By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
The first rule of any boycott is to keep your eyes on the prize; translated, this means never lose sight of the big picture.
RUSHING TOWARDS APARTHEID: Arizona is speeding towards an apartheid state. Some of this rush has to do with repressive laws (including the legalization of racial profiling and the elimination of ethnic studies) that have been recently signed by the governor. Truthfully, however, this move pre-exists the recent legislation and much of the repression against the Mexican community here is also historical in nature and it is actually nationwide.
On the surface, it is about migration issues. Yet if we probe a little deeper, it’s about the Browning of Arizona. Probe some more and you will see that much of the hate has little to do with peoples’ legal status. That’s where English-Only and the new anti-ethnic studies law comes in. It is not simply about our physical presence (red-brown), but about our culture – which is thousands of years old and Indigenous to this continent. In this sense, it is beyond physical removal and even beyond thought-control; this is about our souls (they can’t have them).
THE PRINCIPAL TARGETS: Mexicans-Central Americans in this country are the primary targets. Also generally targeted are Indigenous red-brown peoples from the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Tragically, in the end, as state and federal governments defend themselves against racial profiling charges, they will move toward a checkpoint society in which officials will demand documentation of everyone in the country, of all ages and at all times.
THE CULPRITS: Some of the people in power in Arizona who are directly responsible for this recent move towards apartheid are: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio – responsible for refining racial profiling [of Indigenous peoples] into an art form; Rep. Russell Pierce – the architect of most of the anti-immigrant bills; State School Superintendent Tom Horne – the force behind the anti-ethnic studies bills and an avowed opponent of Raza Studies; and the unelected Gov. Jan Brewer – who has signed many of the draconian laws in question.
Across the country, about a dozen states are poised to follow in Arizona’s footsteps. Yet indeed, at the root of this crisis is the federal government’s failure to address the issue of immigration – not on the basis of fear, hate and the politics of blame, but rather, as part of a global economic and labor crisis.
THE SMALL PICTURE: That federal failure to act has emboldened the crazies in the state legislature to create their own immigration policies. The feds actually have acted, but strictly from a military/law enforcement point of view. A comprehensive immigration reform law could theoretically nullify these anti-immigrant state laws, but there’s no guarantee that the result will actually be better. At best, it might simply return us to uniform national repressive laws and practices such as the ones that result in the funneling of thousands upon thousands of human beings into the Arizona/Sonora desert, which have resulted in the recovery of some 5,000 bodies since the 1990s… or that create the kangaroo court known as Operation Streamline in which some 70 migrants are processed daily in one hour. Uniform laws and practices would obviate the need for state boycotts.
THE BIG PICTURE: The problem will not be solved on a state-by-state basis. The root – the current crisis at hand – can actually be traced to NAFTA. This 1994 trilateral agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico has been a boon for corporations, but disastrous for workers, especially Indigenous peoples from the maiz-growing regions of southern Mexico. Millions have been uprooted as a result of the importation of U.S.-subsidized [genetically modified] corn into Mexico. NAFTA’s original promise was that it would solve the immigration crisis. What has instead occurred is the further devastation of Mexico.The subsequent agreements covering Central America, (CAFTA) the Americas (FTAA) and the world (GATT) all portend similar results.
APARTHEID, ARIZONA, USA: For the moment, the national focus is on Arizona. And the question has become: how does one boycott a state? On its face, it seems fairly easy, but there are actually few precedents for such a successful boycott. Congressman Raul Grijalva has called for a limited boycott, calling for organizations not to schedule future conventions and conferences in the state.
Those in the trenches are calling for a wider boycott – of tourism and especially against corporations that support the cabal of extremist politicians in our state. While there is no statewide or national coordinating or sanctioning body (yet) to carry out such a campaign, there are many organizations that have been battling the repression in Arizona for many years, including Tucson’s Derechos Humanos. They can be contacted for guidance re the boycott (http://www.derechoshumanosaz.net/). However, the basic message is this: tourists stay home; organizers welcome.
A CRITICAL RESISTANCE BOYCOTT: The boycott’s current objective is to hurt Arizona’s economy to the point where the governor and the extremist legislators will eventually come to their senses. One thing about Arizona is that it is also Indian Country – a factor in considering who/what gets boycotted, etc. Ultimately, the solution to the migration crisis has to be national and international in scope. These policies will not be solved at the state or even national levels. The administration has the responsibility to create a solution that place human beings at the center. Any solution that does not recognize migrants as full human beings with corresponding full human rights is but a recipe for legalized human smuggling, a new bracero program, maximum exploitation and dehumanization and the further militarization of both the border and nation.
A BROADER BOYCOTT?: If these laws are replicated by the 12 other states, it would be difficult to carry out a boycott of 13 states, particularly if the president eventually signs a law that primarily focuses on borders/walls and further militarization. Is a boycott of the United States a possibility or even feasible? Already, both of these laws in question were denounced last week by UN human rights experts in Geneva. Arizona is not hyperbole, but rather, a hate laboratory. These laws that clearly single people out for both their color/race and culture are in clear violation of international laws. At the moment, whom they are singling out are not simply Mexicans/Central Americans – but generally, anyone with Indigenous features (and their/our ways of thinking). That’s why many of us say that this is the culmination of a 518-year war. This is also why Indigenous leaders from throughout the continent last year unanimously proclaimed that peoples from this continent cannot be illegal on this continent. Any boycott must affirm this principle.
A CIVILATIONAL CLASH: The theft of a continent is not a closed chapter in human history (Nor has it become legal simply because of the passage of time). And yet, truly, no human being can be illegal on any continent. This truly is a civilizational clash – between those that believe, vs. those that don’t believe, that all peoples deserve to be treated as full human beings with full corresponding human rights – regardless of where they/we live.
Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com