Step out of the car please…

… You too could be hearing that phrase in the near future.  The state of Arizona has passed legislation that creates a new law that directs the police to stop suspected illegal immigrants and demand proof of citizenship. I have traveled in the southwestern portion of the United States.  During my travels, I have stopped in most Wal-Marts.  I have never seen a t-shirt labeled “illegal immigrant”.  I don’t know of any tell tale sign that is attached to any illegal immigrant.  I thought, interesting… how will the police determine whom might be an illegal immigrant?

Based on our historical pattern, it is safe to say that “white people” will not have to suffer the indignity of being forced to prove their right to be here.  It will be people of color that will be stopped and questioned.  The supporters of the bill claim they have no other choice…SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE.

No one disputes that something has to be done.  There has to be some resolution to the immigration issue.  There has to be some way to shove a sock in the mouth of the racists that make unfounded incendiary claims about all immigrants.

There was a time, when folks had to carry “papers” to prove they had a right to be where there were.  It was not unusual for people to be stopped and asked to provide proof or “papers”.

The place was South Africa.  Apartheid did not last.  The struggle between those in power and those that actually provided the labor is well documented.  Apartheid did not end because the majority of the citizens were black.  Apartheid ended because it was wrong.  In Arizona, as in the rest of the United States, the majority of people are white.

That does not make the law right.

Our country still suffers from racial divisiveness.  We have elected an African-American President.  We have an aging population.  Jim Crow policies were the rule in the not to distant past.  There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of older African-Americans still alive today that remember when the sight of  police lights in your rear view mirror created a “Pavlovian style” reaction of sweat appearing on your forehead.

There will be many that say, if you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about.  Our history is littered with accounts of police abuse.  One of the most famous cases during the Civil Rights Movement occurred in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  Three young men that were doing nothing wrong were pulled over by the police, murdered and buried…………but never forgotten.

We have survived years of overt racism.  We have continued to give lip service to the horrible legacy created by slavery.  Slavery seems like such a tame word.  Take a minute a put your mind around the fact that slavery was a horrible act.  And please do not entertain the sick view that America was not guilty because it was Africans that sold the slave to us.  We, that means white folks, were wrong. You can not own people.  That was a time when the word negro was basterdized into “negra” or “nigger”.  The verboten “N” word.

The Arizona law only codifies what has been whispered across this country for some time.

The Hispanic/Latino is the new “nigger” in America.

Privately,  people marvel at their work ethic.  Their ability to save and send money back home is revered.  All the platitudes regarding the Latino are shared as a reason why they deserve a chance to be “American”.  Then the conversation falls to how all those “people” are putting a drain on the economy, stealing  jobs and just destroying the American way of life. For every argument, there is probably some truth. Rather than come up with a solution, Arizona is leading the way with the typical American reaction.  LABEL. HATE. DIVIDE. DESTROY.

We might be better suited to think back to the Holocaust.  The words of Martin Niemoller are quite apt when thinking of the implications of the law in Arizona. “”THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. THEN THEY CAME for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.  THEN THEY CAME for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

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