SANDERS: Arizona on slippery slope

By RUFUS G.W. SANDERS, Register columnist
Commentary
May 10, 2010

By RUFUS G.W. SANDERS, Register columnist

Maybe now people will pay more attention, listen, and take serious note. Black Americans have been talking about police profiling as a social phenomenon and a political reality for at least the last few decades. But whenever blacks have raised their voices in any form of protest, especially on these kinds of issues, they have been quickly chastised, generally ridiculed and ignored as self-appointed victims who only want to continually blame American society for all their woes.

Their complaints, in the minds of many Americans, are left over cries of victimization designed to get attention and deny their failure to own their own flaws.

I was personally stopped one night on what I felt was pretty flimsy grounds, simply because I was black while driving a new, expensive car at the time. I knew then that at some level it was profiling. And this was not the first time I had been stopped, questioned and, after producing the proper papers, sent on my way. And of course I am not the only black man who has ever suffered such indignities. Blacks have been talking about these kinds of road checks for so long that it has become deafening. But the state of Arizona, which wants to make "profiling" legal through its controversial illegal immigration bill, takes this abrogation of democracy to another level.

In the name of combating illegal immigration, Arizona is calling for procedures that are nothing short of bigoted police profiling of the Hispanic community. While it is a foregone conclusion in the minds of most legal scholars this new Arizona immigration law is unconstitutional, just the mere fact that a state legislature actually passed such a bill in 2010 is most troubling. The prospect of an old Hispanic grandmother who goes to the mall, but who forgets to bring her documents, means that in Arizona she could be detained because initially she looked like a Mexican. The prospect of police going to a house on a trumped-up charge in the middle of the night, taking a poor brown-skinned man off to jail for not having the proper papers on his personage while he is asleep in his own residence because he speaks English with a Spanish accent should be most worrisome.

What's to stop Arizona cops from generalizing and stereotyping across an entire race of people based solely on already discriminatory archetypes? This bill amounts to racism, pure and simple. And this is only the beginning of the problem. This bill leads to the stripping of rights and dignities that come with being in America. The constitutional issue of being innocent until proven guilty is compromised. The protection against unfair questioning is compromised. The issue of public humiliation and governmental intimidation becomes paramount as well as the issue of the expansion of police state- like tactics. This should be a major concern not just for Hispanic Americans, but for all of us. Because once Pandora's box is open, it becomes impossible to close it again.

Of course the nation must be concerned about undocumented immigrants. But the issues of migrating populations are not going to go away that easily in a country that is a nation of immigrants. For a state to usurp the power of the national government and blatantly legitimize racism and discrimination is no different than an 1860 southern state seceding from the union

This bill does not make the borders any safer. What it actually does is create more racial tension, this time at the expense of the Hispanic community.