A month ago Arizona and the nation were in a furor about SB 1070, the new immigration bill which is written in a way that pretty much forces the police to question anyone Hispanic because of section 2, paragraph H which gives any local bigot the right to sue them in a court of law if they are not enforcing the law to the satisfaction of said local bigot.
So is our image getting better in the past month? Well, no.
The latest controversy involves a mural that was painted by a group of local artists known as the 'mural mice' under the direction of artist R.E. Wall at a school in Prescott. The kids in the mural were based on actual photos of kids in the school, and depicted two white kids, a black kid and the largest picture, in the center of the mural was of an Hispanic youngster. After the mural was completed, school principal Jeff Lane apparently caved to local pressure exerted by a local talk show host and city council President Steve Blair and ordered Wall to whiten the skin tone of the both the African-American kid and the Hispanic kid in the middle of the mural.
Subsequently it came out that even as the artists were painting the mural they were peppered with racial insults including the 'n' word and 's' word from passing motorists. Welcome to Arizona, 2010.
What's worse is that these stories are now coming out of Arizona with depressing regularity. There has been a new one every week it seems, courtesy mainly of our elected leaders, who apparently have figured out that by turning two thirds of the population against the other third they have a way to win an election.
Not long after signing the immigration bill, Governor Brewer also signed a bill abolishing ethnic studies programs in Arizona (that was originally written to kill Hispanic studies programs in Tucson but it will also impact the Native American studies programs at some of our northern Arizona colleges.)
Not to be outdone, School Superintendent Tom Horne (who is running for A.G.) ordered that state schools either fire or reassign any English teacher who has a foreign accent. There is no count yet on how many teachers have lost their jobs because of Horne's new rule, though in order to be teaching in an Arizona public school they already must prove they are legally authorized to work so there is no way that Horne's pronouncement can be couched as having anything to do with undocumented workers. It's that he's picking on even legal immigrants, plain and simple.
Not long after that there was the murder of Juan Daniel Varela, an hispanic man from Phoenix whose white neighbor came over to his house and shouted racial insults in Varela's face until Varela had had enough and allegedly tried to kick the man. The neighbor, Gary Thomas Kelley, was waiting for that moment and pulled out a 44 magnum and shot the unarmed Varela to death at close range. Kelley is claiming he fired in 'self-defense.'
On top of all of this, as I wrote exactly one month ago, Sheriff Arpaio is openly consorting and on a first name basis with neo-nazis. Well, what can you say about Joe? He says it's an 'honor' to be compared to the KKK and still gets re-elected. So what if he is on a first name basis with blackshirts who openly threaten Mexicans, Jews and other people and give Hitler salutes at rallies? In the words of M.C. Hammer, I think Arpaio believes that he's so electorally invincible that he can do anything and anyone who doesn't like it 'can't touch this.'
Are we TRYING to win the 'most bigoted state in the nation' award? It sure does feel like it.
UPDATE: 1) After taking heat on this the school board rehired the artist back to restore the mural to its original state, and 2) the Republican corporations commissioners have gotten into the act. Commissioner Steve Pierce suggested that because of boycotts, Arizona cut off the flow of electricity to California (apparently unaware that California legally already owns that part of the electricity they are paying for, and also that we get most of our natural gas from CA) and then commissioner Barry Wong said he plans to prevent the provision of utilities to undocumented aliens. Never mind that this would require landlords to not only turn away some of their most reliable customers, but would impose a great deal of extra paperwork on landlords; I guess the GOP is only for 'small, non-intrusive government' when it comes to things THEY want