by | May 16, 2010
filed under Feminism, Politics

There’s an old guy who lives in my neighbourhood. He stops anyone who’ll listen to his racist rants about how we give immigrants too many rights and how “they” are taking “our” jobs and taking over the country. I don’t think the people he talks to ever seriously wondered what would happen if we gave him his own state to run.

But over the last few weeks we’ve found out, thanks to the craziness going on in Arizona.

Sarah Palin with Jan Brewer, supporting the "papers, please" bill

It started when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill into law that allows police to demand “proof of immigration status” if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that a person may be in the country illegally.

No one has convincingly been able to argue that this “papers, please” bill won’t lead to racial profiling. When asked what she thought an illegal immigrant looks like, Brewer stated, “I do not know. I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think there are people in Arizona that assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like.” As the Philadelphia Daily News said: “Want to bet these “people” think illegal immigrants look like Latinos?”

Despite numerous cities, including Los Angeles and Boston, moving to boycott city business dealings and staff travel to Arizona, other states are predicted to jump on the “papers, please” bandwagon as anti-immigration activists help them write clone laws. Already a Michigan state legislator is set to introduce her version of the law in the next couple of weeks.

As if “papers, please” weren’t a big enough move in the wrong direction, now Arizona has again made history by passing legislation that attempts to ban public school classes that “are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group.”

I guess I just heard that headline in passing, because initially I thought, “Oh my God, they’re shutting down the entire school system!” But then I found out that apparently they don’t care if courses and curricula are geared to white students; they’re mostly targeting ethnic studies classes geared towards Mexican or Chicano students.

Apparently Arizona State Superintendent Tom Horne says these classes foster race resentment, hence the portion of the legislation that goes on to ban classese that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people . . . and advocate ethnic solidarity.”

Since passing these bills, Arizona has been called out by a group of 6 UN human rights experts for potentially violating international human rights standards (the “papers, please” bill) and denying individuals the right to learn about their cultural and linguistic heritage.

Talking Points Memo notes the politically expeditious timing of the legislation for Horne, who is currently locked in a heated Republican primary battle. And Michael Yaki at the San Francisco Chronicle has a great analysis of why the ethnic studies bill’s terms are so incredibly suggestive as to make it unenforceable, and why the intent behind it is so wrong.

The Tuscon District’s director of Mexican-American/Raza studies maintains that the classes discuss Chicano social uprisings as historical events and are not inciting protest. Not to mention, since the programs began, graduation rates and literacy and math scores for Mexican-American students enrolled in the program have skyrocketed. But who cares about a kid’s test scores when on the weekend she might be out (insert suspenseful music here)…raising her fist at something!

Seems like Horne could stand to take a bit of a history lesson himself: when you try to tell a group of people to stop accessing information and expressing themselves through peaceful protest, it generally just serves to galvanize the people you’re trying to suppress.

I’ll leave you with a funny clip from Friday’s Rachel Maddow Show, where Kent Jones discusses how he could help Arizona re-brand after all this:



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