Phoenix SB 1070 is on the two month countdown to implementation barring action by the Justice Department or others to block its enforcement. The biggest rub has been the preemptive racial profiling of anyone by color or accent might seem to be an immigrant. Governor Brewer of Arizona has claimed that this is not the case largely “because she says so,” by maintaining that if you say the sky is green that does the job no matter how many times your eyes scream the lie.
My Rathke great grand parents and grandparents were German immigrants who had been farming in the Ukraine on a special program but refused conscription and ended up first in the Midwest and then in my grandfather’s case working as a foreman on the orange groves and ranches of Orange County, California, when there were still oranges, with the Mexican laborers. They were born there but came to live and work here. In this country we all have a story. As a second generation American, my chance of being profiled is nil.
On Thursday we were driving from Glendale back into Phoenix. Suddenly, a bubble light was signaling us over. The prototypical, large white cop was dressed in a flak jacket, which seemed odd for traffic duty in Glendale. A window next to me on the passenger side had been broken by vandals who failed to rob the car, but still left the spider web of dented and broken glass as the footprint of their effort. The cop wanted the license and registration of the Mexican-American driver of the vehicle. She gave over the registration and recited her license number from memory since she didn’t have it on her. Despite the fact that he didn’t ask, I offered and turned mine over, since the policeman was claiming that the only reason for stopping us was the window and the need to prove that the car was not stolen. The cop was uniformly friendly. He checked on his computer, and sent us on our way.
So, was this racial profiling? Hell, yes! Would I have been stopped if I were driving, as a red headed white guy? No. And, as my friend pointed out, what would have happened had I not been in the car? Would he have asked to search the car? The trunk? If he had noticed her purse on the back floor, would he have asked to verify if she really did not have her license and ID with her? Where could this have gone? Where might the story have ended?