Author Tayari Jones is boycotting Arizona, a state in which she once resided. In a letter to the organizers of the Pima Summer Writers Conference in Tucson, Arizona, she explains her decision to avoid the state:
Due to the passage of the Senate Bill 1070 which sanctions racial profiling and police harassment against brown people, I cannot return to the state of Arizona. Yesterday, I spoke with a dear friend who is an American citizen of Mexican descent who said that he would not feel safe in Arizona, although he (like me) used to call the state home.
Almost a decade ago, I supported the economic boycott of South Carolina in protest of the Confederate flag flown on the statehouse grounds. This offense, which spoke to one the darkest chapters in the history of our nation, was serious, but symbolic. The issues raised by SB1070, on the other hand, are not merely rhetorical or psychological. The newly-granted powers will allow the police to detain and harass anyone who looks like he could be an undocumented immigrant. Although some lawmakers suggest that a person’s shoes will be a more significant indicator than that person’s race, I find this difficult to believe.
That people should be legally required to show proof of citizenship is similar to the antebellum mandate that black people produce “free papers” proving themselves not to be slaves. It recalls the pass system under South Africa’s Apartheid. Sadly, visiting Arizona for a conference or a vacation without fear has become an ostentatious display of privilege. . . .
There are those who would argue that this is just a “Mexican thing.” Even if this were the case, I would still stand with the protesters. A “Mexican thing,” is a human thing. Moreover, it would be naive to think that this gross exaggeration of police power would be aimed at only a single group. My sentiment is captured in James Baldwin’s famous letter to Angela Davis: “If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”
Isn’t it sad that, in the 21st century, there are still states in the United States that are so repugnant and reactionary in their treatment of, and regard for, minorities—ethnic and sexual—that thoughtful people must struggle with their consciences even to visit them?
A reader at Andrew Sullivan’s blog wrote this today:
Whenever I read about the absurdity of the Arizona law (and of course, the lawyer that I am, I went out and read the law), my thoughts turn to my family. I’m half Cuban, my family has been here for more or less 40 years – citizens, naturalized or natural born, all. What I think about most is my 85 year old grandfather (or my 75 year old great aunt) whose English isn’t very good (it’s deteriorated a lot in the last ten years since my grandmother passed away). He’s a naturalized citizen, he doesn’t have “papers.” He may have a passport, but are we really going to say that you have to carry your passport for domestic travel (which, by the way, is unconstitutional)? How, exactly, is he suppose to prove his citizenship? Or for that matter, my mother, who was so young when they came to the US that she was naturalized because her parents were naturalized?
And another of Sullivan’s readers made this observation:
A person who gets stopped and doesn’t have adequate proof of citizenship will get fined $500. In other words, if you go out for a jog and don’t have your drivers license or whatever the police that stops you thinks is appropriate, you’ll get fined. That will happen to people who are legally here…even citizens. Matter of fact, the only people that would get fined are legally here, since presumably the undocumented would get put into federal custody.
This means, in theory, that everyone needs to be carrying papers constantly in case they get stopped. Of course, many people know full well that they won’t get stopped. This is the main reason why the Tea Party crowd, who cry “fascism” throw up pictures of Adolf Hitler for things like health insurance reform, are not the least bit outraged by this.
Ironic, isn’t it?
But don’t call them racists, and still come on in with your money and enjoy the hospitality of their wonderful state.