Saturday, June 5, 2010

Arizona...tip of the iceberg on race!

Randall Amster.Peace educator, author, and activist
Erasing Arizona: Dark-skinned Mural Faces Ordered "Lightened" to Appease Bigotry from The huffington Post, June 5, 2010)
It is difficult to fully explain the impacts of Arizona's burgeoning and overt anti-immigrant climate these days. To outsiders it must seem like either the inmates have finally taken over the asylum, or alternatively that someone is finally standing up to an inept federal government. To those of us living here, it further appears as either a formalized decree of misguided policies that have long been in place below the radar, or a chance to finally push a brewing agenda to its logical and necessary extreme on a statewide scale. While all of these sentiments possess a kernel of truth, more to the point is that Arizona today has in many ways simply become a veritable theater of the absurd.

To wit: legalizing racial profiling, banning ethnic studies, dismissing teachers with accents, lauding "ethnic cleansing" policies, militarizing the border, seeking to abolish the 14th Amendment (the one that makes the bill of rights applicable to the states and makes anyone born here a citizen), and more. Still, all of this pales (pun intended) to a recent localized atrocity that speaks volumes to the climate of antipathy and purification being plied here in the desert. In a twisted feat of modernized and imposed "passing," artists in Prescott have been pressured to "lighten" the dark-skinned faces on a just-completed public mural due to a backlash inspired by a city council member who said that he failed to see "anything that ties the community into that mural."

Racial purification, ethnic cleansing, blatant bigotry, and the far less blatant, and much more sinister kind of sophisticated bigotry that Vice-president Joe Biden spoke of when he was a candidate for President...they are growing! It is not creeping so much as galloping across the continent as immigrants of a different skin colour and a different accent are drawn from their native lands to North America, where, as one graduating class from UNC Chapel Hill was told last week, "With your graduation from this university, you have won the jackpot!" In global terms, it is true that graduates from a respected North American university, compared to the deprivation, starvation, squalor, disease, death and corruption in much of the rest of the world, have indeed 'hit the jackpot'.
In the U.S., according to ABC News, June 4, 2010, 1 in 6 marriages are between whites and blacks, although the ratio of white males with black females "pales" when compared to the reverse. There is an extremely competetent, intellectually brilliant, socially and ethically committed black president for the first time. Many governors and mayors come from a racial minority. And yet, the colour of particularly some of the south-western states is "tanning" as the flow of Latino immigrants continues to outstrip the white birth rate.
And all of this is happening when the country is at war:
in Iraq,
in Afghanistan,
on Wall Street,
in the Gulf of Mexico,
in the ghettos in each city in the land,
on the border between the U. S. and Mexico, against the importation of drugs and the export of arms in the "drug wars."
Each "issue" in the U.S. seems to take on a "war" metaphor, given the highly intrusive military presence in the psyche of the nation. This is a tradition of militarism born at the end of a gun, in rebellion, nurtured with virtual reverence in each military college and training institution, revered by every single volunteer in the history of the country's military, (as if there has never been an unjust war fought by the U.S.)Whenever a military general, like Colin Powell, speaks, the country goes into a deep and reverential silence of awe and respect regardless of the content or purpose of the address!
It seems that whatever frightens the U.S. collective consciousness drives the citizens to fire a bullet at the object of that fear: sometimes the bullet is metal, and comes from the barrel of a gun (missile, aircraft carrier, drone,) and in a parallel paradigm, sometimes (more often) from the pens of the various ubiquitous legislators. Attack, attack attack...the best defense is a good unto others before they do unto if each and every enemy is now in the crosshairs...And that mentality easily trumps collaboration, mediation, arbitration, negotiation, and community building, except when the community takes up "arms" against the "enemy". Hard power will always win over soft power in such a culture!And the current enemy in Arizona is the wave of Latino's all of whom want a better life for themselves and for their families.
Yet, with unemployment running at 8-9%, and the ghetto's predominantly filled with people of colour and poverty, and often no immigrant status (in the words of the U.S. government "aliens", I know, I was one in spite of the fact that I was working on a valid visa!)and the rich getting richer faster than the poor are becoming poor, the clash of disparity between those who have and who see their share of the pie threatened and the wannabe's frightens the weak politicians who "cave in" to the demands of the excessive fear they meet in their town-halls. Frightened voices are loud, and angry and impatient, and demanding and relentless and basically stupid and ignorant and "something has to be done immediately!"
It is racism; it is the have's vs. the have-not's, and putting up a legal "wall" against those who would presume to want a piece of the "golden pie" on which the country prides itself. If we can put up a wall, and draw a line in the sand, then we can get "control" back of our country...seems to be the mind-set of the perpetrators of this injustice.
I wonder what the Lady of the Statue of Liberty is thinking:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'
She would not even be built today, even as a gift from the French! Certainly not in Arizona!

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