Where are the tea party patriots when you need them? Finally, a government policy is enacted into law that truly demonstrates a fascistic trend – and yet, total silence from tea party activists.
Here is a law worth going into the streets and protesting. I’ve seen the signs that tea party protesters carry during their rallies against the supposed fascism being enacted in America. And now, for the first time, such a law has become law. And yet, they refuse to rally and live up to their rhetoric of opposing all forms of tyranny. Heck, if they were to rally, I would even join them in their protest.
Arizona recently passed the most fascistic law imaginable – a law that requires all U.S. citizens to carry proper papers. “Show me your papers” is the new but historically familiar refrain.
In Arizona, they are looking for Hispanics. And heaven forbid if you are a Latina or Latino who left your papers in the hotel room. You can be dragged away and detained until you can prove you belong. That’s the main reason I need – and I encourage other Hispanics – to boycott Arizona.
Grant you, there are no concentration camps in the United States (although Latinos and Latinas and others are needlessly dying in detention facilities). Still, the fact that I – a U.S. taxpaying citizen – can be stopped in Arizona and asked for my papers should send a chill down the back of every tea party patriot.
For Hispanics, living on the border moves the discourse beyond the physical wall that acts as a scar where the First and Third World chafe against each other. The border also encompasses the invisible wall that separates Hispanics from the rest of the dominant U.S. culture.
Arizona is a border state located along an artificial territorial line created by the military superiority of the United States during the long-forgotten Mexican-American War. We say that those who live in states like Arizona literally live on the borderlands.
Yet the borderlands are more than just a geographical reality. They also symbolize the existential reality faced by all U.S. Latinas and Latinos – including those of us with proper papers. Most Hispanics – regardless of which state they live in or how they or their ancestors found themselves in the United States – live on the borders. Borders separating Latinas and Latinos from other Americans exist in every state, every city and almost every community, regardless of how far away they may be from Arizona. Borders are as real in the Dakotas, Iowa and Minnesota as they are in Arizona.
To be a U.S. Hispanic is to live constantly on the borders – the border that separates privilege from disenfranchisement, power from marginalization, and whiteness from brownness. Most U.S. Hispanics, regardless of their city or state, live on the borderlands.
Before Arizona passed this law, Latinas and Latinos, wherever they live, always had to contend with the risk of driving while under the influence of being Hispanic. For example, in California a federal park memo was written this way for park rangers: “If a vehicle stop is conducted and no marijuana is located and the vehicle has Hispanics inside, at a minimum we would like all individuals FI’d [field interrogated].”
What Arizona did was legalize the practice of racial profiling that has already been the norm for Hispanics throughout the United States. “Show me your papers” has always been part of the U.S. Latino and Latina experience. At least now the hypocrisy of colorblind law enforcement is eliminated.
So I ask again, why aren’t the tea party patriots arranging to join me in boycotting Arizona – or better yet, organize a rally in Tucson or Phoenix?
Maybe because fascism is selective. After all, tea party patriots will not be asked for their papers in Arizona – they look too Aryan. The law only applies to those of us who are swarthier. The failure to fight all forms of fascism means that not all fascism is bad.
When fascism protects and advances white privilege or supremacy, the tea party need not protest.
Miguel A. De La Torre is professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology in Denver.
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Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.