It's happened before.
When Europeans invaded the Americas, they took our books away and claimed they were civilizing us.
They wanted to take our right to determine our fates away.
They wanted to inflict their point of view and their version of reality on us.
They wanted to marginalize us as indigenous people who needed their guidance.
The banning in Tucson is a political tactic to oppress us, just the latest attempt of many to lie to us, to spread distortions, to enfeeble us by taking away our rights to education. They know that education is a way to achieve equality, to empower ourselves, to see ourselves with pride and enhance our self-esteem. Books that see us as intelligent, that reflect our experience in a healthy light, lend themselves to invigorating our resistance against injustice.
The order from state superintendent of schools John Huppenthal is simply an escalation of anti-immigrant sentiment. It's a tacit admission of his racism. No matter how he veils his concern, each statement is a shroud to conceal his fear of Mexican Americans. This type of intervention is not merely a violation against my humanity, but beneath concept.
These crimes cloaked in the guise of educational reform are nothing more than an appalling attempt to imprison Mexican Americans so they have no chance at decent lives. While he wants us to accept his contemptible actions as credible and sugarcoats them with false compassion, this endeavor is nothing short of ripping apart the civil rights of Mexican Americans. He knows that without our books to educate ourselves, we condemn ourselves to a life of minimum wage servants always at the mercy of those more educated.
A group of Chicanos should go into Caucasian schools and take their books way.
The Chicanos should demonize them as inferior heathens.
They should wreck their self-esteem and demand they deserve no more a future than picking up trash on the highways.
They should stop and check them for weapons, for citizenship papers.
They should deport them and hold them in horrible holding prisons.
They should split apart their families and confiscate their homes.
They should buy the strong white males and use them as slaves and take the white women as mistresses, sell the children off to dirty old disgusting men for sexual use, and the whites who don't go along obediently, drive them out to the desert and bury them.
It's what they do to us and if they urge us to follow them and their wise paternal hand, that's what we would be doing.
I could go on and on, but simply put, it's an outrage, Mr. Huppenthal is a complete idiot, and stealing our books and blaming teachers as incompetent will never find traction.
The books will be returned, the students will again engage in self-determination. They will educate themselves, and their hope for a good future will again bloom.
You can't stop us, Mr. Huppenthal.
You will go on in politics, spouting gibberish in other areas, prowling for other powerless victims on which to build your stature. You'll be given a nice handsome check and extra privileges for inventing your lies and for spreading cancerous conflict.
We will go on to develop healthy lives, to protect our communities, to educate ourselves and nurture prosperous futures, despite your tyrannical impositions.
You cannot blind us to our love for our fathers and mothers and history and culture. You see, what drives us to attain good, successful lives is we love ourselves and the books that have helped us to honor our truth.
You, on the other hand, we will help. Many of the kids you offend today will one day be doctors, and they will help cure your seething hatred of Mexican Americans.
Postscript: When I was in prison in Florence, northeast of Tucson, the warden did the same thing to me: He came in and took my books and tried to force his way of seeing on me. I laughed at the attempt, and never thought in my wildest nightmares that another warden dressed up and cologned and paraded as a superintendent of schools would walk the landscape again blubbering his ghoulish rants, but Huppenthal is. They've banned six of my books. If I have to, Huppenthal, I will drive down personally and hand them out again to the students. You can't stop us from getting an education, Mr. Huppenthal, so go to Florence and don the garb of warden where you really belong.
Jimmy Santiago Baca is a poet and novelist who has written more than a dozen books, several of which, including A Place to Stand, were banned by the Tucson school district. For a powerful radio interview with Baca about his life as a writer, click here: http://www.progressive.org/radio/baca09.html