Monday, June 28, 2010

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Fears and Loathes Brown People

By guest essayist Álvaro Huerta

Not to be outdone by the late segregationist, Alabama Gov. George Wallace, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (pictured above) will go down in the history books as an ardent xenophobe and racist. Brewer’s hatred of immigrants and disregard for the civil rights of Latinos (both legal residents and citizens) have come to fruition in Arizona’s recently passed laws aimed at criminalizing immigrants, racially profiling Latinos and denying racial minorities the right to learn about their history.

I’m speaking, of course, of SB 1070, the unconstitutional law that requires police officers to demand legal documentation of individuals suspected of being undocumented immigrants under the premise of “reasonable suspicion” and HB 2281, the racist law that bans ethnic studies (optional courses, as a matter of fact) in public schools. Instead of chastising Brewer for her racist legislative actions, President Barack Obama recently invited her to the White House to discuss the controversial immigration law that the president referred to as “misguided.” This is the same president that had a “Beer Summit” at the White House with a racist police officer, Sgt. James Crowley, shortly after he arrested Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.—a distinguished African American scholar—in his own home. This high profile arrest can be traced to Gates’ initial “inability” to verify proof of residence to Crowley even after Gates provided his Harvard faculty identification card.

As any parent should know, this is no way of rewarding bad behavior! Better yet, instead of meeting with Brewer in a one-to-one meeting usually afforded to world leaders, Obama should chastise the rogue governor and take direct action against Arizona’s racist agenda. Obama can learn a thing or two from previous presidents. For instance, in 1963, then-President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard when Gov. Wallace attempted to prevent two African American students from attending the University of Alabama under a federal court order to desegregate public schools.

An ardent segregationist, Wallace, who operated under the political platform "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," eventually caved under pressure when confronted by the military might of the federal government. Taking this historical event as a “teachable moment,” Obama needs to use all of executive powers, including unmatchable oratory skills, to immediately repeal both SB 1070 and HB 2281. While Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder contemplate legal action, individuals of Mexican decent in this desert state live in a constant state of fear, anxiety and financial insecurity.

When she originally signed SB 1070 into law on April 23rd, Brewer assured the public that racial profiling would not be tolerated. However, what does she—a white, privileged politician—know about racial profiling? I wonder if she, or any member of her family, has even been a victim of racial profiling? More specifically, has she ever been denied a taxicab in the city of New York or other major city because of the color of her skin? Has she ever been pulled over by a police officer for simply being in the “wrong neighborhood” or because she allegedly “matched the description” of someone suspected of committing a crime?

While Brewer and the supporters of this anti-immigrant law attempt to frame this policy measure as one of “crime” and “safety,” especially with the law’s official name, “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” they have yet to produce any hard data correlating immigration with crime in the state. There is a word in the dictionary for making false accusations: slander.

While much of the attention in the media has been given to this cruel immigration law, Brewer wasted no time in attacking the Latino community, once again, with the elimination of ethnic studies programs in public schools.

In an Orwellian maneuver, Brewer, the architect of this ban—Arizona’s school chief Tom Horne—and other supporters argue that ethnic studies programs allegedly promote ethnic chauvinism, reverse racism against whites and the overthrow of the U.S. government. It is amazing how educational programs aimed at providing a more ethnically diverse interpretation of American life and history have now become eminent enemies of the state.

For instance, how is teaching a Latino high school student about the United Farm Workers (UFW) and the fact that Cesar Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona, suddenly un-American? How is teaching a young Latina student about Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the UFW, now a criminal act? Does this mean that Latino and Asian students can’t learn about the unconscionable Japanese American internment camps, where the state of Arizona hosted one, during the mid-20th Century since this falls under the purview of “ethnic studies” programs? The only logical conclusion here is an obvious attempt by those in power to erase the history of discrimination and social injustice committed against racial minorities in the state and beyond.

Finally, if we critically examine the motives behind these anti-Latino laws, it’s clear that many people in Arizona and beyond fear and loathe the long-term consequence of Mexican immigration in particular and the demographic boom of Latinos in general, resulting in the browning of America.

[Álvaro Huerta (pictured) is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of City & Regional Planning at UC Berkeley, and a Visiting Scholar at the Chicano Studies Research Center (UCLA). This essay first appeared in ImmigrationProf Blog. For more about Huerta, visit his website. Jan Brewer photo credit: Wikipedia.]

1 comment:

Benito said...

I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened. All of us ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated, but this is not the case.

I know the proponents of this law say that the majority approves of this law, but the majority is not always right. Would women or non-whites have the vote if we listen to the majority of the day, would the non-whites have equal rights (and equal access to churches, housing, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, schools, colleges and yes water fountains) if we listen to the majority of the day? We all know the answer, a resounding, NO!

Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics and do what is right, not what is just popular with the majority. Some men comprehend discrimination by never have experiencing it in their lives, but the majority will only understand after it happens to them.