Language: Usage and Debate in Progressive Politics

In the past week, I have been involved in discussions and debates related to the terminology used to describe traditionally oppressed groups.  The use of language can be a highly charged topic in leftist and progressive circles, whether one is discussing women or traditionally oppressed ethnic and racial groups.  The debate can rage over spelling or word choice.  In some cases, the discussion is true political analysis.  In others, it is simply a way to “win” an argument and cast the opponent as politically out-of-touch or bigoted.

My purpose here isn’t to insist that people use one word or another, that they adopt alternate spellings or spell words in a traditional fashion, but simply to explore the topic and the motivations behind certain word choices.  We all know that language has power.  The “power to name” has been important to radical feminists for decades.  The power to marginalize individuals using derisive language is one that powerful groups have used for millennia.  My purpose is to discuss how language evolves, the political usage of language, and how there can be considerable disagreement within historically oppressed and exploited groups about proper word usage.  I think it’s important for anyone with leftist or progressive politics to understand this–that what they may consider “politically correct” may be a matter of considerable debate within the actual marginalized group.

Some of the words, phrases and designations that can be viewed as proper by one group, but not by another include “cisgender” or “cis”, women-vs-womyn/wimin, and Latino/Latina-vs-Hispanic-vs-Chicano/Chicana-vs-“people of color”.*  The use of one or more of these terms can lead to heated debate.  At times, this debate is based upon not understanding how the words are viewed or used by certain communities, while at others the debate is based upon a more thorough understanding of how the words are viewed or used.  Regardless, the debates generally include accusations that someone “just doesn’t get it”.  Perhaps they do get it.  Perhaps they simply have other information or they disagree with the political arguments behind specific word usage.  There are other words and phrases that inspire similar debate, but I will mostly confine myself to a discussion of these three, because they are the ones with which I have the most real life experience.

The term “cisgender” or “cis” can get one into hot water when moving from a liberal feminist environment to a radical feminist environment.  In the liberal environment, one can be castigated for not using this word and paying fealty to its political implications. This confuses many feminists who begin moving into more radical feminist spaces from liberal feminist spaces.  They may use the term thinking they are being kind, sensitive and politically aware, only to be told that they are actually being anti-woman.  I agree that the term “cis” and “cisgender” are politically useless, at best.  However, I think it would be helpful to tell women why the term and the theory behind it are disputed, rather than simply condemning them.  Unfortunately, I think many of us may assume that other women understand the issues involved and are simply willfully ignoring those issues.  I don’t think this helps our cause of advancing the analysis of gender as a destructive hierarchy, rather than a neutral continuum.  It simply serves to confuse and alienate women who could be our allies.

Also related to the struggle of women is the use of alternate spellings for the very words “woman” and “women”.  Because many radical feminists find the etymology and implications of the words problematic, they choose to use alternate spellings.  Among others, these include “womyn”, “wimin”, and “womon”.  On the other side are those who say that the use of such alternate spellings alienate potential allies by appearing to erase men.  I find the argument that feminists need to cater to men’s egos–even when referring to women— misguided, at the very least.  That said, I also prefer to use traditional spellings for words.  For me, I fully understand the desire to name ourselves that lies behind the practice of alternate spellings.  I have very little patience for those who ridicule others for using alternate spellings.  However, I do find that the use of such spellings in articles meant to influence others (call it propaganda, if you want) can come across like jargon.  I also have an ingrained desire to use proper grammar and spelling because of my background in journalism.  So, I remain unpersuaded by the hardliners on either side.

The final language-related issue that stirs up debate is the terminology used to refer to both men and women who belong to historically oppressed and exploited racial or ethnic groups.  In the U.S., these groups are usually, demographically speaking, in the minority of the population.  On the other hand, when one considers the population of the world, they are not.  For many, this demographic difference between white-majority countries and the rest of the world means that the only acceptable term to use is “people of color” to describe all members of historically oppressed ethnic and racial groups.  This is understandable, and it’s a term I often use.  However, it is not a panacea.  There is considerable debate within Hispanic groups about how that particular group–which includes those in all racial categories–should be referred to.  This is a long and storied debate, and one that gets little notice outside of this particular group.

Among the ethnic group referred to as “Hispanic”, there is a history of debate even over that term.  While it is currently used by the U.S. Census, there are those within the group who reject it due to its colonial implications.  It is a term they feel is used to connect them solely to Spanish colonizers, and does not recognize that the majority of those called “Hispanic” are descended from both indigenous and colonial backgrounds, with others being descended from only indigenous backgrounds, indigenous and African backgrounds, or only African backgrounds.  In short, it is considered Eurocentric and imperialist, as described by Cheech Marin.

Hispanic is a census term that some dildo in a government office made up to include all Spanish-speaking brown people. It is especially annoying to Chicanos because it is a catch-all term that includes the Spanish conqueror. By definition, it favors European cultural invasion, not indigenous roots. It also includes all Latino groups, which brings us together because Hispanic annoys all Latino groups.

In the 1960s, the words “Chicano” and “Chicana” became popular for Mexican-American activists, especially radical activists, to describe those of Mexican heritage who were born in the U.S.  Others reject that term for so-called derisive implications, as it was once used by Mexicans to describe Mexican-Americans, who were perceived as having lost their heritage.  The word has been used in the names of activist organizations in the U.S., such as Chicanos por la Causa.  “La Raza” is another term used for politically active Mexican-Americans, especially in California.  That, too, has been used in the names of activist organizations, such as the National Council of La Raza.

Similarly, the words “Latino” and “Latina” are subject to debate.  These words are often viewed in a similar way as “Hispanic”, linking the peoples of Latin America to their colonizers’ languages without any recognition of the indigenous or African origins of many in Latin America.  However, as indicated in the quote above, this is not a universal opinion, either.

And what of those in the U.S. who fall between categories, because they are of both Latin American and North/Western European descent?  Are these people of color?  Are they Hispanic?  Are they Latinos and Latinas?  Are they white?  Does their status change according to the situation?  This is important to me, because it involves my own children.  I met a Mexican-American man–first generation born in the U.S.–22 years ago.  I married him 21 years ago.  We have two children.  On official documents, they are listed as members of the Hispanic ethnicity and the white or Caucasian race.  How they are treated likely depends on the situation.  In person, they are treated as white.  Their skin tone is white, so they have the privileges associated with that white appearance.  Culturally, our family’s primary ties and influence are Mexican and Mexican-American.  On the other hand, if one were to see just their names written on a job application or academic paper, my children would be considered Hispanic by the reader.  As studies have shown, the appearance of a name indicating a female or member of another marginalized group can lead the reader to have built-in bias towards that individual and her qualifications.

But what of the term “people of color”?  As I said, I commonly use it, but I have run into issues with that term, as well.  It is not one my spouse embraces.  In fact, he does not even embrace the term “Mexican-American”.   He refers to himself, his family members and others within his national heritage group as simply “Mexican”, regardless of the country in which they were born or the passport which they carry.  This may be because his father was born and raised in Mexico, and almost all of their family still lives in Mexico City.   I have run into older Mexican-American folks who find the term “people of color” actively offensive.  Like the old fashioned term “colored” that was once used to describe African-Americans and is now widely considered offensive, they feel it defines them in opposition to whites.  It doesn’t say what or who they are, it says what or who they aren’t; there are “people” (who are white), and there are “people of color” (everyone else).  It also lumps them in with others of widely differing backgrounds and heritage.

So, where do we arrive at with this discussion of language?  For me, it’s realizing that even the terms most popular among leftists and progressives, the terms considered sensitive and supportive, are not always free of debate–quite fiery debate, in fact.  When we run across folks who don’t use the terms we consider sensitive or supportive, we should find out why.  Don’t assume insensitivity or lack of knowledge, unless it’s a historical pattern for a particular individual or the context makes it clear.  Find out what they’re saying and why, especially if they are someone you don’t know well.  Unless, of course, you’re just looking to silence someone who disagrees with you.  Then, you can continue being that “liberal bully” that Offbeat Empire refers to.  Just don’t expect to arrive at any real answers or gain new allies if you choose that path.

NOTES:

* I have used a number of links to Wikipedia articles in this piece.  That is not because I think Wikipedia is necessarily a good source.  Instead, I have chosen to include these articles because they include reference links to other, more helpful articles.

The Personal Is Political

This piece was originally posted on Righteous Anger.

The old feminist adage that the personal is political has always been dear to my heart.  Our everyday relations are reflections of the wider world around us.  How much does gasoline cost?  Are our jobs and livelihoods at risk because of who sits in the state house?  How are our children being educated?  Can we marry the people we love? One day this past May, I witnessed how the personal and political can intersect in the most hideous way.

Late on a Friday evening, my daughter, her boyfriend, and I sat on our front porch.  The house is just a block from the University of Arizona, so university students–drunken or otherwise–wander the streets at all hours.  This was one of those nights with drunken students stumbling down our street.

As we sat on the porch, we heard a male voice scream, “You said you loved me and you loved the dog.  You don’t love me or the dog!”  We giggled, since it sounded so ridiculous.  Typical overwrought, drunken-college-kid hysteria.  The partner did not reply, but he did eventually catch up to his boyfriend.  The boyfriend kept screaming out his complaints for all to hear, whether we wanted to or not.

Eventually, they met in the intersection and began hitting each other.  Yes, we probably should have said something, and we would have if it was an opposite-sex couple.  With same-sex couples, though, I know many people are even less likely to get involved.  In general, the reason I’m more likely to say something or call the police with opposite-sex couples is the disparity in size and strength.  We’re also more accustomed to seeing fights between same-sex combatants who have no romantic relationship, so it’s more “acceptable.” I’m not ignoring the problem of my hypocrisy here, just explaining why many of us behave that way.

If it had stayed on the level of a personal spat–even with the slapping of each other–I wouldn’t have thought much about it.  However, it began to take on the ugly tone of bigotry that is so common in Arizona.  It turns out that one of the partners was Anglo, while the other was of Mexican decent and nationality.  The Anglo partner began screaming that he was going to call the police and have his lover deported.  Really?  That’s where you’re going to go with someone you claim to love?  That’s a shitty thing to say to someone you don’t have ties to; to say it to someone you supposedly love is atrocious.

The two wandered up in front of our house, with the white kid taking the lead.  He stormed up to us and demanded that we call the police.  His Mexican boyfriend followed more slowly, giving us an embarrassed smile.  The Anglo kid demanded over and over that we have the police come and deport the Mexican kid.  He really came to the wrong fucking house. Little did he realize that the older Anglo woman and the mixed-ethnicity girl were related to many people who came to this country from Mexico.  He saw the white skin and thought he could be as disgustingly bigoted as he wanted to be.  Wrong again, asshole.

My daughter’s boyfriend confronted the white kid:  “We don’t hear him making a scene.  The only person we hear is you.  Why would we call the cops on him?”  The Anglo kid had no reply.  After my son-in-law verbally smacked him down, the kid started off on his journey up the street.  His boyfriend again looked at us, smiled with a look of embarrassed resignation, and followed his partner.

It was our own up-close and personal view of another Arizona scandal–that of Paul Babeu.

It may have been a different time and a different issue, but I was once again shown the truth in that old adage:  the personal really is political.

Some of my best friends…

This piece was originally published on Righteous Anger on 10 July 2012.

If you’re old enough, you’ve heard one bigot or another try to explain away a racist statement.  Once upon a time, the go-to phrase was, “Some of my best friends are black.”  Today, in the State of Arizona, we have a modern version of that.  It concerns Latinos and Latinas, and goes something like this:  “I don’t have any problem with Mexicans.  I just hate illegal immigration.”  The storm around SB1070 has made this even more common.  It has a corollary along the lines of, “SB1070 isn’t about prejudice or profiling.  It’s about illegal immigration.”  I’m here to tell you that you can trust those statements every bit as much as the old “some of my best friends” apology.

I married into a Mexican-American family in 1992.  My husband is the first generation of his father’s family born in the U.S.  His mother met his dad in the 1960s, when she went to Mexico City to attend the university.  Like her, I am the Anglo wife and mother of Mexican-Americans.  So, when I speak of my anger over SB1070 and other demonstrations of ethnic hatred, it’s a personal issue.

My husband is a very light-skinned Mexican-American, but it’s obvious to whites that he’s not “one of us”.  As a kid, he said he was often asked, “I know you’re not white, but what are you?”  He was obviously Other to the white eye.  And often to the Mexican eye, as well.

When our daughter was young, Saturday was always Daddy-Daughter Day.  When she was very young, this usually entailed trips to the park.  One summer day in 1995, my husband and our three-year-old daughter took one of these trips to the park.  Rodeo Park, the place they went that day, was a large park in our very poor, overwhelmingly Mexican-American neighborhood.

It’s Arizona, so it gets hot early.  So, they prepared to leave after our girl played for about an hour. As they were preparing to leave, my husband was approached by a Tucson police officer.  The cop demanded ID.  He held my husband and our small daughter in the hot Arizona sun for about an hour.  He insisted on questioning my husband and waiting for a report to come back before he would let them go.  Like many minority individuals, my husband is easily spooked by police officers.  He knows what they can and will do to men like him in a way that white people will never know.  So, he stayed.

When the call came back that my husband was “clean”, the cop tried to laugh it off.  “Never can be too careful,” he said.  Of what?  Of a man being an involved father?  Of a man taking his child to the fucking park?  Of a three-year-old child?

An isolated incident, you might insist.  Just one overzealous police officer in one neighborhood of one town on one day.  Well, you’d be wrong.  It would happen again just a month or so later.  This time, it was not in Tucson, but my hometown of Globe, Arizona.  My husband again took our daughter to the park.  The park in Globe sat immediately across from the Globe Police Department.  During their visit to the park, my husband would be approached by a Globe cop.  What was he doing?  Why was he there?  Where did he get the kid?  Seriously…where did he get the kid?  I know it’s a small town and all, but I know they taught some basic biology at Globe High School.  I attended that school for a couple of years, so I can attest to that.

To illustrate the contrast, I had my own experience with the local Tucson law enforcement around the same time.  I was stopped for speeding on a Tucson freeway.  The officer noticed a loaded, concealed handgun in the car.  (It was only slightly visible.)  This was years before Arizona went wild with the concealed weapons laws, so it was absolutely illegal.  He wrote me the speeding ticket, then advised me that I should probably take the rounds out of the gun.  He told me he absolutely understood why I was carrying the gun, and he sympathized.  Then, he sent me on my way.

Of course these stories are common and widespread, across Arizona and the American Southwest.  They don’t just happen to the poor and unknown, though.  Raul Hector Castro is everything that the anti-Hispanic bigot claims to celebrate.  He’s a man who came to the U.S. and “assimilated”.  Learned English.  Worked his ass off, both physically and in school.  Earned not one, but two college degrees–a teaching degree from Northern Arizona University and a law degree from the University of Arizona.  Served as the Pima County Attorney.  Served as a U.S. Ambassador multiple times.  Elected to the office of Governor of Arizona.  Yet, despite all that, Gov. Castro has been stopped by law enforcement–in this case Border Patrol–three times. The most recent was just last month.

The incident was recounted in Nogales International by Anne Doan, a friend of the governor and University of Arizona employee, who was accompanying Gov. Castro that day.  She reported that the agents knew that the governor had just undergone a medical treatment that set off their alarms.  She talked of them making him get out of the car, having more tests, then being released…only to be stopped again and being ordered to show identification.  In Ms. Doan’s words:

After all of this chaos in the Arizona heat I thought it was interesting that the agents never asked me for my identification, and I was driving the car. Maybe I was the nuclear threat.

I understand Border Patrol has a job to do, but this was absolutely ridiculous. I feel less safe knowing that time and money is being wasted by agents who must check a box or file a paper knowing full well that there is no threat. It is the equivalent of TSA detaining a toddler simply because of random searches.

This is the anger that exists with that checkpoint. We residents understand why it is there, but are reminded every day at how wasteful and ineffective it is. I am sorry, but in America, Americans should be able to drive from one city to the next without being detained and questioned by other Americans simply to file paperwork.

The Border Patrol’s excuse has been that they only “delayed” him for ten minutes.  Others report it was about 30 minutes.  I think they’re missing the point, especially since this was the third time the governor had been stopped by U.S. Border Patrol.

The story of Castro’s first encounter with Border Patrol on another day almost 50 years ago appeared in a Salon piece:

Nearly half century ago, working on the front fence of his Tucson horse farm in his work clothes, Castro was stopped by a passing Border Patrol car. The agents asked if he had his work card. Castro said no. When they asked whom he worked for, Castro referred to “the señorita inside.” The agents nearly arrested Castro until he showed them the sign by his farm entrance: “Judge Castro.”

The Salon piece goes on to explain that the 1970s would see another incident, this time proving that Arizona isn’t the only place this can happen.  Castro reported that he and his daughter were stopped in San Diego, California.  The agent demanded to know where Castro was born:

I wasn’t about to lie. I was born in Mexico, I said. The guard starts questioning me. “What about that young lady?” She was born in Japan, I said, during the Korean War. He thought we were being smart. He didn’t want to let us go.  In the meantime, someone came by and recognized me. Governor, how are you?

“But,” the protests of bigots go out, “those are federal agents.  They don’t have anything to do with SB1070.”  Well, yes and no.  They are federal agents. However, they are just another illustration of where these laws come from, how they can be used to harass even our most celebrated, successful citizens simply because they have brown skin, a Mexican accent, and an ability to speak Spanish.  Two of the three incidents also occurred in Arizona, and were enforced by Arizona residents.

Things like SB1070 do not happen in a vacuum.  They come from a place of bigotry.  They come from the same place that moves the Arizona State Legislature to attack the ethnic studies program at Tucson High Magnet School, even as it has been proven over and over to be a positive influence on the education of our students.  They are motivated by the same hatred that moves people to post nasty anti-Hispanic comments on the websites of any Arizona newspaper that publishes a piece on Hispanics–whether they be citizens or not.  They come from the same place as the bigoted comments from other whites to me; the comments of those who see my white skin and assume I won’t care.  They come from an ugly place in the hearts of too many Arizonans.

Multilingualism in the U.S.

I wrote this piece in “honor” of the 4th of July, 2012.  It originally appeared on Righteous Anger.
On the 4th of July, we’re usually treated to an endless wave of flag-waving celebrations of a mythical America.  Yesterday, I ran across an article on Counterpunch entitled Tom Paine and the Fourth of July.  Much of it was mildly interesting, but not anything that would stop me in my tracks.  Towards the middle of the article, though, I read the following passage:

“Contrary to the propaganda of anti-immigrant and ‘English-only’ demagogues today, the U.S. was not founded on monolingualism. In 1776 many in the colonies – especially Pennsylvania – spoke and read only German, even though their ancestors had immigrated from Germany more than 100 years earlier. When Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, it had that document also published in German as well as English.”

As a native Arizonan, not to mention the Anglo wife and mother of Mexican-Americans, the debate around immigration and language are dear to my heart.  So often, we hear Mexican-Americans condemned for speaking their mother tongue.  “They just refuse to assimilate!” the right-wing screams, as if “assimilation” is admirable.  (Ask any Trekkie, assimilation is not a good thing.)  Assimilation means becoming more Anglo, more European.  Speaking English.  Refusing to acknowledge from where you came and from whom.

Many of the people in my state are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Our largest county, Maricopa County, is where the Arizona Temple is located.  My own family was sent down by Brigham Young to “settle” central Arizona, ending up in the White Mountains.  Many of our lawmakers are Mormon.  Outside of Utah, there are few states more controlled by the LDS Church leadership than Arizona.  These individuals are also overwhelmingly right-wingers.  They make up the group who passed and rabidly support SB1070.  The people who demand photo ID at voting booths.  The people who don’t want any state business done in Spanish.  In other words, the people who demand that Mexican-Americans forget their past and assimilate.

A major tenant of Mormonism is learning the past, learning about the generations of your family that came before you.  Doing a certain amount of genealogy is an absolute requirement for any member of the LDS religion.  So, let’s think about this.  Mormons demand that their own members learn about and keep records of the past.  Mormonism started in New England.  In New England (and most of the colonies), people spoke German as their first or only language for over a century after coming to the colonies.  The Declaration of Independence was published in both English and German.  So, how do “English-only” devotees in Arizona reconcile that they are opponents of what the venerated forefathers believed in and practiced?  How do the Arizonans who cling to Mormonism and its veneration of the past reconcile that they are actively fighting the rights of others to do the same?  I suspect they simply choose to remain ignorant of the facts.

Some of my best friends…

If you’re old enough, you’ve heard one bigot or another try to explain away a racist statement.  Once upon a time, the go-to phrase was, “Some of my best friends are black.”  Today, in the State of Arizona, we have a modern version of that.  It concerns Latinos and Latinas, and goes something like this:  “I don’t have any problem with Mexicans.  I just hate illegal immigration.”  The storm around SB1070 has made this even more common.  It has a corollary along the lines of, “SB1070 isn’t about prejudice or profiling.  It’s about illegal immigration.”  I’m here to tell you that you can trust those statements every bit as much as the old “some of my best friends” apology.

I married into a Mexican-American family in 1992.  My husband is the first generation of his father’s family born in the U.S.  His mother met his dad in the 1960s, when she went to Mexico City to attend the university.  Like her, I am the Anglo wife and mother of Mexican-Americans.  So, when I speak of my anger over SB1070 and other demonstrations of ethnic hatred, it’s a personal issue.

My husband is a very light-skinned Mexican-American, but it’s obvious to whites that he’s not “one of us”.  As a kid, he said he was often asked, “I know you’re not white, but what are you?”  He was obviously Other to the white eye.  And often to the Mexican eye, as well.

When our daughter was young, Saturday was always Daddy-Daughter Day.  When she was very young, this usually entailed trips to the park.  One summer day in 1995, my husband and our three-year-old daughter took one of these trips to the park.  Rodeo Park, the place they went that day, was a large park in our very poor, overwhelmingly Mexican-American neighborhood.

It’s Arizona, so it gets hot early.  So, they prepared to leave after our girl played for about an hour. As they were preparing to leave, my husband was approached by a Tucson police officer.  The cop demanded ID.  He held my husband and our small daughter in the hot Arizona sun for about an hour.  He insisted on questioning my husband and waiting for a report to come back before he would let them go.  Like many minority individuals, my husband is easily spooked by police officers.  He knows what they can and will do to men like him in a way that white people will never know.  So, he stayed.

When the call came back that my husband was “clean”, the cop tried to laugh it off.  “Never can be too careful,” he said.  Of what?  Of a man being an involved father?  Of a man taking his child to the fucking park?  Of a three-year-old child?

An isolated incident, you might insist.  Just one overzealous police officer in one neighborhood of one town on one day.  Well, you’d be wrong.  It would happen again just a month or so later.  This time, it was not in Tucson, but my hometown of Globe, Arizona.  My husband again took our daughter to the park.  The park in Globe sat immediately across from the Globe Police Department.  During their visit to the park, my husband would be approached by a Globe cop.  What was he doing?  Why was he there?  Where did he get the kid?  Seriously…where did he get the kid?  I know it’s a small town and all, but I know they taught some basic biology at Globe High School.  I attended that school for a couple of years, so I can attest to that.

To illustrate the contrast, I had my own experience with the local Tucson law enforcement around the same time.  I was stopped for speeding on a Tucson freeway.  The officer noticed a loaded, concealed handgun in the car.  (It was only slightly visible.)  This was years before Arizona went wild with the concealed weapons laws, so it was absolutely illegal.  He wrote me the speeding ticket, then advised me that I should probably take the rounds out of the gun.  He told me he absolutely understood why I was carrying the gun, and he sympathized.  Then, he sent me on my way.


Of course these stories are common and widespread, across Arizona and the American Southwest.  They don’t just happen to the poor and unknown, though.  Raul Hector Castro is everything that the anti-Hispanic bigot claims to celebrate.  He’s a man who came to the U.S. and “assimilated”.  Learned English.  Worked his ass off, both physically and in school.  Earned not one, but two college degrees–a teaching degree from Northern Arizona University and a law degree from the University of Arizona.  Served as the Pima County Attorney.  Served as a U.S. Ambassador multiple times.  Elected to the office of Governor of Arizona.  Yet, despite all that, Gov. Castro has been stopped by law enforcement–in this case Border Patrol–three times. The most recent was just last month.

The incident was recounted in Nogales International by Anne Doan, a friend of the governor and University of Arizona employee, who was accompanying Gov. Castro that day.  She reported that the agents knew that the governor had just undergone a medical treatment that set off their alarms.  She talked of them making him get out of the car, having more tests, then being released…only to be stopped again and being ordered to show identification.  In Ms. Doan’s words:

After all of this chaos in the Arizona heat I thought it was interesting that the agents never asked me for my identification, and I was driving the car. Maybe I was the nuclear threat.
I understand Border Patrol has a job to do, but this was absolutely ridiculous. I feel less safe knowing that time and money is being wasted by agents who must check a box or file a paper knowing full well that there is no threat. It is the equivalent of TSA detaining a toddler simply because of random searches.
This is the anger that exists with that checkpoint. We residents understand why it is there, but are reminded every day at how wasteful and ineffective it is. I am sorry, but in America, Americans should be able to drive from one city to the next without being detained and questioned by other Americans simply to file paperwork.

The Border Patrol’s excuse has been that they only “delayed” him for ten minutes.  Others report it was about 30 minutes.  I think they’re missing the point, especially since this was the third time the governor had been stopped by U.S. Border Patrol.

The story of Castro’s first encounter with Border Patrol on another day almost 50 years ago appeared in a Salon piece:

Nearly half century ago, working on the front fence of his Tucson horse farm in his work clothes, Castro was stopped by a passing Border Patrol car. The agents asked if he had his work card. Castro said no. When they asked whom he worked for, Castro referred to “the señorita inside.” The agents nearly arrested Castro until he showed them the sign by his farm entrance: “Judge Castro.”

The Salon piece goes on to explain that the 1970s would see another incident, this time proving that Arizona isn’t the only place this can happen.  Castro reported that he and his daughter were stopped in San Diego, California.  The agent demanded to know where Castro was born:

I wasn’t about to lie. I was born in Mexico, I said. The guard starts questioning me. “What about that young lady?” She was born in Japan, I said, during the Korean War. He thought we were being smart. He didn’t want to let us go.  In the meantime, someone came by and recognized me. Governor, how are you?

“But,” the protests of bigots go out, “those are federal agents.  They don’t have anything to do with SB1070.”  Well, yes and no.  They are federal agents. However, they are just another illustration of where these laws come from, how they can be used to harass even our most celebrated, successful citizens simply because they have brown skin, a Mexican accent, and an ability to speak Spanish.  Two of the three incidents also occurred in Arizona, and were enforced by Arizona residents.

Things like SB1070 do not happen in a vacuum.  They come from a place of bigotry.  They come from the same place that moves the Arizona State Legislature to attack the ethnic studies program at Tucson High Magnet School, even as it has been proven over and over to be a positive influence on the education of our students.  They are motivated by the same hatred that moves people to post nasty anti-Hispanic comments on the websites of any Arizona newspaper that publishes a piece on Hispanics–whether they be citizens or not.  They come from the same place as the bigoted comments from other whites to me; the comments of those who see my white skin and assume I won’t care.  They come from an ugly place in the hearts of too many Arizonans.