Saturday, April 24, 2010

A sort of footnote to the preceding

So Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed that xenophobic, racist, un-American, unconstitutional, just downright fucking offensive bill empowering, indeed pressuring, all Arizona police to arrest anyone who can't prove on demand that they are in the US legally. Making that demand requires only "reasonable suspicion." What constitutes the basis for such suspicion is undefined, positively inviting the widest possible interpretation - or, perhaps more accurately, the narrowest possible interpretation: If you're white, you're all right; if you're brown, you go down.
"This is the most reprehensible thing since the Japanese internment," said Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state senator and community leader. "This is the saddest day for me. It's shameful."
But oh no, Brewer insists, that's completely wrong. There will be absolutely no racial profiling involved. None at all. Nope, uh-uh. How can she be so sure? Well, because she got language in the bill prohibiting cops from “solely considering race, color, or national origins.” Oh, well, then, excuse me, I surely am, as she says opponents are, "overreacting." Because, after all, if you can't solely consider race, color, or national origin, if that can't be the single thing you use to suspect people of being "illegal," how could there be anything racist or xenophobic about it? I mean, after all!

In fact, there are lots of other ways you can tell who is an "illegal."
Law enforcement officers can spot illegal immigrants based on their clothes, Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) claimed last night. ...

"They will look at the kind of dress you wear, there's different type of attire, there's different type of...right down to the shoes, right down to the clothes," Bilbray [said].
So demanding "You papers, please" of some guy because he's brown, that's right out. Will never happen. Because that would be wrong. But making the same demand because he's brown and has that kind of shoes - I mean, you know, that kind, the kind "illegals" wear - well, that's different. That's just fine. No racial profiling there.

What's more, there's a way you can be sure there will be no profiling: The law also gives legal standing to any citizen who wants to sue police for inadequate enforcement. And obviously that will only be used by good government types seeking to insure completely fair and unbiased treatment and not by some septic-brained mouth breather pissed off because "the cops ain't lockin' up enough Spics."

The ACLU is among the groups and agencies planning to challenge the "discriminatory" bill, saying it
requires law enforcement to question individuals about their immigration status during everyday police encounters. The law creates new immigration crimes and penalties inconsistent with those in federal law, asserts sweeping authority to detain and transport persons suspected of violating civil immigration laws and prohibits speech and other expressive activity by persons seeking work.
Indeed, the law essentially makes it illegal to pick up or transport day laborers (or for day laborers to be picked up) even though courts have found that solicitation of work is protected speech under the First Amendment.
"By signing this bill into law, Brewer has just authorized violating the rights of millions of people living and working here[," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona. "]She has just given every police agency in Arizona a mandate to harass anyone who looks or sounds foreign...."
Some people are predicting electoral doom for the GOP in Arizona in the longer term as a result of the anger this will generate in the Hispanic community. In the shorter term, various groups and individuals are calling for a boycott of Arizona, something like the effective boycott of Colorado in the early 1990s in protest of a vote to repeal legal protections for gays and lesbians there. Among those people is Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who got death threats as a result.

Among others is me.

With all that said, though, a question remains: Why did I call this "a sort of footnote to the preceding" post? It's because of the chief sponsor of the bill, one Russell Pearce, who called the signing "a good day for America." In an interview with NPR in 2008, he said of undocumented workers,
Invaders, that's what they are. Invaders on the American sovereignty and it can't be tolerated.
He also admitted to
feeling uncomfortable with the way society is changing in Arizona. He attributes it partly to Mexicans' and Central Americans' "way of doing business."

"Drive around parts of Phoenix. I get calls all the time and it's not that they're Hispanic, it's because the culture is different."
Different in a way that, according to him, means higher crime, "more violence, kidnappings are way up."

Robert Cruickshank writes that
[t]his conflation of "illegal" with "Hispanic" is by no means new, even though there are lots of Irish undocumented immigrants in the US. What Pearce represents is the very same phenomenon we're all too familiar with here in California: white anxiety at the fact that their country was never as white as they believed, and is becoming steadily more diverse. Blaming "illegals" is merely an easier way of couching one's racism.
Thus, a footnote because it seems to me I just said something quite similar to that: These people are "uncomfortable with the way society is changing." More accurately, they are scared out of their wits because whether or not the US "was never as white as they believed" it clearly is not as white as it was and never will be again. Their entire concept of their personal world is crumbling and they know it. And that leads to such as this bill and to right wing militias, to efforts to stop the "invasion" of The Other. Combining that fear-driven racism with the very real loss of economic security many of us have suffered leads to fantasies and phantoms, to screeching about "death panels" and hunting down Kenyan birth certificates. It leads to a zero-sum calculation directed against those who are weaker than you either socially or economically or both, viewing every gain for them as an equivalent loss to you. It leads to anger, to resentment, to cults of personality, sometimes to violence, all of it, at root in the masses of people (not their exploiters among the rich, the powerful, the well-established but the masses of people), a cry of "For God's sake, leave me alone!"

That's a cry both unanswered and unanswerable because the clock of history is not going to stop for them any more than it would stop for anyone else. Which is why, when I look at the TPers, even as I fear the potential harm they can do, even as I openly despise the racist agenda (such as the Arizona bill) that they enable, I can't help but see them, in the long run of history, as other than tragic figures - like Shays' Rebellion but without the dignity - or as tragicomic ones, remembered more as a slogan or a label (such as "teabaggers") than as a real movement - like the Know Nothings but without the longevity.

That, however, is in the longer term - and in the short term they still must be opposed. I just think our opposition will be more effective if we keep in mind that there are some legitimate economic grievances underneath the screaming.

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