Tuesday, April 27, 2010

By the time SB 1070 gets to Arizona

From the 5/1 edition of The Real Views Magazine: http://therealviews.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/by-the-time-sb-1070-gets-to-arizona/

“Looki lookin’ for the governor/Huh he ain’t lovin’ ya/But here to trouble ya’”
– Public Enemy, “By the Time I Get to Arizona”

Across the nation, individuals who support causes of social justice for all peoples are infuriated by what is the most recent round of legislature passed by the extras from ‘Raising Arizona’ who compose the Arizona State Legislature. Before one expresses surprise or fresh disgust at the passing of “anti-illegal immigrant legislation” that will promote police harassment and racial profiling of anyone darker than a paper bag but lighter than a coconut shell (read:Latinos) in Arizona, consider the source.

Remember that this is a state known for government officials like Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who while abusing his power (and, as a federal investigation alleges, the Constitution) to arrest and convict illegal immigrants for petty crimes, neglected his duty to investigate and seek the incarceration of much more dangerous individuals. Phoenix Suns fans largely recoiled at his burgeoning relationship with Shaquille O’Neal and Amare Stoudamire, who are both “Special Deputies” in Maricopa County. One wonders if Arpaio’s intent was to sick them on Leandro Barbosa, Robin Lopez, and if he felt especially brave, Boris Diaw (a black Frenchman) or even Steve Nash, a Canadian of South African descent, who is as white as the day is long, but probably made his share of enemies in Phoenix after declaring anti-war statements.

It’s also a state legislature known for passing laws banning bilingual education among schoolchildren at the behest (and with the financial support of) Ron Unz, a financial services software executive from California, who made a name for himself traveling across the country promoting initiatives banning bilingual education. This legislation was pushed through in spite of the many obvious benefits of bilingual education and the obvious irony that of the many languages spoken in the State of Arizona, English is the one that has been spoken for the shortest amount of time historically. One wonders if this bias against multilingualism extends to the clubhouse of the Arizona Diamondbacks, formerly owned by ultra-conservative Jerry Colangelo. If so, according to their 2010 roster, nearly 25% of their players should be very careful to speak como el gabacho when el jefe comes around the corner, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to tuck their visas/green cards/drivers licenses into their socks.

I’m not sure how one says deja vu in Spanish, and perhaps there is no exact translation, but if people of Mexican descent need a primer on the concept of institutionally and culturally racist legislation being passed in the State of Arizona, they need only ask any African-American with a memory of longer than twenty years how it feels. And perhaps the State of Arizona would be well-suited to remember the fallout for its legislative actions, and how sport played a central role in reversing misguided legislation there.

MLK Holiday fallout
In 1986, then Governor of Arizona Bruce Babbit declared a holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., following suit with the rest of the nation although against the wishes of Senator John McCain (who later changed his position) and President Ronald Reagan (who later slept through the AIDS and crack-cocaine epidemics). When Governor Evan Meacham took office in 1987, he rescinded the holiday, sparking national outrage and leading to boycotts of, most notably, the NFL and the Super Bowl. When Super Bowl XXVII was awarded to the Rose Bowl instead of to the City of Tempe because the state failed to recognize the holiday, Tempe lost tens of millions in potential revenue, and the state was branded as intolerant and backwards as a result. The holiday was later approved in 1992 and the NFL lifted its ban, awarding Super Bowl XXX (1996) to Tempe. Meacham later became the first governor in the United States to become impeached, indicted for a felony, and replaced by recall election, and even still, he is remembered most for his crass insensitivity to minorities.

From SB XXX to SB 1070
SB 1070, recently approved by the state’s legislature and set to be signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, follows in Meacham’s errant footsteps. Faced with serious cultural, financial, and judicial problems related to illegal immigration in the state, and with inadequate support from the federal government, SB 1070 treats a hatchet wound with salt and lemon juice by arming police officers with the ability – no, charge – to confront individuals who appear to be immigrants “if reasonable suspicion exists.” In other words, not only will routine traffic stops potentially become unnecessary interrogations of legal U.S. residents, and police will spend increased time and resources racially profiling Arizonans (legal and “illegal” citizens), but as is the case in Maricopa County, it creates a context in which the prosecution of such crimes becomes paramount. Furthermore, the federal investigation of Sheriff Arpaio’s practices, which are allegedly unconstitutional, is brought into conflict with state law, as it is now legal for police to profile and harass citizens, so long as they are believed to be illegal at the onset.

The nation’s eyes again are on Arizona, and once again, for all of the wrong reasons. It is not unreasonable to believe that boycotts similar to those which occurred during the MLK Holiday fiasco will once again return. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-AZ has initiated the call for boycotts by “civic, religious, labor, Latino, (and) organizations of color to refrain from using Arizona as a convention site, to refrain from spending their dollars in the state of Arizona until Arizona turns the clock forward instead of backwards and joins the rest of the union.” Though a Rasmussen poll shows that 70% of Arizonans support stricter anti-immigration laws, legislators are not elected to follow the public’s demands, but rather to legislate in a manner that is for the greater good. Mass protests in Tucson and Phoenix indicate that this is not the case.

In the end, I am confident that SB 1070 will be repealed. Its sponsor, avowed white supremacist sympathizer and Holocaust denier Rep. Russell Pearce has zero credibility among fair-minded people, and many who support stricter anti-immigration policies do not, in theory or practice, support the initiation of a police state toward that end. Gov. Brewer’s approval ratings are abysmal (hovering around 20%) and though the aforementioned Arpaio and Fife Symington, former impeached governor and convicted felon (pardoned by then President Clinton) are also considering running in the next election, I have faith that the citizens of the State of Arizona will find themselves maligned until this law is erased from the books, and elect accordingly. And just like before, major boycotts of tourism and professional athletics organizations will lead to an economic sanctioning that ultimately cannot be absorbed in an already cash-poor state.

Until then, bring your papers to the park, athletes, if you’re visiting the Suns in the playoffs or the Diamondbacks during the regular season. And you might want to come up with a name other than “Copper State,” as the metal is far too dark so as to not draw Arizona State police officers attention.

1 comment:

Georgie said...

Chris and his lawyer buddies say this is so blatantly unconstitutional it isn't even a question or close call, and will be thrown out the first time someone sues the state, if not sooner. But dear Lord, what a PR nightmare for an already useless state...