“The implications of Arizona’s S.B.1070 are startling. Racial profiling of suspects will increase and legal residents could face detention if they are stopped by a police officer and do not have in hand valid identification such as their birth certificates or passports.” Gebe Martinez, Beyond Arizona: Without Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Intolerance Will Rise Across Our Country
There are justifiable outrages by those who support Arizona’s S.B.1070 and are offended that its enactment reflects a Nazi state. The Nazis were a brutal political police force that dragged people out of their homes at night, herded them off with only the few of possessions they could lay their hands on and sent them away to be confined in crowded, filthy concentration camps. Some survived the inhumane treatment they lived under, but most died either through “scientific experiments”, gas chambers or simply from being unable to endure such conditions; all because they were not of the Aryan race.
What’s transpiring under this new immigration bill in the Grand Canyon State is not remotely similar to Nazi Europe, BUT this bill does reflect a single act that was typical of SS storm troopers and other Nazi authorities during WW II. Every country they occupied they could, without restraint, ask for any one’s “papers” and remove them to obscurity until it suited them if the detainee could not provide required documentation. The German people themselves were not immune to this either especially after the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Der Fuhrer. The chilling effect of being stopped by anyone resembling a jack-booted, military type official is what this bill brings to the immigration reform debate today and those who unhesitatingly support it fail to see this parallel between the state of Arizona and Himmler’s SS tactics.
Many who oppose immigration reform feel it is nothing short of amnesty if we allow illegals to turn themselves in to U.S. authorities, make them pay any unpaid taxes they have incurred during their stay here, then send them back to their country of origin and put on a waiting list to obtain legal status in the U.S. behind those who have already legally done so. There is perhaps some deeper sense that because a law was broken illegal aliens need to be branded as criminals under the law. Some may sincerely hold this view for all illegal immigrants but it is proving difficult to overcome a white minority who simply hold old hidden biases against people with dark skin.
As a white male I live among such people and have all my life. Unless they are aware of my progressive views they openly share their racism thinking I am one of them. There is no apparent racism with people who hold such views, according to their own testimony. To publicly admit such a hateful bias today is certain to ostracize one from mainstream thought and negate any credibility on the subject they may hold. This was not the case just two generations ago. In many communities in the South and Southwest open racism was the norm and any expression of it was boastfully stated.
In an incident during the mid-1970’s, in the North Texas community I currently live in, I was in a convenience store on my way to work and stopped to make a minor purchase. When I approached the cashier there was a Hispanic man at the counter. His English was apparently lacking because he had put some change in front of the cashier and looked at him as if to ask was that sufficient. The young male cashier became incensed for no apparent reason and told the “spic” to get out of his store. Had I not been there to protest his behavior the cashier may well have been inclined to physically remove the dark-skinned customer. I later reported his rude behavior to the management and noticed he was gone the next time I stopped by a few days later.
A few years prior to this incident I experienced perhaps my first blatant racism towards Mexicans. I was visiting my Mom who had remarried a kindly man in many ways, especially regarding his treatment toward her, but apparently had an ingrained racism he was raised with. I forget how the subject was raised but I’m sure that the few brews we had been drinking and my progressive views on many subjects had initiated a conversation on race. One thing led to another, as they say, and the man who was married to my mom blurted out the fact that back in the 1950’s he had killed a “mesican” just because “he was somewhere he shouldn’t have been”.
I sat up in startled amazement and to make sure I heard him right I said “pardon me”? Without skipping a beat he said it again and with added relish. Now he could have been exaggerating. Alcohol often induces one to admit things that don’t always represent reality. But even if he was, it was the total lack of regret expressed in his words that overwhelmed me. Such attitudes were hardly limited to my corner of the world at the time.
Even though it’s been thirty to forty years since these experiences, there still exists a hate just below the surface amongst many whites towards Latinos, blacks and other minorities in this country, in areas other than the South and Southwest too. Mainstream society has finally disavowed such overt racism but the pervasive feelings of two generations ago still thrive amongst what I refer to as poor white trash with low levels of education.
Don’t think because I hold progressive views that I believe racism is limited to whites only; clearly it doesn’t. Nor do I presume that all conservatives are naturally racists or that all Liberals are predisposed to be anti-racists in all things. Those who do harbor it perpetuate its destructive force no matter what ethnicity or political persuasion you associate yourself with.
In Arizona as well as many other states that have traditionally displayed racists attitudes or sentiments toward people of color there is a culture that prevails from one generation to the next. Socio-economic conditions may enhance or even diminish it but the sense that one segment of society is superior to all others will persist at some level despite mainstream efforts to negate it.
It is this decadent view that must be rooted out and eliminated once and for all before we can move forward with any genuine success on immigration reform. Until we do we will only mask over a core problem and never fully resolve needed immigration reform.