Friday, May 28, 2010

Yes, Arizona Law is about Hunting Brown People

Though some members of the government claim that the new law in Arizona demanding that residents prove citizenship is about border security, in actuality it is just a legalized opportunity to engage in attacking Brown people. 

WTVN, an Ohio radio station is running a contest where the winner gets an expense paid trip to Phoenix to spend a weekend “chasing aliens”.  Though not as obviously crude, it very much reminds me of the ads that were placed in newspapers to help hunt down fugitive slaves.  You will note, that the advertisement makes sure to frame their contest in a way that removes any form of humanity.  “Aliens” are not people; they are are an invading force.  This ad seeks to create a homogenous White American identity, while simultaneously creating Brown people as “other”.

image

How exactly can anyone know exactly what an undocumented worker looks like?  The federal  government recently detained a U.S. citizen in the mistaken belief that he was Mexican, despite the fact that he presented valid government I.D. He was threatened with deportation, and had it not been for the intervention of congressman Luis Gutierrez, he might well have found himself illegally in Mexico. Ironic isn’t it?

Caraballo said he repeatedly told officers that he was born in Puerto Rico and therefore an American citizen.  His mother also presented his birth certificate, but despite that and his state-issued ID, officials told him he was facing deportation.

"I'm pretty sure they know that Puerto Ricans are citizens, but just because of the way I look -- I have Mexican features -- they pretty much assumed that my papers were fake," he said. "They were making me feel like I can't voice my opinion or I can't even speak for myself to let them know that I am a citizen."

He says officers asked him specific questions about the Caribbean island that he could not answer, mostly because he moved to the mainland when he was 8 months old and has only been back to Puerto Rico once since birth.

Almost three days later, and after his mother contacted Rep. Luis Gutierrez's office, immigration officials released Caraballo at about 2 p.m. Monday.

And now, Gutierrez, who's fighting for national immigration reform, wants answers.

"You know what this proves to you? That in Arizona, they want everybody to be able to prove they're legally in the country. They want everybody to prove that they're an American citizen. Here we had an American citizen, that the federal government, not state authorities, but the federal government, with all their technology and all their information capacity that they have, could not determine, for more than three days, his status as an American citizen. It's very, very, very dangerous ground to tread," the Chicago Democrat said. (source)

The government cannot reasonably claim that this law is about security when it is detaining U.S. citizens.  True immigration reform would mean looking for people that are in the country without documentation, and the very fact that they are not targeting the Canadian border speaks loudly.  Yes, people enter to U.S. everyday via the U.S. /Canadian border, but because Canada is understood to be a White nation, no threat has been constructed.  There are plenty of people each day who enter the U.S. from Europe and Australia, and their Whiteness allows them to avoid the label of illegal immigrant, because those ringing the alarm are not really concerned with domestic security, but using so-called illegal immigration to bolster their racist agenda.

The very fact that the law is eerily similar to those used against fugitive slaves should be setting off alarm bells across the states.  Contrary to popular myth, racism is not on the decline, it has only taken on different justifications.  This law demonstrates exactly how dangerous nationalism is.   It falsely assigns out group status, even though borders themselves have no reality other than what we chose to assign to them.  The identity of a real American, can and has been constructed to maintain a privilege (read: Whiteness) that is feared to be under decline.

If the federal government cannot determine the status of a U.S. citizen, what are the chances that an ill trained police officer will be able to make the correct determination?  All that need happen is for a person to exist with Brown skin to be perceived as threat, and that only should be enough for people to realize that this is not about protecting borders, but propping up the White supremacist state.  You don’t hunt people -- and we need to remember that the first step in attacking someone is always to dehumanize them.

H/T sociological images for the radio ad and Questioning Transphobia for the Carabello story.