(NNPA) - If you click on the official website of Phoenix, Ariz., the main page proudly boasts the following: 'Welcome to the City of Phoenix: Government At Your Service.'
After passing the most draconian immigration bill in U.S. history, Phoenix's government is not only serving its residents with legal racial profiling, harassment and an environment of hate-mongering, but it is in effect impacting the civil liberties of all Americans around the nation -- and of course those who seek to come here.
And when the actions of some set us back and halt progress for the larger society, it's time to take things into our own hands and let our collective voices resonate in the chambers of Phoenix's state capitol and around the globe. When we are consistently reminded that the fight for civil rights is an ongoing battle, the weapons of choice must be peaceful, intellectual and yet full of immense impact. When some attempt to racially profile groups of people and legalize bigotry, it's time to take immediate and ardent action.
In 1987, the state of Arizona failed to approve Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a public holiday. What ensued was the cancellation of about 170 conventions, boycotts and the loss of millions of dollars in revenue. If history has taught us anything, it is to hit them where it hurts – in the pockets.
As organizations, groups, individuals and governmental entities refuse to support and visit the state, we must multiply our efforts by organizing and marching right at the epicenter. Last Wednesday, I led a rally at the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Phoenix where I was joined by Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and leaders, activists, clergy and representatives from over 30 community organizations. Following our rally, we held a candlelight vigil straight to the Arizona State Capitol.
We commenced peacefully, marched in unison and let the Arizona legislature know that we cannot and will not tolerate such openly prejudiced behavior that accomplishes nothing except institutionalizes racial profiling.
Following in the great tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the freedom riders of the 1960's, we also signed up 'freedom walkers' that willfully and eagerly chose to face arrest if this retroactive immigration law goes into effect. If our nation's torrid history with racial issues has taught us anything, it is that we must sometimes take drastic peaceful measures to make our point – even if those measures cause us personal harm. On May 1, amidst the massive May Day protests that occurred across the globe in support of the rights of immigrants everywhere, we witnessed the arrest of Congressman Guiterrez in Washington, D.C.
A United States representative who did not hesitate to join his fellow protestors as a show of his ardent disapproval of this bill, Congressman Guiterrez displayed a perfect example for the rest of us. Our freedom walkers will do the same – as will I.
Opposition to immigrants is nothing new in this country. Throughout various periods of our history, differing groups have faced prejudice, backlash and intimidation. But what makes this situation disturbingly unique is the fact that it will now be legal – in fact obligatory – for people to express their hatred and bias. No one is denying that we need to find a sustainable solution to our immigration dilemma, but to arbitrarily accuse individuals of being illegal based on nothing but 'suspicion' is unconstitutional and inhumane at best.
Just as racial profiling in New Jersey at the hands of the state police led to countless lawsuits and prudent changes to governmental practices, this SB 1070 bill is almost certainly setting the stage for legal wrangling and losses in the millions.
On Feb. 14, 1912, Arizona achieved official statehood. Hispanics - specifically Mexicans - were in the area long before this indoctrination. And today, about 30 percent of Arizona's population is comprised of legal Hispanic U.S. citizens. Is it appropriate for law enforcement to ask them for their 'papers'? Is it justified for these Americans to be racially targeted and ridiculed by the very institutions their taxes pay for? It's time Phoenix's government to truly begin serving them.