Another reason to protest Arizona

May 14, 2010

Arizona's politicians are teaching the nation that the uproar about immigration isn't about crime or "enforcing federal law," but about racism and bigotry.

PROTESTS AGAINST Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks are planned for this Saturday at Turner Field in Atlanta and next Monday in Miami when the D-backs play the Florida Marlins.

Both demonstrations are aimed at Arizona's anti-immigrant Senate Bill 1070 and both look like they will draw serious numbers. In Atlanta, at a protest designed to call on Major League Baseball to pull the 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona, nearly 100 people have confirmed that they will attend.

As Phil Aliff, an Iraq war vet and protest organizer, said to me:

We're protesting at the Diamondbacks game in order to send a clear message to Major League Baseball, the state of Arizona and legislatures across the country that racial profiling and scapegoating is unacceptable. Everywhere the Diamondbacks go, we should demand that Major League Baseball pull the All-Star Game out of Arizona in order to hit the state where it really hurts...its wallet.

In Miami, the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), South Florida Jobs with Justice, SEIU Florida, UNITE HERE Local 355, the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami and South Florida AFL-CIO are all on board.

Columnist: Dave Zirin

The protests matter because they allow people to nationalize an issue that far transcends the state of Arizona. They also shine a light on Diamondbacks CEO Ken Kendrick who while he says through his public relations people that he opposes the bill, continues to support and promote politicians who wear SB 1070 as a badge of honor.

NOW WE have another reason to isolate, expose and protest Ken Kendrick, the Diamondbacks, and the state of Arizona. Gov. Jan Brewer just signed into law a bill that should curl the toes of anyone with a thread of anti-racist conscience.

Thanks to HB 2281, the Tucson school district's academically successful ethnic studies program has been outlawed. Brewer made this move hours after United Nations Human Rights Commission formally opposed the bill on the basis that any ethnic group has the inherent right to learn their own history.

The Tucson ethnic studies program, which serves 1,500 primarily Mexican students, is an interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on contributions made by Mexican Americans, African Americans and Native Americans in literature, history and science.

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Hear Dave Zirin at Socialism 2010 in Chicago and Oakland, speaking on "Here Come Los Suns: Sports and Resistance to Arizona's SB 1070." Check out the Socialism 2010 Web site for more details. See you at Socialism!

Destroying the program has long been a pet project of State schools chief Tom Horne, who in the words of the Associated Press "believes the Tucson school district's Mexican-American studies program teaches Latino students that they are oppressed by white people." Well, if students didn't believe it before, they would be forgiven for believing it now.

Ironically, Horne's crusade was inspired when a Tucson guest speaker, United Farm Workers leader Dolores Huerta, said in a classroom in 2006 that "Republicans hate Mexicans." Hard to see how this bill will persuade any students from agreeing with this assessment. Horne is running for state attorney general, and he clearly sees wedge politics as a path to promotion.

The bill's chief promoter in the state Senate is Russell Pearce, who in addition to being the sponsor of SB 1070, has gotten in hot water for hugging neo-Nazis on camera and forwarding e-mails from white supremacist websites.

Pearce said on the Senate floor, "History is one thing. Misinformation, hateful speech, sedition is not appropriate with my tax dollars." No, but ordering police to stop people without just cause and having the state monitor classrooms for "sedition" is, in his twisted mind, appropriate use of public money.

The bill is equally twisted. HB 2281 bill specifically forbids classes that:

1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

The first two points are dime-store fear-mongering. There is zero evidence that "revolution" was being taught in Tucson public schools, and the idea that a child learning about their ethnic heritage "promotes resentment" is another right-wing canard. It's the last two points that expose the real goals of this bill: HB 2281 proponents don't want a growing Mexican population seeing the benefits--as every ethnic group in the history of the United States has done--of finding a common political interest.

Political bottom feeders like Tom Horne, intellectual lightweights like Jan Brewer and stone-cold racists like Russell Pearce worship at the altar of ignorance, and want the students of Tucson to do the same.

But through both SB 1070 and HB 2281, they are actually giving all of us quite the political science lesson. They are teaching the nation that none of this is about immigration, crime or "enforcing federal law." It's really about, as right-wing radio hero Michael Savage thunders, "Borders, language and culture."

As a friend of mine, who is a prominent sports radio producer (and who happens to be white) said to me, "If anyone doesn't think this is about race and the anger toward immigrants isn't about race, they're living in an alternate universe. This is about people being afraid that the Mayberry country they were sold is changing, and they don't like it."

If Ken Kendrick truly believes that SB 1070 is bad law, if he objects to HB 2281, he needs stop funding the very politicians who promote it. Until then, we should protest the D-backs at every opportunity. The times demand nothing less.

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