The signing last Friday of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 by State Governor Jan Brewer has enshrined the long-standing practices of targeting dark-skinned native-looking “Latinos” for their so-called status in this country. It has been going on even before this law—just two-days before Governor Brewer signed the bill, a truck driver in Phoenix was detained, questioned, and then taken to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office before it was found out he was born in the United States. His explanations and pleas were left unheeded. “It’s still something awful to be targeted,” said his angered wife who came to retrieve him. “I can’t even imagine what he felt, people watching him like he was some type of criminal.” That’s the point—the criminalization of the native-looking Mexicans and Central Americans. This is not “racial profiling” for being Latino. There are “white” Latinos, “black” Latinos, and very mixed Latinos. It’s about the majority brown-skinned, mostly poor, who will feel the brunt of this. This is about profiling the indigenous. The world has turned upside down. Now the native-rooted peoples, with ties to this land as deep as anybody, have become the “foreigners” and “illegals.” They include Xicanos, Mexicanos, Salvadorenos, Hondurenos, Guatemaltecos, Peruanos… they who are the living legacy of our native roots in this continent. I recall when I first moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in 2000. I was walking down a Sylmar street in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, a majority Chicano/Mexicano/Central American community. A pick up truck drove by and someone inside yelled out “Go back to where you came from!” I call these “driveby ephitets.” At that moment, I realized my skin color and native face was the reason for this hate. If I looked more Caucasion, as some Mexicans do, I probably wouldn’t be targeted. This is not to put down the white looking—or even black looking—Mexicans and Central Americans among us. They are family. They are Raza. This is just to clarify—the “hate” is aimed at the Natives among us. Today we have traditional tribal peoples into the mix. Over the past twenty years around three million Mayans from Mexico and Guatemala have ended up in the United States—slightly more than the official “Native American” population here. There are millions more who are Mixtecos, Zapotecos, Purepechas, Huicholes, Yaquis, Raramuri (my mother’s tribal root), and many more. These are people whose second language is Spanish. English would be their third language. Presently, the brown-skinned Native Americans—for example, the Lakota, Navajo, Hopi, Tohono O’dham, among many others—are living in the poorest, most neglected communities in the United States such as the Pine Ridge Reservation. They have the highest alcoholism and suicide rates. Add to this millions of their relatives from below the “border,” and there is a natural coming back of the indigenous to these lands. There are people in this country who hate to see this, who are fearful of the native (which many think doesn’t exist anymore) and don’t know what to do but add more “laws” (over the past 500 years, “laws” were used to remove people from their lands, their birthrights, their dignity). We have to re-evaluate all immigration laws, all borders, to see exactly what we’re dealing with. It’s not “immigration” like from Europe or other parts of the world. Of course, they’re all welcome here. These are ancient migration patterns that have predated the US government, British colonialism, and Spanish conquests. If we continue to see most Mexican and Central American migration as the same kind of “immigration” issue, we fail to see how the land and the people are one. And that no laws, borders, or documents can change the skin, blood, and legacy of this truth. I want to honor the thousands of Arizona students who walked out at great risk, a few chaining themselves to government offices and getting arrested, to protest the travesty of Arizona SB 1070. They are the heroes we all should be. And we should make sure they are protected and that their spirit permeates this whole struggle. I also respect the nonviolent and disciplined way these students took care of their business. Here’s a quick short poem: The blue, green, and cloud-covered earth Has no borders—they were invented by shallow man To make us strangers in our own land To feed us the lies we don’t belong Although a hungry people belong everywhere And all the hungry make up one nation The young today carry the character and poetry That the old people used to do—they make me think Young again. It’s time for the elders and the young To lead, for the human to rise up in all of us. Haven’t we died enough for a border, a line, A philosophy, a system, an economy? The real "aliens" in this land. Put it back in our hands. Put it on the ground, regenerating a green world Making sure everyone belongs, Everyone’s welcome, So there are never again strangers among us. c/s
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