As we prepare to get arrested as a result of the passage of a new
anti-ethnic studies law in Arizona, several attorneys explain to about
30 - 40 of us in Tucson's state building the consequences of getting
arrested. As such, the numbers are winnowed down to 15 due to legal
reasons, parental authority, age, etc. Many of those making these
decisions are middle and high school and college students.
All of us who remain on the 2nd floor have thoughts racing through our
minds. As I think about why I will get arrested, all I can think of is
the Nahuatl concept of Ipalnemoani: That for what we live for - or the
Maya concept of Hunab Ku.
We can summons all the linguists and all the great philosophers of the
world, but in the end, their translations will not suffice. It is
meaning that I am looking for, not words. This is about who we are and
about what makes us human. At this time, it boils down to one
question: What in life is worth getting arrested for?
For those of us here, the right to our own narrative - the right to
memory - is one of them.
The decision to get arrested is a collective one. These youngsters are
courageous and determined to defend that which is theirs: a department
(Ethnic/Mexican American Studies) that affirms who they are as full
human beings - as peoples with a thousands-of-years culture, history
and philosophy on this very continent.
Perhaps another 200 protestors on the first floor are also subject to
arrest because they are also participating in a boisterous
demonstration inside the state building. It is here where the state
superintendant, Tom Horne - who spearheaded this law - has taken
refuge after he failed to show up at Tucson Unified School District
headquarters where perhaps 1,000 students surrounded that building.
Now in the heat of summer, that question - as to what triggers a
decision to get arrested - is foremost on people's minds, especially
here in Arizona. It has come to that.
Several weeks before the racial profiling law (SB 1070) was signed,
nine students and community members chained themselves to the state
capitol and got arrested (The charges have since been dropped). After
the 15 of us got arrested for criminal trespass, the week after that,
five Dream students and community organizers staged a sit-in at Sen.
John McCain's office in Tucson. All subjected themselves to historic
arrests - exposing themselves to deportation. Then a week later, a
dozen members of the statewide O'odham Solidarity Across Borders
Collective took over and occupied the Border Patrol Headquarters in
Tucson (https://oodhamsolidarity.blogspot.com/). Six were arrested for
Disorderly Conduct and Criminal Trespass.
This flurry of arrests highlights and brings to the fore what is
happening in this insane asylum called Arizona, including the
forthcoming attempt to void the 14th Amendment, which guarantees
birthright citizenship to all those born in this country. This is also
happening amid the constant arrival of racial and political extremists
to this state.
As Arizona gets more insane, we have arrived at a moral precipice.
Soon, others will face the same question; beyond protesting, people
will ask: what am I willing to get arrested for?
In other countries, and at other points in history, this has triggered
a different question: What am I willing to fight and die for? Here,
that question has been inverted: What am I willing to live for? That
such a question is being contemplated tells us that many people here
are not content with simply sending emails or blasting text messages
to our senators, etc.
And thus, as the anti-Mexican/anti-Indigenous and anti-immigrant
hate-and-fear drums continue to increase in volume, the Obama
administration capitulates by continuing to further militarize the
border. This Arpaioization of not simply the border, but the nation,
continues to elicit an unprecedented response. Human rights activists
nationwide have united to boycott the state, while more than 100,000
recently protested in Phoenix.
As July 29 fast approaches, the date when the racial profiling law
will take effect, people in Arizona, but also nationwide, will face a
life-changing decision (We will also face that decision on Jan 1,
2011, the date when the anti-ethnic studies law goes into effect).
Will we commit to mass civil disobedience or will we lack the courage
as happened when Americans sat idly by as their fellow Japanese
American citizens were illegally and inhumanely marched off to camps
during World War II?
This is when history calls upon all of us to make that momentous
decision. This time around, hopefully, the right decision will be