FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON.
Reasonable suspicion? I wonder what that means. I wonder what an illegal immigrant does or says to cause reasonable suspicion? What are the guidelines that law enforcement would use to determine reasonable suspicion? I imagine that if no guidelines are in place, skin color and income level will provide all the suspicion necessary for arresting and detaining Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans and other people who might fit the profile of an illegal alien in Arizona.
Last night when I got home I checked my Facebook and noticed that some of my friends had marched in the huge rally protesting Arizona’s recently passed SB1070, a portion of which is shown above. The rally took place in L.A. but I’m in Arizona. I felt useless and frustrated at not being able to march side by side with them but as I set out to walk my dog, an idea came to me. A friend of my husband’s, who happens to be a very prominent business owner in Arizona, was complaining about the new immigration law. The businessman, who is of Jewish ancestry, started talking about the similarities between the legitimization this new law gives to racial profiling and the racial profiling done at the onset of the Nazis’ persecution of Jews.
“They might as well pass out stars for people to wear on their clothes,” he said. Of course, we don’t have to wear stars because I’m sure law enforcement can figure out who is an illegal immigrant just by looking at us, right? I agree with the fellow who said that this law is not anti-immigrant, it’s anti-Mexican, because if you have blue eyes and fair skin, you probably ain’t getting pulled over by the sheriff; you European immigrants are safe in Arizona.
It must be the former teacher in me but I was all about the yellow stars. What if I were to wear a yellow star that said “Mexican” on my clothes? Would it remind people how dangerous racial profiling can be? Now, I’m not comparing this anti-illegal immigration law to the Holocaust. I certainly do not mean to trivialize the millions who died but I think it honors those whose lives were lost through inaction that we learn from the past. These are the little things that pave the way for tyrants. So, I thought to myself that I had to help people see the connection. I’ve cut out a star for myself which I plan to wear on my clothing when I go about my daily business.
It says simply: “Profile This.”
It may seem like a quiet way to protest but I assure you in my mostly Republican, anti-immigrant community of Phoenix/Scottsdale, it’s going to upset the apple cart and will take a lot more guts than walking with my friends in a march. So wish me luck and if you drive through Arizona or live here, feel free to make your own star and wear it on your lapel. I dare you!
As a symbol of my own little private protest against AZ SB1070, I’ve been wearing a big yellow star on my clothes since Sunday in hopes of reminding people of the terrible things that can happen as a result of racism and racial profiling. The message on the star is simple: “Profile This!” The choice of putting the message on a yellow star was deliberate. I wanted people who I met in everyday life to link the “show us your papers” mentality and the racial profiling allowed under the new Arizona state law with the most insidious example of racial profiling that once occurred under the Third Reich. I wanted them to make the connection and think about how these seemingly little things can lead to something awful.
Historical image courtesy of http://aworldofprogress.com/the-yellow-star-of-arizona/
Sunday morning, as I walked out the door wearing the yellow star in public for the first time, I had an overpowering feeling of sadness. A strong sense of dread came from the awareness that I was making myself a target and I had to remind myself that I had chosen to wear the star, whereas Jews in Nazi Germany had been forced to wear it. I felt empathetic and a little afraid so I put on the mental armor. I walked tall, purposefully, with a serious look on my face. I wore my protest star with self-righteous anger and an expression that said “Don’t fuck with me.” The result was that no one came near me. I wore the star all day without incident.
The next day, I thought about what had happened and I decided that if I wanted the star to have any effect on people, they would have to get close enough to read it. I pinned my star on my tee shirt and tried on a friendly face as I headed out the door to walk my dog. Two neighbors stopped me. They didn’t ask about the star right off, but glanced at it, trying to read its message discreetly as they talked about other things. One woman finally asked “what’s that about?”
“I’m protesting racial profiling…” I replied, trying to open up a discussion without going on the offensive. She smiled, nodded her head up and down and said “yes” as if to say she understood or perhaps even agreed, but I couldn’t qualify the nod because she immediately changed the subject. At the end of the second day, I was starting to feel ignored.
On the third day I was in full friendly mode. I went out of my way to say hello to neighbors, salespeople and strangers. I made sure I got close enough so that they could read my star and still no one would comment. At the market, a Hispanic man in the produce department wheeled over a cart of potatoes next to where I was standing and deliberately bent over to read my message. He looked at me and gave me a big grin but said nothing. That same day, a cashier at a Target store in Scottsdale smiled as she rang up my purchases, then politely and coolly handed me my things after reading the message on my star.
Last night, I was thinking that the whole star protest had been one big failed experiment and that the only one being affected by it was me. I had learned that to get people to even hear, or in this case, read what I have to say, I have to be non-threatening or they’d just ignore me, but I wondered if anyone had stopped to think about the message of the yellow star. I had no reason to think so.
I wore the star again this morning. I’m holding onto the hope that the people who read the star pinned on my chest are quietly, maybe even subconsciously digesting the message that racial profiling is wrong.