*Arizona schools began 2011 under a controversial piece of legislation. The new law is the work of Governor Jan Brewer and the controversy flows from the fact that the law bans all “ethnic studies” programs in state schools. Among the provisions of HB 2281 that has minority groups upset is a section which makes it illegal to “advocate ethnic solidarity …”

In addition, the law makes it illegal to “promote resentment toward a race or class of people.” Critics charge that this provision could effectively ban teaching about white racism which has been practiced against minorities in the state. Dr. Snehal Shingavi of the University of Texas has reviewed the law and concludes that along with other recently passed legislation “HB 2281 is responsible for creating a climate of intolerance and suspicion against ethnic minorities and their allies.”

The law is basically a reaction to Arizona’s growing minority population, especially that of Hispanics. Currently, Latinos constitute nearly 31 percent of the state’s general population and an even larger percentage of its student population. Indeed, the provision banning the advocating of ethnic solidarity was a direct reaction to a program which called upon Hispanics to unite for greater political power and ethnic pride in the state.

Dr. Shingavi has called for the ban on ethnic studies to be overturned and groups are currently challenging the law in court. Next to Hispanics, the largest non-white ethnic group in the state is American Indians (4.9 percent of the population) followed by African Americans (4.4 percent of the population).

Banning ethnic studies programs has become a major campaign among several white conservative groups nationwide which fear the programs could prompt anger toward whites and their past mistreatment of minority group members.