Knowing that a million people would be protesting Arizona’s SB 1070, a blatantly discriminatory and unconstitutional anti-immigrant bill hauntingly similar to the Jim Crow laws of the past, my family and I buckled up and drove to Phoenix, Arizona to march with our brothers and sisters.
As I struggled to keep my eyes open from an exhausting week of work, I contemplated what the passage of SB 1070 really means for us all.
What does the bill say about the state of America when our President and countless others are diligently working to unite America in spite of the Tea Party and other extremist groups?
What does the bill say about the moral conscious of America when the majority of an elected state legislature would knowingly pass a bill that criminalizes one of the most vulnerable groups in America?
As I traveled late into the night, memories of Jews being forced to wear yellow stars and Japanese Americans being detained in internment camps during World War II flooded my mind.
As I drove to Phoenix, Arizona, I had an eerie feeling that this was 1962 all over again and President Kennedy was sending the National Guard to integrate our school system in the face of hate and bigotry.
As I drove to Phoenix, Arizona, I felt that it was 1964 all over again and President Johnson just passed the Civil Rights Act knowing full well that it would cost him the presidency.
Today, like Kennedy and Johnson, President Obama is standing on the right side of history by calling SB 1070 ‘irresponsible’ and unacceptable.
However, this is 2010 not 1964 and the same racism and hate that’s been hidden under the carpet for the last fifty years has emerged again.
While this may not be the 1960’s, we still have the same 50% drop out rate in our school system, we’re still fighting two unjust wars, and we’re still denying people the fundamental right to marry whom they choose.
As I drove to Phoenix, Arizona, I not only prayed that we, as organizers and people of conscious, would learn from the movements of the past, but I recommitted myself to doing all that I could to stand up for peace and justice.
Given this critically important time in American history, I will not compromise the health and safety of my family and my country by being quiet and complacent.
Given the rise in extremist groups across America, I have a responsibility to speak up for those who are now fearful for their own lives.
In spite of the fear and scapegoating, I am inspired that within a matter of days a million people traveled from every part of the country to protest such a hateful bill.
In spite of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s willingness to once again legislate hate and make one’s darker skin color a crime, I am motivated to join President Obama and millions of people worldwide demanding justice and peace for all people regardless of national origin.
As I pull up to the Arizona State Capital at a quarter past 3am, I call on the conscious of America and the activism inherent in each one of us to do all that we can to stop the tearing apart of America’s soul.
I ask you to stand united with millions of people against all acts of hate no matter what group is targeted and attacked.
And I ask you to accept the fact that we are all human and therefore should be treated as such.
Mike de la Rocha
Sunday, April 25, 2010
3:15am, Phoenix, Arizona
Mike de la Rocha is a Los Angeles based artist and organizer
Follow Mike on Twitter at @mrmikedelarocha