Forgive me for saying this, but part me of is getting sick of hearing about Arizona. Most states only get a few days in the news cycle, but since the politicians in Arizona were crazy enough to pass a law to stifle illegal immigration in their state, our news has been seemingly flooded with one story after another about Arizona: A politician in Arizona has links to the KKK, Arizona changes its textbooks to downplay people of color, brown faces are lightened up on a mural in Arizona. It never seems to stop.
OK, I think I get the point: Arizona is a state with racist policies, at least more racist than most. Can we try to move onto something else now?
This isn’t to say that there is not a level of seriousness to the illegal immigration situation in Arizona. We’ve figured that out. The federal government has long refused to properly enforce immigration laws, and the residents of Arizona came up with their own response, one that threatens to undermine the civil rights of every black and brown person in the state. Got it.
To some extent, the national attack on the state of Arizona smells a bit like political narcissism. The collective outrage that some have expressed over the civil liberties issues in the Arizona immigration law has been hardly present during other more serious racial atrocities that have occurred over the past 20 years.
The sense of urgency that President Obama had about the passage of the state’s new immigration law has never been matched when confronting the fact that the United States incarcerates over five times more black men than South Africa did during the height of apartheid. Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation into the legality of Arizona’s political decisions was never preceded by a similar investigation into the civil rights abuses of unequal funding for inner city public schools. It seems that when civil liberties of a broad Latino base were attacked, the whole country went up in arms. But when black folks have been getting abused, our needs have been put at the bottom of the to-do list.
Many in the African-American community are willing to make seemingly illogical concessions on illegal immigration, such as allowing amnesty for those who’ve been in the country illegally for years. I say that the concessions are illogical, yet pragmatic, because in almost no other aspect of American law is one allowed to simply pretend that the law doesn’t exist. All the while, we know that one can’t realistically or ethically incarcerate or deport 12-14 million illegal immigrants here in the United States.
What I hope and expect is that the massive rallies that have formed to make Arizona the center of attention will also form when African-Americans are fighting for our issues. I am hopeful that the Los Angeles city council, which voted to boycott the entire state of Arizona, will be willing to make equally strong stands to fight the modern day slavery taking place in California prison systems. I also fully expect that President Obama, who suddenly moved immigration to the top if his priority list in response to the Arizona protests, will be willing to do the same to deal with issues that affect other brown people in America.
I am not in favor of the Arizona immigration law. But this is not the only law we should be fighting, and Arizona is not the only state with a racist agenda. Rather than spending every single day looking for any racial boogieman in Arizona, let’s fight systematic racism across America.