Even before I lived in Arizona, I was told by many of the state’s boosters that Arizona was a “test-market” region. Apparently, because of the variety of people and the diversity of their origins, companies liked to share their evolving products with our residents to see what we thought. As Arizona went, so went the nation—at least in regard to New Coke.

If we were considered a model for the nation in commerce, we should not be surprised to see that other of our qualities have caused a national stir.

Today launches the national effort called Ethnic Studies Week. Though its recognition will occur in cities and towns across the United States, it got at least part of its genesis right here. As the organizers describe it:

“The first Ethnic Studies Week October 1-7, 2010 was inspired by opposition to the May 11 2010 passage of HB 2281 in Arizona banning ethnic studies in the AZ public schools and the May 21 2010 passage of new social studies standards by the influential Texas State Board of Education. It was initiated by 225 educators, endorsed by educational and activist organizations around the country, and open to all who wanted to participate, as hundreds did in individual K-12 and college classrooms, where students, listened to speakers, watched films and paused to reflect on the importance of ethnic studies. Public events occurred in dozens of venues … .”

Odd, in a way, that businesses choose to focus-group their products here due to diverse origins, but a national movement was launched due to a conflict over whether that very thing was even admirable. But ethnic studies has become a rallying cry for opposing camps. Of interest to me, it also had a “legal” beginning, and the resolution is likely to end with a court’s opinion.

Eddy Zheng

Locally, if you’re Ethnic Studies-curious, I came across a few events at which you might listen, learn and maybe vent your own spleen, depending on your viewpoint. One event is this afternoon, and the second is on Thursday.  They are listed through ASU’s School of Social Transformation:

Monday, October 3
“Be the Change Within,” a talk by Eddy Zheng
3:30 – 5 p.m.
West Hall 135, ASU’s Tempe campus
Activist, community organizer and former prisoner Eddy Zheng will speak about his experiences and perspectives concerning youth, education, immigration and the prison industrial complex, as well as coming into political consciousness while reading ethnic studies texts behind bars.

Thursday, October 6
“A World We Were Never Meant to Survive: Education, Repression and Resistance in Tucson,” a Teach-in/Panel Discussion
6 -8 p.m.
West Hall 135, ASU’s Tempe campus
What is the status of the fight over Mexican American studies curriculum in the Tucson Unified School District in the wake of HR 2281? How might it affect us here in Tempe/Phoenix and why should it concern us? Join Tucson teachers and students, activists and professors from the University of Arizona for a special teach-in and panel discussion.

Complete details are here.

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C-Fu Gourmet in Chandler, Arizona, is known to have some of the best dim sum in the state (some say it’s the best). And that may be the ideal location for the Arizona Asian American Bar Association annual banquet. For dim sum stands for the proposition that people enjoy the opportunity to have little plates of a variety of things. Even if something is not to your taste, wait a minute and another plate will be by.

Kind of like diversity. There is value to variety, even if you don’t partake in everything.

(I wrote about the Asian American Bar banquet and C-Fu before, here and here.)

So what makes the multiple-plates approach especially appropriate for the Asian Bar’s annual dinner? It is their selection of entertainment and keynote speakers for this evening. It’s a veritable stir-fry.

The entertainment will be partly provided by a Canadian American lawyer known most recently for his distaste for a focus on “hyphenated Americans.” Tom Horne, now the Attorney General of Arizona, took on the ethnic-studies program in the Tucson Unified School District when he was Superintendent of Public Instruction—a battle that continues. He has since been one of the biggest supporters of Arizona’s own melding of criminal and immigration law, in the form of SB1070.

Tom Horne, Arizona Attorney General

Ladies and gentlemen, the Asian American Bar gives you … Tom Horne on piano! (You’ll see I omitted the hyphen.)

Not sure you’ll partake? Well, wait just a few minutes, because the keynote speaker is coming to the stage. He is an accomplished California American lawyer who is the President and Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles. He and APALC are known most recently for their distaste for SB1070. In fact, APALC has been a leader in organizing plaintiffs and challenging the law.

On keynote duties, we have … Stewart Kwoh!

(Full disclosure: (1) My wife is on the board of the Arizona chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League; the national association is a plaintiff. (2) As a young California lawyer, I worked along with APALC on a large-scale immigration case regarding Thai workers. I have met Mr. Kwoh but do not know him well.)

Does each know the other will be there? Would either be pleased or dismayed? If they were asked, really nicely, to sing a duet, would they?

The Asian American Bar may have dipped farther into the combination plates than they would have liked. As word began to emerge about the evening’s pianist, Asian American community members voiced their upset. They had worked hard against the law, and hearing the ivories tickled by its advocate was not their idea of a good time. Some people who have attended before have refused to attend. And some community associations may have opted not to purchase a table.

I spoke with a leader of Los Abogados about the developments. That association of Hispanic lawyers has been vocal in its opposition to SB1070. Was it disturbed that a sister bar would invite one of the law’s most prominent defenders, even if only for a musical interlude?

Stewart Kwoh, Asian Pacific American Legal Center

The Los Abogados leader was extremely polite about the affair. He acknowledged that many were surprised at the news. But he said it had led to extensive and productive conversations with the Asian Bar leadership. He said that Los Abogados had stressed that, despite popular belief, SB1070 is not a “Hispanic” issue; instead, the group sees it as a civil-rights issue that affects everyone.

Would Los Abogados be purchasing a table? No, the leader said, but they did not purchase one every year anyway. And individual Los Abogados members may be purchasing for themselves.

I will be there tonight, and I expect I’ll take some photos and maybe even some video of the musical entertainment. More to come.

In the meantime, pass the noodles.

The past week has seen a lot of press over a video and its related commentary.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne visited the state Capitol recently, and was in the process of being interviewed by a reporter from Spanish-language media. As he strode up to begin the interview, a group of protestors surrounded him and chanted a variety of things.

He finally abandoned the attempt to conduct the interview and returned to his car, followed the entire way by the crowd.

Attorney General Horne subsequently sent a press release calling the protestors a “thuggish mob.” Their behavior, the release suggested, was par for the course for ethnic studies supporters. (I have included the entire press release below.)

That led to some harsh words in the Arizona Republic (in both an editorial and a blog post), as well as a response by AG Horne.

Watch the video and tell me what you think. Did the protestors exhibit “thuggish behavior,” or acceptable First Amendment speech? Were their actions over the top, or was it par for the course for modern political protests?

(For fairness sake, I link you not to the video that the AG’s Office sent out in its press release, because that video included captions and commentary that were added by his supporters. Instead, I link to the identical video without the commentary. However, feel free to watch the other video; its link is at the end of the press release below.)

Now, let me know what you think.

(I have to add one bit of sympathy for Attorney General Horne. At about 3:40 in the video, as he is trailed by a throng of vocal non-supporters, he appears to have forgotten where he parked. He strolls through the Capitol lot, protestors serpentining behind him, and finally locates his wheels. Having wandered lots myself looking for a car I’ve lost, I can say, “I’ve been there.”)

Here is the March 17 press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Contact:  Amy Rezzonico (602) 542-8019

www.AZAG.gov | Facebook | Twitter

RAZA STUDIES SUPPORTERS, IN A THUGGISH MOB, TRIED TO SHOUT DOWN ATTORNEY GENERAL HORNE

PHOENIX (Thursday March 17, 2011) — Attorney General Tom Horne today released a video of a screaming mob of Raza Studies supporters who interfered with the Attorney General’s efforts to accommodate a request to be interviewed by a television news crew.    

In the video below, viewers can see a thuggish mob of Raza Studies supporters trying to shout down Horne, to attempt to prevent an interview with Univision Television.

Horne was in the process of leaving the Capitol after a meeting, when a reporter from Univision Televsion asked him to return to where his cameraman was, so he could do an interview in Spanish, as frequently does for Spanish-language media.  A thuggish mob of Raza Studies reporters surrounded them and tried to prevent the interview, screaming at the top of their lungs.  When the interview was over, Horne walked to his car, still surrounded by the mob, screaming vulgar epithets. 

Horne said, “The Raza Studies program teaches irrational mob behavior as a matter of habit.  For example, they did a street play called ‘the killing of Tom Horne’ which was filmed by channels 4 and 9 in Tucson, and broadcast.”

For a YouTube video (not produced by this office) of Attorney General’s Horne encounter this week go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu3UW_Cw1-8.