Thursday, May 13, 2010

Racism in Arizona

The following is a transcript of a conversation conducted on my Facebook wall in response to a status update.

Matthew Rozsa
In case you doubted that Arizona's new illegal immigration law was racially motivated, read this:"Fresh on the heels of a new immigration law that has led to calls to boycott her state, Arizona's governor has signed a bill banning ethnic studies classes that 'promote resentment' of other racial groups."Any American deserving of the title should be horrified at what Arizona is doing to our Latino countrymen.

Kevin Reagan
That cuts more than one way, my friend. Latinos are not the only racial group that are the targets of resentment.

Matthew Rozsa
To Kevin: Given the context in which you wrote your remarks, you clearly believe the fact that other groups have experienced discrimination negates (or at the very least diminishes) the severity of the moral wrong being committed against our Latino fellow citizens by the current set of Arizona laws. How exactly do you work that one out logically?

Jim Chambers
"The measure doesn't prohibit classes that teach about the history of a particular ethnic group, as long as the course is open to all students and doesn't promote ethnic solidarity or resentment."

Jim Chambers
here's what the bill says. What would be racism would be a violation of this bill.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100512/ap_on_re_us/us_arizona_ethnic_studies

Matthew Rozsa
That language is similar to the one in the recent immigration law which prohibits pulling people over on the basis of race; i.e., it exists as a means of offering supporters of these racist measures a cop out from being called on their bigotry, even as the nature of the legislation itself all but guarantees that discrimination will result. After all, how are police officers supposed to identify whether drivers are illegal immigrants except on sight - that is, as to whether they "look" illegal? Similarly, the phrase "as long as the course is open to all students and doesn't promote ethnic solidarity or resentment" is intentionally vague enough that it can be used to encompass practically ALL classes that are taught to and/or about Latinos regarding their heritage.

Matthew Rozsa
Again to Kevin: How do you work out the logic of arguing that the discrimination endured by past groups somehow negates or mitigates the wrong being suffered by Latinos in the present?

Jim Chambers
I mean, you can make an argument, based on your ideological platform, with the first bill, but not with this one. It basically just prohibits courses that are custom made by Latinos, for Latinos, big whoop. It's not as if they're banning Latin-American Studies. And as to the first bill, I'm glad someone had the balls to do it.

Matthew Rozsa
1) How is my first argument based on an "ideological platform"? I didn't know that deductive logic was exclusive to one ideology (although given the rants of the Tea Party movement, perhaps that was an erroneous assumption on my part).
2) So you're saying that you support a bill which trounces on the civil liberties of a group of American citizens? I don't deny that illegal immigration is a problem, but doesn't a bill that denies Americans their most fundamental rights ultimately do more harm than good, regardless of its intent?
3) It's interesting how you first claimed that the education bill didn't target classes on Latino subjects; now you're arguing that it does, but is justified in doing so, since it only "prohibits courses that are custom made by Latinos, for Latinos". Of course, you fail to explain how one will be able to distinguish legitimate "Latin-American studies" classes from the "by Latinos, for Latinos" courses you deride. It seems to me that such assessments would ultimately be subjective, which sets a dangerous precedent.
4) So what if they DID teach classes "by Latinos, for Latinos"?

Jim Chambers
1) I mention your ideology because it is what makes you have an issue with the immigration bill, while I don't, while we are both seeing the same thing.
2) I don't see how anyone's civil liberties are being trounced on. Getting my ID checked hardly qualifies as such, especially if I am legal, and I just don't see what the whole racial profiling uproar is based in. Statistically, essentially all of the X million illegal immigrants in the US are Latinos.
3)I never said it didn't target classes on Latino subjects. Of course it does. So what? If said classes are a problem, they're a problem.
4) It'd be fine with me, if there were no problem with classes "by whites, for whites", but we all know how that would go down.

Jim Chambers
and as an addendum on #4, I don't really see the point in either a "by Latinos, for Latinos" course, or a "by whites, for whites" course, in fact, both make me slightly uncomfortable, I just think the level of sensitivity about it should be equal, and considering how obsessed public education has been with diversity and minority studies for the last 40 years, to a fault, I applaud a step away.

Matthew Rozsa
1) I believe in the sanctity of civil rights, which is the extent to which my ideology plays a role in my opinions. That said, you may notice that I didn't write "I oppose the immigration bill because I'm a liberal and that's what Barack Obama, Keith Olbermann, and Paul Krugman told me to believe". I wrote "how are police officers supposed to identify whether drivers are illegal immigrants except on sight - that is, as to whether they 'look' illegal"? This is an argument based not on ideology, but on very basic logic. For your sake, I hope that you're wrong when you say that "we are both seeing the same thing" when we look at this immigration bill, because if we ARE actually seeing the same thing, then your support of this measure says something very frightening about you.
2) Making it legal for law enforcement officials to single someone out on the basis of their race is a serious civil rights violation. It essentially makes a whole group of people into second-class citizens.
3) How are said classes a problem? They have existed for years without provoking hostility; if students from either racial group uses them as an excuse for conflict now, teachers should, um, DO THEIR JOB AND DISCIPLINE THE OFFENDERS! Instead, Governor Brewer is basically punishing the Latino students for something that (a) hasn't even happened yet and (b) would best call for a very different kind of solution if it did occur.
4) There is no such thing as "white" history in the same sense that there is "Latino" history. White people are a conglomeration of countless groups - English, Irish, Scots, Germans, Dutch, French, Italian, Russian, Polish, Scandinavian, Jewish, etc. The only reason the term "white" exists as a distinctive category is because it was initially intended to separate allegedly "superior" ethnic groups (namely, those lucky enough to be classified as "white") from inferior ones. Hence the flaw in your logic there.

Jim Chambers
my major problem with your arguments, and that of many others, is that the immigration bill, or its proponents, are "racially motivated". I am not anti-Latino, by any means. For one, I'm a catholic (and a real one, not a Nancy Pelosi); Latinos represent a HUGE chunk of my church, and gave us Guadalupe. Secondarily, I'm a met fan :)
Are there elements to the bill that will cause a certain race to be targeted more? Of course, because that's who's committing the crimes! Those who aren't can politely go on their way.

Matthew Rozsa
I do not believe that all proponents of the first bill are racist (although I would make that claim about the second one). That said, the inevitable consequence of the first bill IS one that would discriminate against a racial group. Even though you downplay the significance of having one group of people singled out because of their race - both justifying this on the basis of their being more likely to commit a certain type of crime and excusing it on the argument that those who are innocent will be allowed to continue unmolested - what you ignore is that THE VERY FACT that these Latino citizens will have been pulled aside because of their skin color and national origin is, in its own right, a grave injustice. It sets up a societal standard in which being of a given ethnic background automatically makes you suspect for certain types of crimes; this, in turn, renders one into something of a lesser citizen, both in your own eyes and in the eyes of others.And these are just the direct consequences of the measures that have been passed. When you consider what has, historically, happened to minority groups in other Western countries who have been the victims of similar laws in the past (see Jews in Nazi Germany, African-Americans in the South), there is reason to be even more concerned about where this bill could be heading.

Matthew Rozsa
PS: How exactly is Nancy Pelosi less of a Catholic than you?

Jim Chambers
Professional athletes are tested for steroids regularly, as they are more likely to use them. There was a murder (of a family friend) in my town on Cape Cod. A man was presumed to have committed it. All men in and out of the center of town were cheek swabbed.I would never say that any legal Latino is less than because some of his fellow Latinos... See More are illegal, but I want them punished. I really don't care what anyone's race is; I'm not obsessed with race, and that's why limited racial profiling doesn't bother me. I could be stopped, detained even, in a heartbeat if white males with l&t brown hair and tattoos driving trucks were leading a militia uprising, until I was determined to be not a part of. That's fine with me. It makes sense.

Jim Chambers
And as for Pelosi, it's very simple. Being a Catholic involves believing what the Church teaches, period.

Matthew Rozsa
1) Professional athletes are employees at a private corporation, which automatically makes that analogy fallacious. What's more, all of those athletes are steroid-tested indiscriminately; they aren't singled out on the basis of race, creed, etc.
2) Once again, the men who were cheek swabbed were selected (at least based on what you've told me) indiscriminately. They were identified as a result of their proximity to the crime scene and the plausibility of their involvement, and then tested. What's more, this was something that only happened to each of them once, rather than a stigma that was codified into law.
3) It's easy for you to say that you wouldn't mind if you were forced into comparable circumstances, but you have a luxury in making such a statement - realistically, it isn't likely that truck-driving white males with light brown hair and tattoos are going to be persecuted on a massive social and legal level. Considering America's less-than-admirable history with regard to African-Americans, Latinos, and other minority groups, the same can not be said for them. Thus your glib analogy here betrays a very basic lack of understanding of the larger issues in play.
4) I know plenty of Catholics who disagree with the teachings of the Church. Heck, even archbishops and cardinals are known to openly dispute individual positions taken by the Vatican! It's one of the things Catholics and Jews have in common - our contentiousness.

Jim Chambers
They may call themselves Catholics, but we are not a democratic organization. Taking issue with certain church policies or programs, wanting to attend Latin Mass, or preferring guitar in church to organ, these are all one thing, but disagreeing with the magisterium on moral issues is the same as disavowing Catholicism.

Jim Chambers
Judaism is decentralized; Catholicism is not.

Matthew Rozsa
Since I'm not Catholic, I'm going to refrain from debating you on the tenets of that faith. Suffice to say that I have many Catholic friends who do not share the same set of opinions as you do, so at the very least, your position here is not as authoritative as you're making it out to be.

Jim Chambers
See, I resent that entire idea. I'm not espousing opinions here. These are facts. The Church is the Church is the Church. The people you speak of, they and Nancy Pelosi, absolutely, are Christians, even Christians with a heavily Catholic theological influence, but say you decided that you liked a lot of thigs about Hasidism, that you wanted to be Hasidic, and known as such from here on out, while still leading exactly the same life you currently do, only modifying a couple of things. Still you that are Hasidic, that you are just a "progressive" Hasid, shaving your sideburns and disavowing the teachings of Rabbi Baal Shem Tov. In such a scenario, would you be Hasidic?

Kevin Reagan
In answer to your question, Matthew, I was not necessarily saying that past discrimination negates any current moral wrongs. I was simply pointing out that the new bill is not targeted at Latinos. Instead, I believe it encompasses all racial groups, putting them on an equal footing when considering each other. It preempts ALL races' biases against each other. Isn't that a good thing? I would think you would be in favor of leveling the racial playing field, in a manner of speaking. I'm failing to see where and how that idea is racist.
Now, with regards to Arizona SB 1070, I see this as yet another example of mass hysteria and misinformation as a result of not having read the bill. We saw how that could be a significant problem both in favor of and against a bill in the case of healthcare recently. Contrary to popular belief, the Arizona immigration bill is NOT an open invitation to discriminate against Latinos. Having read the bill (it's actually relatively short), I can assure you that nowhere in the bill is discrimination or "persecution," as you put it, allowed or justified or even implied to be a possibility. I direct you to Article 8 subsection B which is the only place from which I believe people can be making such ridiculous discrimination and profiling claims (a la Obama and the "ice cream cone" comment): "FOR ANY LAWFUL [STOP, DETENTION or ARREST] MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN [AND] IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON. THE PERSON'S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE VERIFIED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373."
PLEASE tell me how this is discriminatory/profiling/persecution. I really just don't see it.
Here is the link to an online copy of the bill: http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/sb1070s.pdf
And the Arizona House bill that made some minor changes to the original senate bill (the segments in brackets above): http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/azstarnet.com/content/tncms/assets/editorial/6/47/206/64720634-4e56-11df-9876-001cc4c03286.pdf.pdf?_dc=1272645050

Jim Chambers
agreed. My only point, Matt, is that there is obviously a good possibility that more Latinos than not will be stopped, bill or not, as long as they continue to dominate the illegal scene, and in my mind there's nothing inherently racist about that reality.

Matthew Rozsa
To Kevin:
Earlier this year I went on a ten-day trip to Israel. There were many things that I loved about that country, and quite a few of which I disapproved, but if there was one quality about Israelis for which I give them a great deal of credit, it is that they are extraordinarily blunt about their political opinions. For better or for worse, Israelis who hate their Arab and/or Muslim brethren will openly declare their position, rather than hide behind a shield of carefully-chosen code language and obfuscatory rationalizations in order to have their cake of bigotry and eat it too. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of Americans.
The new Arizona laws are a perfect case-in-point. Even though the immigration measure doesn't specifically mention Latinos as a group, using the term "reasonable suspicion" in reference to whether someone is an illegal alien is vague enough that it can mean practically anything its practitioner desires, and as I pointed out to Jim, "how are police officers supposed to identify whether drivers are illegal immigrants except on sight - that is, as to whether they "look" illegal"? Likewise, even though the education bill does not specifically mention courses on Latino subjects, the intention behind the measure is unavoidable and obvious, particularly in light of the current political and social climate in that state.
Interestingly enough, I recently read a chapter in the presidential memoirs of Dwight Eisenhower about his experiences with Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus during the former's struggle to enforce the Supreme Court ruling desegregating those schools. Even though everyone - Faubus's supporters as well as his adversaries - that Faubus was interfering with the integration of those schools for purely racial reasons, he nevertheless hid his underlying motivations by claiming that he was defying the Warren Court because he feared desegregating those schools would lead to outbreaks of violence, or because he wasn't sure that it was in the best interest of the students of the district... in short, any rationale that could allow him to implement racist policies while skirting the stigma of being labelled a "racist".
This makes me miss Israel, where at least racists aren't also cowards.

Matthew Rozsa
To Jim:
Illegal immigration is a serious problem, and drastic measures do need to be taken to make headway in solving it. That said, the new Arizona legislation trades the civil rights of some of its citizens as the price for working toward a solution. I believe that that is a price much too high; what we are potentially gaining is nothing compared to what we are definitely losing.

2 comments:

d'Easton said...

You know, it's almost funny just how many times a dyed-in-the-wool conservative can be bludgeoned over the head with a point/fact/argument/theory/piece of evidence, over and over and over again, and STILL find a way to keep changing the subject or skirt around the issue.

You made your point, very clearly, in your first statement: the language of these bills is vague enough that it leaves the doors WIDE open to allow any kind of racially-motivated agenda to waltz on in, regardless of whether the verbiage is in and of itself racially motivated.

Your opponents ignored that point, preferring instead (like any well-trained conservative) to debate issues of rhetoric and ideology that, while related to the subject at hand, really had no bearing on the outcome of the argument.

Once again, Matt, you've managed to construct a logical argument that will ultimately fall on the most deaf of ears. But such is the life of a dyed-in-the-wool liberal.

Brian said...
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