THERE’S SOME GOOD NEWS TO TEMPER THE BAD.
First the good…
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio supports my contention that in terms of the attitude of the Tea Party-Republicans who control Arizona government toward people of Mexican descent, Arizona today is for our community what Mississippi was for African Americans in the 1960s. Arpaio boasted on national television (Lou Dobbs Show [CNN], November 12, 2007) that he considers it “an honor” to be compared to the KKK.
Political extremism works only until the backlash comes. The Republican extremists had a veto-proof “super majority” in the Arizona legislature. Concerted campaigns to register voters and get them to the polls resulted in many of the more extreme Republicans losing their seats in the last election. This in turn resulted in the Republicans’ losing their veto-proof “super majority.”
Democratic bills are now being scheduled for hearing whereas before they were simply ignored. And the presence of more moderate Republicans tempers the hate index somewhat.
The best example of the backlash to the Republican extremism is the 2011 recall of Arizona’s chief Mexican hater, Russell Pearce, the first time in Arizona history that voters ousted a state elected official. Now an organic, grass-roots movement to recall Joe Arpaio, arguably the most racist sheriff in America, has developed.
Arpaio, a Massachusetts transplant, has no roots in Arizona. In contrast, William James Fisher, the Phoenix trial lawyer who is heading Respect Arizona (the Recall Arpaio effort), is a fourth-generation Arizonan. A descendant of one of the original settlers of the West, Fisher’s family came to Tucson in the 1870s from Baja California.
In a recent public letter, Fisher notes that “Respect Arizona is a grassroots organization of Republicans, Democrats, Anglos, Latinos, African-Americans, business owners and workers” and that a recall election will bring back respect for Arizona, which under the Republican extremists has become a national laughing stock.
To even begin to catalogue all the moral and ethical failings of Joe Arpaio that justify his recall would require 20 times more space than I have to work with. Arpaio’s antics have engendered many lawsuits, costing Arizona millions of dollars. Respect Arizona contends that the recall campaign will bring to light the pervasive malfeasance, intimidation, incompetence and downright corruption they claim characterizes Arpaio’s administration.
But the most egregious and disgusting of Arpaio’s moral-ethical failings is his extending his Mexican-hating racism to Latino children who have been sexually abused.
During a three-year period (ending in 2007), over 400 sex crimes reported to Arpaio’s office were either inadequately investigated or not investigated at all. While providing police services for El Mirage, Arizona, Arpaio’s office failed to pursue at least 32 reported child molestations. In all but six of these cases, suspects were identified. Most of the victims in these uninvestigated cases were Latino children. Apparently, in Arpaio’s and his supporters’ universe, the sexual abuse of children is acceptable…if those children are brown and have Spanish surnames.
Of the needed 335,317 signatures, 120,000 valid signatures have already been collected.
Rounding out the Arizona good-news happenings:
Affirming “that the freedom to seek work is constitutionally protected,” the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Latino day laborers looking for work by upholding a lower court injunction that prevents Arizona from enforcing a part of SB 1070 that prohibits motorists from stopping traffic to solicit (mostly Mexican) day laborers.
Decent Arizonans can be forgiven for indulging in a bit of schadenfreude (deriving pleasure from the misfortunes of another) when they read that “Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, considered the decision a disappointment.”
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Arpaio’s appeal of a ruling by the 9th Circuit that criticized a decision by Maricopa County jailers to force pink underwear onto a mentally ill inmate who believed the jailers were trying to rape him.
Every blow against the sheriff who is “honored” to stand with racist murderers who bombed churches full of children is a blow for decency.
Now the bad news, juxtaposed with some good…
In January, a federal judge mandated that “By the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, the [Tucson Unified School] District shall develop and implement culturally relevant courses of instruction designed to reflect the history, experiences, and culture of African American and Mexican American communities” in all TUSD’s high schools and that in the 2014-2015 school year, such courses shall be implemented in sixth to eighth grades and throughout the K-12 curriculum in the 2015-2016 school year. This seems to open the door to the reinstatement of some form of Mexican American Studies.
But, literally as I was writing this, the federal court decision (by a different court and judge) on the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law that bans Mexican American Studies courses was issued. This decision in essence upholds the ban on MAS on the principle of state’s rights, that i.e., that it is a state’s right and responsibility to regulate public education—the same principle underlying the Jim Crow laws in the South back in the day.
How these two ostensibly conflicting court decisions will play out as each is implemented remains to be seen. In the next few weeks, these decisions, particularly the one issued today, will be scrutinized carefully. I’ll try to keep you posted, although my next blog won’t appear for a few weeks, by which time you may know as much as I about the matter.
Salomón R. Baldenegro
Copyright 2013 by Salomón R. Baldenegro.