A recent issue of the Christian Science Monitor supports editorially Arizona’s racial profiling law, and an accompanying article calls Arizona a “maverick sate” that merely “goes its own way.” Correspondent Bill Glauber, not surprisingly, deliberately evades the problem with the law by claiming that police can check for legal status only after a “lawful stop,” when in fact the law allows police to check for status merely if they “suspect” a person is an illegal immigrant, even when otherwise no crime has been committed. If a police officer sees a Latino on the street, and he or she has a hair up their fundament or feels like harassing a “Mexican,” they are free to simply walk up to said person and demand their “papers.” As some incidents have suggested, even a U.S. citizen who doesn’t happen to be carrying their birth certificate with him or her is subject to detention indefinitely until they can “prove” their legality.
Arizona claims it has been “pushed” to engage in such racism and civil rights violations. But one rancher quoted in the article stated that he himself didn’t have an issue with people migrating north to look for work; in fact he sympathized with them. His concern was with drug-trafficking, for which the U.S. as the principle market for illegal drugs is just as responsible for as Mexico (and the countries that supply it). But this is just a detail for the hate-filled fanatics who are really driving the immigration “debate.” The reality is that this state which alone opposed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday for years has a long history of racial bigotry, as is evident in the connections that the immigration law has with hate groups. Take, for example, Russell Pearce, the principle legislative sponsor of the law. The Monitor (and the mainstream media generally) seems completely unaware of his racist connections. Is Pearce really as ignorant as he claims to be of the views of his good friend J.T. Ready? Ready is a member of the neo-Nazi group White Knights of America, which claims to be “a group of proud men and women who are fighting against the anti-Nordic politics, policies and laws which are being forced upon us…to create one Race, class, religion, penal code and school of knowledge under the false guise of equality, prosperity, law, justice and order.” Naturally, they say that it isn’t a “crime” to “love” the “white race”—it’s just a “crime” to intermingle with “impure” races--like "Mexicans," for example.
The Monitor, in keeping with the general tenor of mainstream media coverage, also fails to mention that the group responsible for crafting the law—the Federation for American Immigration Reform—has been identified as a hate organization by Southern Poverty Law Center. And there’s more: FAIR is in part bankrolled by a mysterious group called the Pioneer Fund, which promotes Nazi-style racial purity and eugenics “research.” And the trail of racism doesn’t stop there: the Fund’s largest benefactor is Swiss-born scientist William Kistler, who currently lives in Seattle; Kistler promotes what he calls the “Kistler Prize,” an award which apparently rewards “researchers” who advance the cause of white racism. Why this fascination with race differentiating? Why this insistence on so-called white superiority? This is the very definition of racism.
Thus Arizona is not a “test case” in immigration “reform.” It is a test case of whether racism will be openly tolerated in this country. I frankly have long suspected that this country has already traveled well past that point. I was recently followed into a public storage unit by two police officers; they claimed that I aroused their “suspicion” because I walked into the unit instead of driving into it. I knew better, of course: I looked like a “Mexican,” and "Mexicans" are, of course, congenitally criminal. Despite the fact that they had seen me punch in a correct key code to enter the facility, they demanded that I show them written “proof” that I had in fact a unit there. But who keeps such “proof” save at home? I showed the police the key to my unit and offered to take them to its location and open it for them. But they declined to do this, and insisted on detaining me until I showed them “written proof.” It was only when the manager arrived and I waved her over that the matter was “resolved”—if only because I now had a witness to the harassment and the police did not have a sufficient explanation for their behavior-- save for that they wished not to enunciate. On another occasion I was waiting at a bus stop after work when a police officer approached me and demanded that I show him where my name was on a laptop computer that I was carrying; it was only after I managed to make him look like a bigoted fool in front of a crowd of onlookers that the officer saved face by making a perfunctory “inspection” of the laptop and departed.
This is not to say that the U.S. doesn’t have an immigration problem; it is just that is one largely of its own making. The U.S. and Mexico have a long history of migratory labor exchanges, such as the bracero program. However, because the current work visa program with Mexico and Latin America is purposefully discriminatory and prohibitive for businesses to use, it in fact encourages illegal immigration. Even while it is claimed that immigrants are “stealing” jobs from “real” Americans, the U.S. continues to fly in people all over the globe—eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean—to do manual labor, when it has always had a willing and able workforce south of the border to “fill-in” the labor gaps, which allegedly don’t exist.
The question then is what do “real” Americans have against “Mexicans” (regardless of "status" since all Latinos are "suspect") that they don't have against other groups? Is it just the myths that fuel paranoia; people talk about rampant crime (half of all illegal immigrants are in fact incarcerated for immigration violations, not actual crimes), or being a drain on public services (which in most cases is merely convenient scapegoating by lawmakers and city council members who fail to balance their budgets), or they don’t pay taxes, based on nothing more than the belief that they don’t. Is it because they are a resilient people despite all the prejudice and discrimination, and seem less susceptible to control? Or is it just because in the case of indigenous or mixed-race people, they look somehow subhuman or unclean? Or is it because they have been designated by politicians and the media as the “element” that in the words of right-wing bigot Pat Buchanan are “Out to destroy America?”
Back in the 1950s, Zorro and the Cisco Kid were popular television characters, fighting for justice for the weak and powerless. But times have changed. Today, the most common presence of Latinos in the entertainment media are Latinas playing the part of a white man's strumpet. Perhaps racism is alive and well in the country, so much so that it has simply become an indistinguishable part of the landscape, a natural element of the national psyche.