Our VoiceImmigration

Arizona Laws Dismantle a Century of American Progress

James E. Johnson Jr. • Jun 29, 2010

Not since Back to the Future III has history been rolled back as much as we have seen done by the Arizona State Legislature this year. In just one legislative session the Arizona has brought back into fashion second class citizenship based on racial division. The legislature and governor of Arizona have taken us back in time to the pre-Civil Rights era.

Many of the gains made because of the civil rights efforts of Americans in the 1950s and ‘60s have been tossed out with the U.S. Constitution, by Arizona state lawmakers. SB 1070, called the ‘papers please’ law, requires all people in the state of Arizona to have documentation proving that they are in the country legally.

The law harks back to a time when racial profiling was not only the norm, it was practiced with relish. To a time when Jim Crow laws in the South and the West segregated one based upon race and color. To a time where people were considered second class citizens but given less consideration than animals.

However, SB 1070 did not go far enough in the past for the Arizona legislature, so they passed HB 2281, which outlaws teaching history through a cultural lens. The law bans “classes that are designed for a particular ethnic group, promotes resentment or advocates ethnic solidarity over treating pupils as individuals.”

This would eliminate the teaching of much of American history. Many parts of American history can promote resentment for any number of people. Like most African Americans, I feel resentment to a society and structure that not only held in place slavery but actually promoted it. I have a number of Asian American friends that feel resentment that they or someone close to them were placed in concentration camps during WWII.

Although the hands of time were cranked back to pre-1964 Civil Rights Act this year in Arizona. It politicians are looking ‘forward to the past’ next year already. Proposed legislation by state Representative John Kavanagh would take us back nearly a century and a half. Kavanagh’s proposal would undo the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in 1869. The legislation would deny a birth certificate to children whose parents cannot prove that they are U. S. citizens (nearly 12% of American who have incomes of less than $25,000 do not have documents proving their citizenship).

Arizona’s new laws and proposed laws take America further away from the vision of a future where all people are created equal, and closer to the dark past of segregation and second class citizenry. Arizona is turning back the hands of time, turning its back to Americans everywhere.

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