Arizona to Latinos: “Show me your papers”

26 04 2010

“Saturday Night Live” has been suffering from a massive comedic vacuum since Tina Fey left to do “30 Rock.” But Seth Meyers can still crack me up on “Weekend Update” sometimes, like he did the other night with this gag.

In his own way, Meyers is making  a great point. After all the ridiculous talk about Nazis from the political right, I can immediately see what’s so messed up about requiring cops to ask people for their “papers.” As Meyers says “I know, I know. It’s a dry fascism. But it’s still fascism.”

If somehow you haven’t heard, the Arizona law Meyers is referring to is all too real. Last week, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill that makes it a crime to be caught without documents proving that you are a legal citizen. It also forces law enforcement to check for proof of citizenship whenever there’s “reasonable suspicion” of someone being an undocumented immigrant.

But what constitutes “reasonable suspicion?” The music playing in your car? Your accent? The color of your skin?

I almost wish I was naive enough to not know the answer to those questions.

You know your policy has crossed a pretty ugly line when people like the Arizona Hispanic Republicans oppose it and even the consistently conservative bloggers at Hip Hop Republican are comparing the “draconian” policy to the Nazis.

The immigration debate has always been full of of racial subtext. After all, the so-called “illegal immigrants” — most of them descendants of indigenous peoples — are crossing borders that European immigrants drew on stolen land.

But all of that aside, every now and then people really go out of their way to pee on our legs and tell us it’s raining.

Gov. Brewer and her sympathizers are trying to convince us that this isn’t about race — as if we don’t know profiling when we see it.

But you can show the government of Arizona — and anyone else scoring political points with anti-immigrant hatred — that you won’t stand for this stuff.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, La Opinión and many others are launching boycotts of Arizona that you can join. You can also go here to sign a petition to tell Arizona that it won’t be seeing any of your dollars until they learn how to treat our friends and neighbors with respect.

Since boycotts finally drove Arizona to recognize Martin Luther King Day in the ’90s, maybe King’s words will remind them of why people of all  backgrounds — including black folk like me — are are up in arms alongside our Latino neighbors:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

**By the way, here’s a piece I wrote for WireTap magazine about other creative ways people can fight for immigrant rights.

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