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?
On Friday evening I walked into a Circle K gas/food store with another friend, also Latina. She asked me to take a six pack of Corona up and pay for her while she looked for something else. The young voluble clerk, took the beer and my money, and then asked if he could see the ID of the woman who he had seen walk in with me. I said I don’t think she has any ID on her. For that matter neither did I, having just strolled out a couple of blocks to lend a hand. He starts spouting that Arizona law requires that everybody who comes in together has to show an ID to prove age. He seemed to feel absolutely no irony that he was lecturing me about an ID and had still not asked me to produce mine?!? I said, OK, I get it. I said, hold the beer, and I’ll be right back. We left, and I walked back 5 minutes later alone. He pulled our beer from behind the counter for me and reached out for my money. Still not asking me for an ID. So, I said, hey, buddy, I’m from Louisiana, what is this nonsense all about? He claimed they had been stung by the police a couple of days before with a young girl, and a co-worker had lost his job as the eyes were batting and had not asked for an ID. Well, yeah, but we were a long way from under aged, bub? He then claimed that Circle K had a policy formerly of asking for ID for anyone who looked under 30, but now were recommending a request for under 40. It was all so preposterous, that I just laughed since he seemed to be making it up as he went along.
As I hit the door to leave, he yelled back at me, “Welcome to Arizona!”
My point exactly, Madame Governor! This is now your state where racial profiling is the status quo and standard operating procedure.
Simply claiming at the school house door as Governors Ross Barnett of Mississippi and George Wallace of Alabama did in their day that you aren’t racist and you love darker people in your own way, is not enough to change the reality of every word and deed all around you.
Whether the deep South 50 years ago or the border states now, this has to change!