The signing of SB1070 in Arizona has sparked a wave of negative reaction across the United States and across the political spectrum, from Barack Obama on down. There are numerous calls for a boycott of the state, a pledge against the law for people of faith, and a statement from the Major League Baseball players association condemning SB1070.
Some high school seniors are now deciding against going to college in Arizona. One comment on the New York Times blog post on the topic struck me as particularly intelligent, and hinting at the root of African American disdain for SB1070.
Barbara, a Duke alumnus, writes:
When I was a student at Duke there were many male African-American students who felt like they were being profiled because of the relatively high rate of crime on campus, and the fact that a disproportionate amount of it was attributable to young black men in the community. In some cases students were held even after they proved they were students. It made their college experience a lot worse than if they gone elsewhere. It's a legitimate consideration.
It's not that I don't understand that border states face special challenges and find the lack of progress frustrating, or that I don't agree that Mexico has long shown lack of inclination to face its social problems because it has a safety valve next door -- I share those concerns. But there is simply no way to enforce this law without targeting Hispanics. I don't care if that was the intent or not, it is almost certainly going to be its practical effect.
Indeed, history runs in cycles, and the U.S. has seen far too many discriminatory and hateful laws or practices that have targeted and abused African Americans for generations. Yes, we know that African American anxiety about Latino immigration to the U.S. exists, and exists widely. But Arizona's new law burns at the boundaries of our notions of justice and fair treatment under the law, which assaults any reasonable person's sense of decency -- regardless of color.
This is why so many prominent black Americans and black organizations are standing up against SB1070. At the top of the pack, for pure inspiration, is Chuck D, the former frontman of Public Enemy, who released a special track against the bill called "Tear Down That Wall." (Public Enemy, of course, has a track that has gone after politics in Arizona before.)