For young people in my neighborhood, getting stopped and frisked is a rite of passage. We expect the police to jump us at any moment. We know the rules: don’t run and don’t try to explain, because speaking up for yourself might get you arrested or worse. And we all feel the same way — degraded, harassed, violated and criminalized because we’re black or Latino. Have I been stopped more than the average young black person? I don’t know, but I look like a zillion other people on the street. And we’re all just trying to live our lives.
Perhaps the most chilling aspect of the immigration legislation is the requirement that citizens report anyone suspected of illegal status. Such a requirement is eerily reminiscent of Nazi Germany, Cold War Russia, and Fascist Italy, when snitching mandates were central to sustaining a regime of fear and central control. Sadly, these demands are not exclusive to the immigration bill, as everything from drug enforcement policy to the Obama Administration’s counter-terrorism strategies are undergirded by the expectation that everyday people will be forced to report the alleged misdeeds of others. Like many dimensions of fascist politics, the notion of the citizen-informant seems relatively harmless. Unfortunately, evidence shows that such a practice is unreliable and ineffective, not to mention devastating for the moral and cultural fabric of a community.
Although it would be hyperbolic to say that America is destined to become a truly fascist nation, the Arizona immigration bill reflects the nation’s continued shift away from its expressed principles. Unless we quickly begin to organize and challenge what currently counts as “common sense,” we may lose the opportunity to save what’s left of our democracy.
“Obama, in all likelihood, has had similar experiences with the police, exchanges in which he was left with the impression that his Ivy League pedigree could take him only so far. And so it’s unfortunate that he felt unable to continue to express what he truly felt. He was forced to revise and turn what was an objectively true statement — that it’s stupid to arrest a man in his own house for being rude — into a vague ‘teachable moment’ [emphasis mine] about nothing particular…
This is deflating. If the rest of the country is too immature for some straight talk about the relationship between blacks and the police, delivered by our most accomplished and temperate diplomats, then the prospects for a broader dialogue about race are not good.”
Exactly. With all of the defenses I’ve heard for Crowley, not one addresses the fact that they arrested a man in his own home for essentially being rude. All those small government, losing freedom folks said nothing about this. This is the central argument for black folks accurate or not: That Gates’ race made this kind of violation sanctioned in our society. Crowley’s defenders simply prove that fear right.