Monday, December 21, 2009
Below is a draft of a text that was originally written for an anti-racist blog. I was approached and asked to contribute a piece about the dire situation in Arizona for a national audience, unfortunately this never saw the light of day due to their objections over the centrality of the border and indigenous struggles to the immigrant movement.
By Jon Riley
Phoenix Class War Council
What’s left to be said about Maricopa County? What can I tell you that you don’t already know? Need I mention the racial profiling by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), the “crime suppression” sweeps targeting immigrants and communities of color, the living conditions in tent city jail, the harassment of rival political figures, the courting of radical anti-immigrant groups, and, of course, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s appetite for the limelight?
You’ve read the condemnation from national news sources, such as the New York Times editorials, and in the constant stream of articles on anti-racist websites and blogs. It is clear that the situation in Maricopa County, and throughout the state, is increasingly hellish for anyone concerned with human freedom. We recognize that the situation on the ground is untenable for organizing. Communities are constantly on the defensive, racist lawmakers are on the legal offensive, and our movement is tired of losing.
For us to resist this state of emergency the movement will have to change.
The desperation is ever present in Maricopa County. Local activists devoted to challenging the racism oozing from the local state legislature and county sheriff are exhausted. The years of symbolic protest and moral appeals to the white citizen majority have failed. Even when Arpaio’s numbers slipped in the polls (he currently is seeing some of his highest poll numbers state wide), support for anti-immigrant ballot initiatives remained at 80%. Other activists and lawyers have sought the intervention of the federal government, and while the Department of Justice has sent a handful of observers to the county to little affect during their 20 month stay. The situation has only grown worse, more families are broken up by MCSO workplace raids, more immigrant workers have been deported, and even more have “self-deported,” fleeing the state that was their home.
Was it just four years ago that we saw the “huelga general,” a real general strike that happened here in Maricopa County. In downtown Phoenix hundreds of thousands of workers marched and rallied for protection from the coming onslaught of anti-immigrant legislation and popular white hysteria that was reaching a fever pitch. Now we’re lucky to see a few thousand marching for immigrants and calling for the end of the era of racialized policing. The dwindling numbers are of no surprise to many of us, for years organizers have stonewalled and marginalized radical voices and tactics, preferring symbolic and moral appeals to power, especially as the demands of the movement are in retreat. Gone are the “somos America, we are America” slogans, now the signs read “We are human,” a plea to the white citizenry to recognize, at the very least, that immigrants are also human beings.
Anarchists in the valley- and more specifically those who have for years resisted and organized against the Sheriff, state politicians, and local laws- are trying new methods in this struggle. We’ve seen the failure of the movement's moral appeal to white citizens, whites are engaged in a political alliance with the elite, one that rewards them with white skin privilege, over solidarity with other working class people of color. Why don’t we redefine the debate by hitting at the system’s contradictions instead? The same Sheriff deputies white people believe protect them from the “evils of illegal immigration” will also be the same agents of the state evicting them from their foreclosed home. Indeed, indigenous people are also facing forced relocation from their traditional lands, in northern Arizona the Diné resist the corporations seizing the land for resource extraction, while down south the Tohono O’odham are harassed by the Border Patrol, and removed from their lands for the construction of the border wall. The state dislocates immigrants, American families, and indigenous people from their homes, why aren’t we building a movement that addresses this?
Like the mainstream movement, we too want an end to the racial profiling and the attacks on immigrant communities, but we don’t want to enter a one sided debate with those in power over who can come, who can go, and who stays. Free people, need to move and live freely, we say no deportations, no foreclosures, no relocations!