The Loudest Silence
The more obvious the racism, the louder the silence.
It would be difficult to contrive a more obvious
example of racial profiling than Arizona’s
recently passed “Show Me Your Papers” law.
The law requires police to ask for proof of
citizenship from anyone “where a reasonable suspicion exists that the person is
an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.”
The law drew hundreds of thousands to immigration
marches last weekend in Milwaukee
and around the nation, the biggest Latino protests since 2005, when a
Republican-led House of Representatives passed Wisconsin Congressman Jim
Sensenbrenner’s bill to imprison and deport more than 12 million illegal
immigrants as felons.
Calls for Big Government?
There is something about people of color crossing
borders that brings out a totalitarian response in people who otherwise claim
to be opposed to big government.
The same people who are opposed to government
providing affordable health care now want the federal government to adopt the
tactics of Nazi Germany, Communist Russia and Apartheid South Africa
and demand to see citizenship papers, especially from certain people.
People who cheered when President Ronald Reagan
demanded the Soviet Union tear down the wall separating East and West Berlin
are now willing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to build a wall
between the United States
So-called conservatives were willing to throw away
billions of dollars on a worthless “high-tech” virtual wall that sets off
“Scary Illegal Immigrant!” alerts every time the wind blows or a bunny rabbit
We blindly pour our nation’s scarce financial
resources into the 15th-century Ming Dynasty idea of building a Great Wall of
United States to seal off our 2,000-mile border with Mexico. Meanwhile, the 5,500-mile
border on our north with Canada
goes virtually unprotected, leaving us vulnerable to ravaging hordes of
Canadians astride moose.
There’s just something a lot more frightening about
immigrants crossing our southern border. They come in scarier colors.
Racism is never supposed to be mentioned, however,
except to deny it exists.
law was even amended in the final days of the Legislature to declare that race
could not be used as a factor in raising suspicion that someone might be in the
That is going to make the police training classes on
how to implement the law particularly hilarious.
Let’s see. What factors other than race could
determine “a reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is
unlawfully present in the United
Maybe what they are eating? How they’re dressed? Do
they put their hats down on the sidewalk and dance around them?
Instead of talking about bigotry, we are told we
have to understand the pressure Arizona
is under as a result of immigration. Arizona’s
population is more than 30% Latino, after all.
Think about that for a minute. The majority in
control of a state’s government has just declared war on a third of its
Isn’t that going to add quite a bit of pressure to
an enormous number of Arizona’s
citizens? But I guess they’re not the ones that we’re supposed to care about
and try to understand.
Minority communities will recognize another hallmark
of bigotry: group guilt for the crimes of individuals of color.
Apparently, one of the driving forces behind
Arizona’s draconian law were reports of a white rancher being murdered by an
illegal immigrant involved in the border drug wars.
There are plenty of murders by white people in
Arizona, too. Some of them are involved in drugs as well. But there are no
state laws targeting the white population to punish the majority for the
criminality of its race.
Mexico has its own complaints about the border drug
wars, by the way. The individuals involved come from both sides of the border,
but the guns they use overwhelmingly come from the United States.
All of this may seem remote from the upper Midwest,
but unfortunately it is not. Outrage over the blatant bigotry of Arizona’s law
has reopened the national discussion over how to create a path to citizenship
for the millions of immigrants living in the shadows in this country.
One horrific side effect of the Arizona law will be
to increase the exploitation of undocumented immigrants by cutting off their
ability to report crimes to police or to provide information in investigations.
And, sadly, some politicians in Wisconsin are eager
to exploit bigotry for their own political advantage without ever mentioning
the word out loud.
At a statewide Tea Party rally in March, Republican
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen bragged about deporting immigrants and
declared: “America for Americans!”
Silence is complicity.