) program teachers and demands a whopping $1 million in damages.

Speaking of defamation: The accused teachers, MAS co-founder Arce and beloved teacher Gonzalez, have endured a relentless state-funded campaign since 2006 that has blatantly misrepresented their documented achievements, compared them to Hitler Nazi youth and the KKK, labeled their teaching as “cult-like,” and literally destroyed their very livelihoods and teaching careers.

Ward appeared with Horne at a press conference in Tucson in the past, where he declared that the Mexican American Studies program was administered by “vehemently anti-American zealots.” He claimed he wanted to counterbalance the teaching of Mexican American perspectives, and sought to introduce the work of controversial author Dinesh D’Souza, whose book, The End of Racism, called for repealing the 1964 Civil Rights Act: “The American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well,” D’Souza wrote.

Noting that such ” unfounded allegations intended to damage and restrain activists from continuing their important community-based and social movement organizing and education work,” Dr. Devon Peña, the past chair of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, recently wrote about Ward’s and Horne’s legal strategy. “This attack is not just on two esteemed colleagues,” Peña noted. “It is an attack on all of us; on our freedom of association and freedom of speech; it is an underhanded attack against our rights to criticize injustice and organize our communities for self-realization and autonomy.”

Defense fund organizers added: “The Ward case against Arce and González is a critical one, one that is indicative of the politics and climate of fear and discrimination against the Mexican American/Chicano community in Arizona, one that speaks directly to the notion of social justice, and is one that cannot be successfully defended in the courts without your financial assistance.”

Jeff Biggers is the American Book Award-winning author of Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland (Nation/Basic Books), among other books. Visit his website: http://www.jeffbiggers.com
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