On Facebook Groups And Racism

A number of people I'm friended with on Facebook are joining a group called "It's not racism stupid! You are here ILLEGALLY!" As with so many other things involved with the debate over Arizona's new illegal immigrant law, this group demonstrates many of the failings of the law in question just through its own name. It's emotional, abusive, misguided, and a gross oversimplification of an immensely complicated issue. Let's take this a piece at a time.

First, "It's not racism, stupid." (I'll correct their punctuation.) Well, let's take a look at that, shall we? Is the law racist? There's a couple of things to consider here. The law does not allow police to approach suspected illegal immigrants and require documentation of legal status. It requires it, with penalties for failing to do so of one to five thousand dollars. Where this money is going to come from is not dealt with in the bill, but I'm not going to get into how this law could completely bankrupt Arizona (financially, I mean; apparently its leadership is already morally and ethically bankrupt), but I will mention that, for a police officer in a small town that has a tight budget, the concern over costing the town thousands of dollars for not pursuing any suspected case would be motivation to pursue any suspected case, no matter how minimal the suspicion is, significantly pushing this into racial profiling, and giving police officers who abuse their power the perfect excuse to do so.

Who's going to be suspected of being an illegal immigrant? This guy, for one. Reasonable suspicion apparently consisted of driving while not white, having a mother who lives in Mexico, and failing to have his birth certificate with him, which resulted in his arrest until he could provide papers showing he was born in the United States. If this man was white, spoke with a southern accent, and had parents in Dallas, would he have been arrested? I'd like to see someone make that case. The suspicion in these cases is based on a person's appearance. If you look and sound foreign, you're a target for this law, and you now are required to bear the burden of proof to verify you're an American, anywhere in the state, at any time. If you're white, the burden of proof won't apply to you.

Why else might the law be considered racist? Perhaps because it was written by racists. Russell Pierce is an Arizona State Senator with ties to neo-Nazis, just like another local anti-immigrant hero, Joe Arpaio. Personally, I'm leaning toward Nazi sympathizers being racist, but perhaps someone can make an argument to the contrary. I'd love to see someone argue that those who believe in a "master race" aren't racist.

Wrapping up the claim that "It's not racism" with the word "stupid" is a wonderful way to promote civil discussion by immediately assailing the intelligence of anyone who doesn't agree with you. But then, this law has nothing to do with rational debate, and it never has. The fact that many Arizona police chiefs, dedicated to justice and sworn to uphold the law, have publicly stated that they will refuse to enforce this law on the grounds that it is discriminatory, unethical, and likely illegal is telling. This law is about political gain under the guise of benefitting citizens.

And then the final part. "You are here ILLEGALLY." I see. And who, exactly, is "you"? Is it me? (Obviously not; I'm white.) Is it Abdon, from the link above? (Apparently not, because he provided his birth certificate.) Is it President Obama? (Oh, don't even start with that shit again.) Is it the woman who has lived in Arizona for fifty years but still has ties to family in Mexico? (Probably, unless she carries her papers with her at all times.) Is it the white man who has been living here illegally for fifty years? (No.) The problem is that the "you" that the law refers to encompasses millions of people, most of whom are not illegal immigrants, but all of whom will be affected by it, and none of whom are white. Supporters of this group somehow delineate between racism and a law that targets all people who are not white. This would be like having a law that potentially incriminates every white male because of Timothy McVeigh, or assuming that every Christian is a likely cop killer because of the Hutaree militia. A law that encumbers, burdens, or vilifies a large group of people for the actions of a small minority of that group is not fair or just. Would you accept a law that singled you out for profiling because of what someone else did? (Dan Finelli says he would. I'll bet you good money he's a liar. And no, this is not a parody. It's a real, genuine Florida political ad.)

Finally, this is also a false equivalency. Just because people are in the country illegally doesn't mean that this isn't racism. (Nor, of course, does the fact that this is racism make it okay for people to be in the country illegally, but the actions of those individuals doesn't make it okay to single out anyone who's less white than Glenn Beck.) Just because the second part may be true doesn't mean the first part is true too. Don't believe me? Consider if someone made a group called "It's not sexism, stupid. You suck at math!" Or, "It's not wife-beating, dummy. You didn't wash the dishes!" Or, for the Neo-Nazi authors of the bill, "It's not murder, idiot. You're a Jew!" Suddenly it doesn't sound so appealing. But "It's not racism stupid! You are here ILLEGALLY!" is okay? I don't think so.

(One may point out that this particular Facebook group states nothing specific about the Arizona law. I will respond by pointing out that while I didn't find the creation date of the group, the oldest discussion out of over a hundred for the group is from April 30, just ten days before I write this, after the law became a national story.)

Meanwhile, people are calling for the deportation of illegal immigrants no matter how long they've been in the country, even if they've been here for decades, even if they have been productive members of society and have families who have never known life outside the United States. People want the kids deported with the parents, because the sins of the father are now apparently the sins of the son. People are calling for children of illegal immigrants to be denied citizenship, so that they can try to push this through without having to deal with the fact that they would be deporting lifelong American citizens who have never done anything wrong. To get the ball rolling on stripping citizenship from people, Joe Lieberman (Jackass-CT) has introduced a bill to remove people's citizenship if they are merely suspected of having terrorist ties, regardless of actual proof. That's how it works. Find a context where people may be more willing to support it, get it into law, and then expand it to include anyone you want.

There are some people in the world, not solely conservatives, but primarily conservatives, who perpetually feel the need to believe that they're being persecuted. People who claim that Christians are the most persecuted group in this country are high on the list. And these people also need to have a bad guy to blame, some group or class of people who all that is bad in the world can be blamed on, so everyone will be too worked up over that to notice what is actually going on. It used to be various groups of immigrants, legal or otherwise. For a long time, it was communists. Muslims are still popular for blame. And now, Hispanics are the target. Make a broad law about immigration that impacts everyone of a certain ethnic descent, and you're another step down the road to criminalizing being born the wrong ethnicity. Chip away the stone, a piece at a time.

Welcome to America, land of opportunity for all, regardless of race or creed or color. As long as you're white.

That's not racism, you claim?

You're wrong. It's racism, pure and simple.

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