This week's passing of the Arizona immigration law has caused wide controversy and heated debate across the country. The bill was signed into Arizona law by Governor Jan Brewed on Monday, and permits police to use their own judgement in questioning anyone about their immigration status. Those who do not have their papers will face state punishment and police officers who do not inquire into the immigration status of "suspicious persons" may also face a state crime.
The law is being likened to Jim Crow laws, which, until the mid 1960s, were used to legally discriminate against blacks. Rapper Ras Kass is one figure who has spoken out against the new Arizona law, also comparing it to Jim Crow. "I'm just speaking up, saying how racist it is," he said in a YouTube video. "That shit is like the Jim Crow laws. Honestly, in my opinion, the world has evolved. America has evolved. There's good people everywhere but in general, it's the old, rich motherfuckers that had it, they want the good old days. They still want everybody in their place like it's the 50s or something…And it ain't the young people, but it's just the old, mad-ass, rich, white men with some bullshit. I don't know what the fuck they think. Like when God made earth [they just think] white niggas was here in America. You're mad at immigrants but [you're] an immigrant too!"
Rapper and activist Chuck D (with writer Theresa Johnson) wrote via the Huffington Post, "In 1991, Public Enemy wrote a song criticizing Arizona officials (including John McCain and Fife Symington) for rejecting the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The same politics written about in 'By the Time I Get to Arizona' are alive and well in Arizona today, but this time the target is Brown people."
Kass explained that such laws encourage blatant racial profiling, and that blacks and Latinos failed to speak up when Middle Easterners were targeted after 9/11. "Really, we need to show some solidarity," he said. "No disrespect, but fuck Arizona. Us as black people, us as brown people, us as yellow people and us as white people, its a human thing; but when one motherfucker gets picked on for one thing, we gotta stand together. You either do it politically, and if you can't fix it politically, because they just passed [the bill], then do it financially. Don't support that shit. Move out that motherfucker. Let the whole state, let the rich white niggas sell [to themselves]."
Chuck D expressed the same kinds of sentiments, calling for a boycott of Arizona, and admonishing figures who have been silent on the issue. "The people of Arizona who voted for this bill, as well as those who crafted it, demonstrate no regard for the humanity or contributions of Latino people. And for all of those who have chosen not to speak up, shame on you for silently endorsing this legislated hate.
"These actions must stop," he continued. "We are issuing a call to action, urging fellow musicians, artists, athletes, performers, academics and production companies to refuse to work in Arizona until officials not only overturn this bill, but recognize the human rights of immigrants…What they're doing to immigrants is appalling, but it will be even more damning if we remain silent."