Monday, May 17, 2010

Arizona, Your Dixie is Showing

Is Arizona losing its mind? I thought Arizona's new law allowing police officers to require papers of people suspected of being illegal immigrants was harsh and wrong and wide open for abuse. I understand that they have a problem with immigration, but I don't think demanding citizens to prove themselves (because let's face it, that's gonna happen), is the way to eradicate the problem. Especially when there are no standard ways to determine who looks illegal, who doesn't belong, except that they look brown and/or poor. But maybe, maybe, I could chalk the law up to what Republicans keep saying is Arizona's desperation surrounding what to do about illegal immigration. Until I read this. So now they can't have ethnic studies classes? Because Chicano students learn that they are oppressed? Forget that there's some truth in it. Now, you're going to oppress them by not allowing them to learn about themselves, but it will be okay because they won't learn that this is a way of oppressing them? Smart. And racist.

My goodness! Every time I talk about racism in my classes here in Biblebelt, my African American students have story after story about their individual experiences with racism (though sadly, none of them recognize the institutional racism that affects them all), but all of their encounters take place in the South which leads them to believe that the South is the hotbed of racist activity and all other areas of the country have evolved. I think Arizona is trying to say, "No, we haven't. Remember we didn't want Dr. King's birthday either. We don't want people of color here."
But Arizona is not alone, as I try to tell my students. Sean Bell's death happened in New York. The Compton Cookout Party happened in California. And now that we have a nation experiencing massive economic hardship and its first Black president, this type of xenophobic, racist vitriol is happening all over the country.

History has shown us that when resources are scarce, the population becomes quite territorial. I think the Holocaust is an extreme example of this fact. The Germans were suffering and they began to believe the Jews were responsible. Enter xenophobia. Here, in America, we have the event of a lack of jobs and lost houses/shelter; combine that with a new face in authority and we have a perfect storm that rallies Tea Partiers to yell "Give us our country back!" And although they like to dress it up and say they are calling for the return of their country from the government, when the government seemed to be in the hands of a White man who said it was okay to spy on their phone conversations, check into their library book selections, hold them for weeks without benefit of counsel and declare war without their permission, they didn't ask for it back. But when a Black man (who, by the way, is half White and was raised by White people) tries to bring about health care for the majority of Americans, then they want it back. I think they are saying we want it back from the minorities. I think Arizona is striking now before the minorities can take over completely.

But the thing is, the minorities aren't taking over. We still have massive oppression to overcome (even though apparently Arizona and others would rather pretend they don't exist). Minorities are still disproportionately incarcerated; percentage-wise, they have the highest infant mortality rate; minorities were the largest percentage of people losing their homes in this housing fiasco; there are only two people of color on the Supreme Court and one is certainly not working for the good of other people of color; and how many minorities are there in the Senate? Plus, I don't know what the fear is (Glenn Beck), but Obama is really not working toward empowering Black people at the expense of Whites or anyone else. Ask, Tavis Smiley. According to him, Obama is pretty much ignoring Black issues.
If America is to live up to its ideals, what's wrong with minorities being on the come-up? Why can't it actually be about the best being the victor, regardless of color or ethnicity? So, there's a job up for grabs. We shouldn't be like, "They are taking our jobs." The jobs shouldn't belong to anyone except the person--male, female, black, white, brown, etc.--who best meets the qualifications. I realize that it becomes complicated because our history has determined that some people will be in a better position to meet the qualifications than others. So, things like Mexican-American studies should be taught because that will help those individuals become better prepared to meet the qualifications. Studies have shown that when students learn about themselves as a people, they do better in school and thus in life. This wouldn't give them a leg up on the competition; it would just help them get on even footing so that the race would be fair.

These are scary times. Yesterday, on one of the Sunday Morning Talk Shows, the host said 70% of the people supported Arizona's new immigration law. (He went on to say that when they polled non-white people, the numbers were turned upside down against the law.) Apparently, we need to be ever vigilante because I don't think Arizona is the exception. If we're not careful, America is going to march itself right back into the Victorian era.


Good Enough Woman said...

I couldn't agree more.

The Steel Magnolia said...

You said it, TD! My other thought: if you think that teaching ethnic studies "creates" the feeling of oppression by white folk, what do you think snatching it away is going to do? These events are related. And frightening.

Digger said...

"These are scary times. Yesterday, on one of the Sunday Morning Talk Shows, the host said 70% of the people supported Arizona's new immigration law. (He went on to say that when they polled non-white people, the numbers were turned upside down against the law.)"

So what he really said was, non-white people are not people who count. At least not when you're asking for opinions. WTF?