Thursday, April 29, 2010

Arizona's Law Isn't Racist; the Bulk of Its Citizens Are

This is my response to an editorial by Doug Gibson, in the Ogden Standard Examiner.

The majority of Arizona citizens are racists.

I agree with Doug that Arizona's law is the wrong solution to a neglected problem. And he is right, the law is not racist. However, a savvy opponent to his point of view doesn't claim that the law is racist or Nazi-like. Laws, per se, aren't racists or Nazi-like; laws have no volition. They can't act. They aren't moral agents. People can be and are racists and Nazi-like and do have volition. People, like Doug, are racist in suggesting that such a law won't lead to racism. It will.

My dictionary gives two definitions of racism: First is the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. Second is that racism amounts to discrimination or prejudice based upon race.

We, as citizens of the U.S., through our less-than-wonderful elected representatives who have allowed themselves far too often to be prompted and influenced by big (and, to a lesser extent, small) businesses' lobbying efforts for many years, have caused the problem. We citizens had for decades before our recent financial meltdown tempted the residual humanity of Third World countries to flee harsh and often dangerous conditions and corruption where they lived to come the U.S. because their coming here so was beneficial to us. Truth, be known, it still is beneficial from an economic perspective.

Further, we U.S. citizens, through our elected representatives who are so easily influenced by powerful money-brokers and influential lobbyists, didn't adequately oversee, through regulation and adequate funding, the enforcement of adequate laws and regulations over our financial and business markets so that we collectively got robbed and bilked. If you don't lock the car doors and have the police patrolling, you invite trouble and break-ins. Their incidence increases.

Now, while we're still licking our wounds from the resulting downturn in the markets and the loss of jobs, we citizens, who, having gotten, through our own neglect, all of these alien folks here, the bulk of whom demographically look different from the bulk of us, now want them gone. So we start enacting such inane laws as Arizona's.

In Utah, county records show undocumented immigrants are not big criminals over against citizens and documented immigrants. So, are all undocumented immigrants criminals? Many claim they are. They say “What part of illegal don’t you understand?” inferring that they're criminals. We hear that all the time. For people who actually do some thinking, though, who see murder and rape and those types of crimes in a different league than illegal crossings and document fraud, such easy answers don't prove a thing. Citizens race up and down the roads and highways way faster than the posted speed limits all of the time. They run red lights and litter. But we don't consider ourselves criminals for doing so. Our acts don't hurt people the way criminals' actions do. The illegal-border crossers --- many who have been here most or a good share of their lives, including some 2.5 million children nationwide --- who live in a given area don't cripple a community. Rapists, murderers, and violent gang members do that.

That's not to say people who cross without documents never rape, murder, or get involved with violent gangs. Some do. But in Utah from 2004 to 2008, the number of undocumented immigrants increased 57 percent. During that time, undocumented state prisoners increased 10 percent. So the facts show that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants coming here obey our laws once they're here; they're not a main source of crime, not any more than citizens or documented immigrants are.

So, we citizens of the United States have gotten these desperate folks from other places here to do our dishes, etc., and for the most part these folks work hard, obey our laws, pay taxes, and contribute to our society. But then, when we, who have power and control, have a financial and employment crisis of our own making, a state like Arizona starts taking national immigration matters into its own hands, against the advice of experts galore. In a sense, we as a citizenry have made these folks our new-age, new-style slaves. They have no voice, no power, and, increasingly, no life.

Doug asks can a state take action when the federal government won't. Truthfully, states and federal governments don't ever take action. People do. We deflect our responsibility by talking like this. It's not Arizona who will be enforcing the subject law. It is real people. Flawed people. As such, they will be making judgments that inevitably will, in some instances, lead to discrimination or prejudice based upon race. Racism.

Doug makes a specious argument when he refers to Arizona spending billions in educating children of undocumented immigrants (he, or course, doesn't know if such children might be U.S. citizens or not), because he also fails to mention the taxes and the economic contributions such undocumented families make. Undocumented immigrants pay taxes, directly and indirectly, just like anybody else, only they don't benefit from the graces awarded to citizens in our tax system. Furthermore, they buy goods and services, just like citizens do. Doug also makes another false argument when he talks about a violent gang using Arizona as a conduit for human and drug smuggling, failing to mention our failure as citizens to elect national representatives and a president who will adequately work with other nations to resolve international issues such as the toleration of corruption in their governments. Of course, it's hard, because we citizens have tolerated such corruption in our own elected officials, and now we reap what we have sewn.

The fact that most Americans support anything, as in Doug saying that most Americans support the Arizona law, doesn't mean that what they support is right, moral, or the smart thing to do. In the years before the civil rights movement, there were many times when most Americans supported segregation, too. Same with Nazism. So was it right? Nah. The majority of people in the South supported slavery? Did that make it any less barbarous?

So Doug essentially admits the Arizona law in question is flawed; it wasn't Arizona's place to act; it only did so in frustration, and its law doesn't really do what's needed. Yet, he goes on defending it: it's only there because the U.S. didn't do what it should have [the citizens didn't]; it's more mild than what others on the national level are, in part, proposing; it doesn't require officials to harass [harassing was misspelled in the article] law-abiders (from your viewpoint, a Latino standing on the street, ostensibly doing nothing wrong, could very well be "illegal" (undocumented) and, therefore, not law-abiding).

Why not tell it like it is, Doug? We failed. Now we're desperate. Citizens in Arizona are desperate.

You and me and ever single citizen failed.

We failed in the past to elect representatives who would enact necessary laws relative to immigration to protect us and to protect immigrants, too, and we failed to fund the laws on the books and to enforce them because we were, in an ugly way, benefiting from our omissions. So now, Arizona --- actually, the citizens of Arizona --- gets to take out our failings, our collective immorality in treating these people as our new-age slaves --- who are slaves here willingly because, in contrast to the dire lives they lived, it is still better for them --- on these very people who have no voice and no standing except through us, and often, in comparison to us, live such simple lives, and can only speak out at the risk of an arrest, deportation, and losing everything they've been working on for years, and perhaps even losing their very lives?

I think we can all agree we don't want criminals here, maybe even especially undocumented ones. I agree that compromise is necessary. But I deplore the idea of a spreading plague of Arizona-like immigrant law virus because it causes us to be racists, to prefer our collective demographic over something else, largely on the basis of race and color.

No comments: