As The Pima Liberator wrote on Saturday, Arizona state representatives Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff) and Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley) have introduced a new bill, HB2120, that would require Arizona’s publicly funded schools, community colleges and universities to give up 10% of their public funding if they “promote division, resentment, or social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class, or other class of people.”
One of Representative Thorpe’s constituents since wrote him about HB2120, asking the Representative to explain more about the bill and his reasons for introducing it. In his emailed response, Rep. Thorpe saw fit to quote Rodney King as offering an example of the kind of sentiment that Arizona schools should promote in place of social justice.
From: Bob Thorpe [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Sunday, January 15, 2017 3:23 PM
Subject: RE: HB2120
Thank you for writing to me regarding HB2120.
HB2120 does not prohibit or stop any class or activity from occurring within Arizona, it simply stops taxpayers from having to fund classes that discriminate. The people who are against HB2120 are spreading lies and misinformation about the bill. They are also the ones who WANT classes that promote resentment towards others… they want to foster discrimination.
I love the quote from Rodney King (the 1992 Los Angeles riots) who said “Can we all just get along.” Well, we can’t all just get along when college and university professors are driving wedges of resentment between our students and our citizens. (emphasis added)
Rodney King was an African-American taxi driver who was severely beaten and tasered by Los Angeles Police Officers following a high-speed chase in the early morning hours of March 3, 1991. After his arrest Mr. King was taken to the hospital where he was found to have suffered a fractured facial bone, a broken right ankle, and multiple bruises and lacerations. In a negligence claim filed with Los Angeles, Mr. King alleged he suffered 11 skull fractures, permanent brain damage, broken bones and teeth, kidney failure and emotional and physical trauma. The Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department, led by Secretary of State Warren Christopher, published a comprehensive report on the incident and its aftermath.
The irony of Rep. Thorpe’s email is staggering. The Rodney King beating and the subsequent acquittal of the police officers who assaulted him are prime examples of what happens in our society when we don’t promote social justice towards all races, genders, religions, political affiliations, and classes. For Rep. Thorpe to quote Mr. King as a way of justifying his efforts to kill off social justice education in Arizona is ironic, tragic, horrific, and the epitome of willful ignorance. I have a feeling, Mr. Thorpe, that if you asked Mr. King if the proper lesson of his mug shot is that we should not teach our children about social justice, the answer would be a resounding and emphatic no.
Moreover, it is not dialogue and education which cause the kind of “resentment” that you condemn in you bill. Discussing race relations, questioning history, and encouraging students to think critically about power relationships have markedly positive effects: these classes build community, heal injuries inflicted through dominance, and promote conversations in which students can imagine better futures for all of us. Education does not cause resentment, Mr. Thorpe; repressive laws do that. Draining our public schools of their already-strained resources causes resentment. Instituting a policy of denial when it comes to the painful parts of our history causes resentment – and rightly so.
Paulo Freire wrote, “any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence.” Whether this prohibition occurs through outright censorship or through financial intimidation, this sentiment rings true.
– Joel Feinman & Tara Taylor