Brown… is the new Black
Over the last several weeks I’ve joked with my co-hosts, Liza Marie and Steve “Trig” Cancino, on our radio show (Rebel Radio) about the fact that I’m often mistaken for being more Italian, than Puerto Rican.
With my pale complexion, spiky hair – ala MTV’s Jersey Shore – and “fuggedaboutit” accent, I’ve been asked about my Guido affiliations on many occasions. And while it’s something I laugh about, it’s not something I purposely set out to carry as a badge of honor. The truth is I’m proud of my Latino heritage and all of its rich cultura and history.
And although the verdict is out on how much of my family comes from the Canary Islands by way of my mother’s ancestry, the Betancourt’s. And just how much of my birth fathers (Sanchez) ancestry comes from Puerto Rico, I know in my heart and soul that I carry more of the Taino spirit in me than the conquistador spirit coming out of Arizona over the last few months.
To divide and conquer: It’s as if a few lawmakers in Arizona have found a way to play a modern day version of cowboys and Indians.
The cowboys are people like Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, first introduced to us by Soledad O’Brian in her Latino in America series – To bad Arpaio didn’t catch our attention back then. We were to busy crying about how Soledad didn’t feature enough Latino Harvard graduates to pay attention to the overtly racist town and it’s policies, now laws, that she was trying to enlighten us about.
But we really should’ve been paying attention to Arpaio, who is now being investigated for many civil rights violations.
In regards to being an unapologetic racist, Arpaio comes second only to his white supremacist buddy and lawmaker, Russell Pearce, who actually wrote the controversial SB1070 bill just passed into law in Arizona.
Cowboy number two – Pearce has made no excuses for his revulsion of Mexicans, Blacks, Israelis and even Jews and was temporarily looked down upon in 2006 for forwarding an email to his supporters by way of the neo-Nazi National Alliance.
Luckily for him, being a racist in Arizona is no political career ending crime.
But even more disturbing is the fact that he’s received and shown support for a man named JT Ready, an outright neo-fascist who took part in a neo-Nazi demonstration in which a Mexican and Israeli flag were set on fire in Omaha, Nebraska.
Just another good ole’ boy barbeque complete with hate-core music, slam dancing and burning swastikas adorning the backdrop of America... which more and more each day feels as if it should really be spelt AmeriKKKa.
Again… there’s no issue with any of this blatant racism in Arizona – a state which also made sure there was no existence of a Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday until an economic boycott, the loss of 166 conventions and subsequent loss of an NFL Superbowl, finally forced them to approve the holiday. Not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of their economy.
The last of the cowboys is actually a cowgirl, albeit the most dangerous of this ruthless Arizona posse…
Cowgirl Jan Brewer, also known as the most dimwitted chick next to Sara Palin, also known as the Governor of Arizona… also known as the white women who defied the big bad black President of the United States, actually became the most dangerous of the posse when she signed this controversial law (SB1070) into effect on Friday, April 23, 2010.
A law which basically makes it probable cause to have any semblance of skin tone that could be considered, illegal, Latino, Native American, light-skinned black… you get the picture.
And if you’re stopped for being any shade of brown, you’d better have your birth certificate, driver’s license, social security, passport, baptism records and a letter from your mother that reads… “Officer, please don’t arrest, detain or beat my son or daughter… I swear they were born in America… plopped right out of my belly right here in the good ole’ U.S of A!”
For those saying this law will not affect anyone in this country legally. Think again… because just hours before the bill even passed, a man only willing to give his first name as Abdon, was already arrested and taken to the INS building even though he showed his commercial drivers license and a social security card.
He was only released after his wife retrieved his birth certificate from their home and was able to prove he was a citizen of the United States. (story here)
I have to wonder and pose the question to my audience, whether or not a white president could’ve stopped this bill from being signed into law with a simple phone call…
I can’t help but believe that if President Obama had been Bush’s or Clinton’s skin tone while making this phone call to Jan Brewer… that perhaps the pen-slinging cowgirl would’ve holstered her weapon and not spilt the ink on that paper which now spells racism for this country and a plunge back fifty years in time… when it was illegal to be Black in America.
Obama was quoted as saying, “As a nation, as a people, we can choose a different future – a future that keeps faith with our history, with our heritage, and with the hope that America has always inspired in the hearts of people all over the world…”
The cowboys and cowgirls of Arizona would be wise to draw on that past history in understanding that while they may be able to slaughter us for their own political gain… they’ll never be able to silence our ancestors… and they’ll never be able to enslave our spirit.
Brown may very well be the new black to those still trying to bind us. But they’d do well to remember their own immigration status and passage to this country… If they’re not original Native Americans… they’re all walking on stolen land.
Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.