Saturday, April 24, 2010

Complex, If Not Convoluted

It goes by the name Senate Bill 1070, and Governor Jan Brewer signed it into law yesterday in Phoenix.

This obviously did not come without controversy, with the Arizona Republic reporting more than 1500 people gathered in Arizona's capital to pray or to cheer or denounce their state's governor amid what the newspaper termed "civil unrest."

The Mexican government, understandably exorcised by anything which threatens to stem the tide of unemployed nationals to the U.S.A., was relatively mild in its criticism, lamenting

that Arizona lawmakers and the executive branch didn't take into account immigrants' contributions - economically, socially and culturally.... The criminalization isn't the path to resolve the undocumented-immigration phenomenon.

Similarly, President Obama said the law is "misguided" and will "undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us he safe." He added

Our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. In fact, I’ve instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation. But if we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.”

Criticism from others was not so measured. David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo asks rhetorically if the Arizona governor will "feel the pangs of conscience that Earl Warren later expressed over his role in the internment of Japanese-Americans?"

No, this is not tantamount to, or even analogous to, internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Individuals who were legally residing on the West Coast were imprisoned in what should be referred to as concentration camps (the Nazis having popularized death camps). Individuals in Arizona legally and who are stopped- whether or not simply because of appearance- will not be interned in prison camps. Nor, for that matter, will those found to be here illegally be interned. Neither an American jail nor being returned to Mexico qualifies as interned (which necessarily excludes trial). To suggest otherwise is to diminish the actions taken upon Japanese and Japanese-Americans some 70 years ago.

Nor does this legislation provide for establishment of a "police state," as another blogger claimed. Fortunately, we Americans have not had to endure a Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, mainland China, or Syria, nor will inhabitants of Arizona.

Overheated rhetoric also came from Representative Raul Grijalva, who represents Tucson and is co-chairman (or chairperson, chair, or human equivalent of sitting furniture) of the Progressive Caucus, warned "Arizonans will be subjected to unnecessary indignity at the hands of a racist law.”

Grijalva deserves a little slack, now that he has had to close his Phoenix and Yuma offices amid what appear to be several threats of violence. But it is not "a racist law."

Yes, racism has become almost synonymous in public discourse with bigotry, or in even more extreme cases, with That With Which We Disagree. Still, we should not let sloppiness with language obscure the definition of racism:

According to Merriam-Webster, "racism" is

1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination


Racism requires a belief in the inherent superiority of a race, although ithas become almost synonymous in public discourse with bigotry, or in even more extreme cases, with That With Which We Disagree. Still, we should not let sloppiness with language obscure the definition of racism. Tossing around words without sufficient regard for their meaning- think "amnesty" or "socialism" is the right's modus operandi. Let's avoid playing their game.

Which is not to suggest that this law is sensible. Perusing the major provisions of Senate Bill 1070 can make one's head spin; it seems to target clear language as its enemy. But one strong problem with the legislation is one which Digby, amid a wide-ranging attack on the approach to immigration in Californina, slips into a post yesterday. In what was apparently a Be Careful What You Wish For moment, she writes (almost in passing)

And lest all the racists congratulate themselves too much, they ought to keep in mind that because the cops are not going to want to be accused of racial profiling, they are likely going to be stopping non-latino looking people for no good reason just to prove they are color blind. I hope nobody protests this un-American activity or has anything to hide....

Morality of profiling aside, the law will come under immense scrutiny by the federal government and others (as Governor Brewer emphasized yesterday). There will be a strong incentive for police to place a large segment of the population under scrutiny to avoid the charge of profiling. That is not only inconvenient; it presents an almost insurmountable challenge to law-enforcement. Strip away the (unavoidable) arguments between those who believe the law to be hostile and discriminatory and those who are devoted to ridding their state of illegal immigrants. As currently written- and at, admittedly, first glance- this legislation is an invitation both to abuse and confusion.



















Complex, If Not Convoluted

It goes by the name Senate Bill 1070, and Governor Jan Brewer signed it into law yesterday in Phoenix.

This obviously did not come without controversy, with the Arizona Republic reporting more than 1500 people gathered in Arizona's capital to pray or to cheer or denounce their state's governor amid what the newspaper termed "civil unrest."

The Mexican government, understandably exorcised by anything which threatens to stem the tide of unemployed nationals to the U.S.A., was relatively mild in its criticism, lamenting

that Arizona lawmakers and the executive branch didn't take into account immigrants' contributions - economically, socially and culturally.... The criminalization isn't the path to resolve the undocumented-immigration phenomenon.

Similarly, President Obama said the law is "misguided" and will "undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us he safe." He added

Our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. In fact, I’ve instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation. But if we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.”

Criticism from others was not so measured. David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo asks rhetorically if the Arizona governor will "feel the pangs of conscience that Earl Warren later expressed over his role in the internment of Japanese-Americans?"

No, this is not tantamount to, or even analogous to, internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Individuals who were legally residing on the West Coast were imprisoned in what should be referred to as concentration camps (the Nazis having popularized death camps). Individuals in Arizona legally and who are stopped- whether or not simply because of appearance- will not be interned in prison camps. Nor, for that matter, will those found to be here illegally be interned. Neither an American jail nor being returned to Mexico qualifies as interned (which necessarily excludes trial). To suggest otherwise is to diminish the actions taken upon Japanese and Japanese-Americans some 70 years ago.

Nor does this legislation provide for establishment of a "police state," as another blogger claimed. Fortunately, we Americans have not had to endure a Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, mainland China, or Syria, nor will inhabitants of Arizona.

Overheated rhetoric also came from Representative Raul Grijalva, who represents Tucson and is co-chairman (or chairperson, chair, or human equivalent of sitting furniture) of the Populist Caucus, warned "Arizonans will be subjected to unnecessary indignity at the hands of a racist law.”

Grijalva deserves a little slack, now that he has had to close his Phoenix and Yuma offices amid what appear to be several threats of violence. But it is not "a racist law."

Yes, racism has become almost synonymous in public discourse with bigotry, or in even more extreme cases, with That With Which We Disagree. Still, we should not let sloppiness with language obscure the definition of racism:

According to Merriam-Webster, "racism" is

1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2 : racial prejudice or discrimination


Racism requires a belief in the inherent superiority of a race, although ithas become almost synonymous in public discourse with bigotry, or in even more extreme cases, with That With Which We Disagree. Still, we should not let sloppiness with language obscure the definition of racism. Tossing around words without sufficient regard for their meaning- think "amnesty" or "socialism" is the right's modus operandi. Let's avoid playing their game.

Which is not to suggest that this law is sensible. Perusing the major provisions of Senate Bill 1070 can make one's head spin; it seems to target clear language as its enemy. But one strong problem with the legislation is one which Digby, amid a wide-ranging attack on the approach to immigration in Californina, slips into a post yesterday. In what was apparently a Be Careful What You Wish For moment, she writes (almost in passing)

And lest all the racists congratulate themselves too much, they ought to keep in mind that because the cops are not going to want to be accused of racial profiling, they are likely going to be stopping non-latino looking people for no good reason just to prove they are color blind. I hope nobody protests this un-American activity or has anything to hide....

Morality of profiling aside, the law will come under immense scrutiny by the federal government and others (as Governor Brewer emphasized yesterday). There will be a strong incentive for police to place a large segment of the population under scrutiny to avoid the charge of profiling. That is not only inconvenient; it presents an almost insurmountable challenge to law-enforcement. Strip away the (unavoidable) arguments between those who believe the law to be hostile and discriminatory and those who are devoted to ridding their state of illegal immigrants. As currently written- and at, admittedly, first glance- this legislation is an invitation both to abuse and confusion.

No comments:

Franken Must Go- If....

It was six days- nearly a week- ago that Bruce Bartlett, having had enough, tweeted The issue is not whether charges against Franke...