Rejecting Rationalizations for Racism

I rarely post about politics or current affairs on this blog but today I can’t resist. Yesterday I read a column in the Wall Street Journal highlighting how a group of religious fanatics, all ethnically Arabs, threatens our country. And last month Arizona enacted a law that openly discriminates against Hispanics. Rationalizations run rampant. It seems like we’re prepared to stomp on minorities, Constitutional or not, equal protection or not, as long as we can rationalize. Pakistanis might be terrorists. Mexicans might be illegal immigrants.

Excuse me, but what are we protecting here? Is it a set of ideals? A way of life? Maybe a Constitution, and a Bill of Rights? So is it okay, as long as we have a rationalization, to squash whole ethnic groups in this country? Citizens or not?

I hate the new Arizona law. It has police and other public officials checking citizenship papers during routine interactions, like traffic stops. So I go to Arizona and I’m fine, because I’m an old white guy; but my Mexican friend, just as American as I am, has to carry extra documentation. All the Hispanic-looking Americans living in Arizona have to carry extra documentation around, just in case.

Isn’t this a lot like what Nazi Germany did to Jews in the early 1930s, first requiring them to carry extra papers around, then later the yellow stars, and, sadly, the horrors that followed. Whatever the problems this Arizona law supposedly solves, it’s just plain unacceptable.

I relate the Arizona law to the terrorism problems because of the way rationalizations for racism grow. And how easy is it to crack down on ethnically Arab people now that we have the problem of religious fanatics who tend to be Arab? It’s already happening. Ask your Arab friends how they feel when they go to the airport. Is it racist? No, they say, it’s just logistics, law of averages, and all. But we didn’t crack down on rednecks when Timothy McVeigh bombed Oklahoma City. And we’re not cracking down on illegal immigrants who don’t look Hispanic.

Sure there are rationalizations. There are always rationalizations. Terrorism, illegal immigration, those are real problems. But however serious those problems are, this country doesn’t solve them by ranking and categorizing and downgrading some of its citizens. That’s not what we’re about. Do the ends justify the means?

There are always rationalizations for racism. They don’t make it okay.


  • Charles Robinson says:

    Since the 1940’s federal law has required all non-citizens to carry proof of being in the country legally. The Arizona law doesn’t add any new documentation burden, it simply allows Arizona police to ask for these documents. Immigration is something the Federal government has protected for itself even though States are the ones most affected by the Federal government’s lax handling of it.

    Your Mexican friend who is just as American as you would need to carry the same documentation you do: a driver’s license. And he would only need to show it in the same circumstances you would: if you break a law, are at a routine traffic stop, or police have reasonable suspicion you have committed a crime.

    The hysteria around this and the wailing and gnashing of teeth among the far left is pretty ludicrous. Here is a more balanced article about what the law does — and does not — say:

    You might be surprised to learn that non-citizens have been required to carry proof of legal entry since the 1940’s. And you might also be surprised to learn there will not be roving bands of police patrolling Arizona city streets asking every brown person for immigration papers.

  • Paul says:

    Very sorry to hear your opinion on the matter of Arizona’s law reinforcing federal regulations. No citizen need carry extra documentation, Hispanic (which I am) or not. Sadly, this misreading of the law fuels the prejudicial fires rather than addressing them. My wife, who lived here as an illegal for quite a few years, was constantly in fear of deportation. But not because of her race, but solely because of her status. It was not an easy period in her life, but she strove to acquire what so many others of us likewise now have — simply better opportunities in life, in a country that treats all humans, legal or not, better than most other nations, including our Latin American brethren. While I have greatly appreciated the insights you’ve provided in the business planning realm, I cannot continue to subscribe while you espouse such ill-informed political views. Best regards.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Paul: thanks for the comment. I’m sorry to lose you as a reader. Like I said in the post: correct me if I’m wrong. And I see you are correcting me. Your voice on this issue should be much more powerful than mine because you are both (I gather) a citizen and a resident of Arizona. I can see you’ve been through this. I hope instead of not reading you add more detail to your comment here and explain to me, and all the readers I’ve apparently misinformed, what’s really going on here.

      See, here’s the problem: You say “no citizen need carry extra documentation, Hispanic or not.” However, the New York Times reported (in it’s April 24 issue, link below) “The law, which proponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.Here’s the link to that online. And the New York Times, while I do consider that a generally reliable source, is hardly the only one reporting the same thing. All the major news networks, CNN, our local newspaper, AP … Who am I to believe? Do they all have it wrong?

      I’d love to know more. I don’t want to be ill informed. Why are you saying something so radically different from what’s been reported?

      Thanks, Tim

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