Early one morning, Maria—then nine months pregnant—and her family were stopped by the police for no discernible reason. A special breakfast outing became a nightmare—and at one of the most intimate moments of her life, Maria found a team of immigration agents—not her husband—by her side.
Maria’s chilling story is the centerpiece of “Checkpoint Nation? Building Community Across Borders,” a powerful new documentary that depicts the reality of post-9/11 racial profiling — as mandated by laws such as SB 1070 in Arizona, which are now being imitated and implemented nationwide — along with the new and strengthening alliances of diverse groups committed to racial justice.
Set in the U.S./Mexico border area near Tucson, Arizona, a region that sees more and more migrant deaths every year, the video explores the idea that the way to move forward is to find connections and build coalitions among between diverse groups of allies — including Muslim-, South Asian-, African-, and Latino-Americans; civil rights lawyers and media activists — that have identified with each other’s histories and united in the common goals of justice, equality, and respect for all.
"Checkpoint Nation?" was produced to complement the release of a new report and Week of Action around the 10th anniversary of September 11th spearheaded by Rights Working Group, a national coalition of more than 300 civil liberties, national security, immigrant rights and human rights organizations committed to restoring due process and human rights protections that have been eroded in the name of national security. The report, “Reclaiming Our Rights: Reflections on Racial Profiling in a Post-9/11 America,” was released on September 7th and can be read in full here.
Denying fairness and justice to some puts all of our freedoms at risk. Ten years after September 11th, we must challenge ourselves to unite across our differences and reaffirm the real American values of pluralism, democracy, and dignity for all.
Watch the video and take action to stop racial profiling in your community.
The fact is I don't blame the gun and I find it extremely tedious to be continually accused of that by the pro-gun folks. In this brutal crime, for example, I actually feel the gun was superfluous.
What the story made me wonder was, would the victim have been able to save herself had she been armed too? I think not.
When sudden, random violence strikes, like in this case, a concealed weapon will rarely help. In spite of all the claims to the contrary, true DGUs are extremely rare.
The problem is the pro-gun folks use stories like this to push their agenda. Convincing people that they need to protect themselves is a disservice to those they want to help and to society at large.
The proliferation of guns for personal protection is a bad deal because the chances of your gun being used to save your life are extremely low while the possibility of it being MISused in some way is greater. It's a bad decision, a fear-driven mistake, that's all.
The solution to the problem of violence is to take sensible precautions and not give into the fear.
As the nation continues to grapple with the effects of a broken immigration system, artists across the country are doing their part to highlight the issue. Art can be a powerful medium to address many socio-political issues and artists often react to the circumstances around them. Art has also been a supportive space for people facing violations to tell their stories. And it's also a great medium to raise awareness and make an impact. We were excited to look at a few examples of how artists have been contributing to the immigration reform movement, inspiring action and change.
One such artistic movement came in the form of The Sound Strike, a coalition of artists that are using their music and reach to work towards repealing Arizona's controversial SB1070 law. The artists, which include M.I.A, Maroon 5, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rage Against The Machine, Kanye West and many more, have pledged to work together to raise awareness and oppose the unjust treatment of immigrants in Arizona. Besides their aim of repealing SB 1070, The Sound Strike also works towards "galvanizing a new generation of ideas that reject the old ways of thinking while affirming that we are all equal." (A similar movement of writers, called WordStrike, calls on writers to boycott the state of Arizona on the same grounds.) The Sound Strike has been assisting with fundraising for immigration reform organizations, raised awareness around the issue through their performances, and conducted press interviews to build opposition and engage fans in dialogue about moving towards a more just and equal society that treats immigrants fairly. Speaking about the movement as a "cultural interruption," Gabriela (of Rodrigo y Gabriela) stated:
"As a band we consist of all immigrants and we know each other’s stories really well…we can’t really be down with any fear-creating laws…we have many songs about brutality of immigration process…these issues are not new, they have always been there."
Another artist using his work to fight the injustice of SB 1070 and the ongoing mistreatment of immigrants is Intikana, a Hip Hop/Spoken Word artist, activist and educator from the Bronx, New York. Intikana's work with the immigration issue was most powerfully manifested in his music video titled "Arizona," which he made in collaboration with fellow rapper Navegante. Made in response to SB 1070, Intikana and Navegante collaborated to make a video that combines a 5-minute short documentary about the life of Benito and Carmela, Mexican farm laborers in Immokalee, Florida and their deplorable working conditions. Working long hours without breaks and in inhumane conditions, the couple pick tomatoes in the fields to support their family. In their work, Intikana and Navegante point out the hypocrisy in the treatment of immigrants today considering the fact that the country was built by immigrants.
Keeping with a similar theme of farm laborers, Shine Global, a film production company that focuses on ending the abuse and exploitation of children around the world, recently released and critically acclaimed documentary feature title 'The Harvest.' Directed by U. Roberto Romano and backed by executive producer, philanthropist and "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria, the film tells "the story of the children who feed America." These are the children of immigrants. According to the synopsis on the film's website:
Every year more than 400,000 migrant child farmworkers in the US journey from their homes traveling from the scorching sun of the Texas onion fields to the winter snows of the Michigan apple orchards, from the heat of the Florida tomato fields to the damp cherry trees in Oregon. These children are American citizens. All are working to help their families survive while sacrificing the birthright of childhood: play; stability; school.
Watch the trailer for "The Harvest" here and visit the website to learn more about the film and the issues.
Besides spoken word, music and film, other forms of art are equally powerful in immigration activism. Favianna Rodriguez is a well known printmaker and digital artist from Oakland, California. Rodriquez has come to be known for her high-contrast and vivid artwork that depict "literal and imaginative migration, global community, and interdependence." Her work deals with war, immigration, globalization and social movements in an impressive portfolio of stylized posters for events and much more personal artwork. One of her most striking pieces is titled "El Reencuentro" (pictured above) from 2001. Describing the inspiration for the piece, Rodriguez says:
This piece is a very personal piece for me because it narrates the story of my mother's experience as an immigrant. In 1970, only months after she had arrived from Peru, my mother became pregnant by an abusive alcoholic. Because she was homeless, the Department of Social Services took away her child at birth to turn him over to an adoption agency. With the language and cultural barrier, my mother could do very little. 31 years later, my brother came searching for his birth family and writes a letter to my mother requesting to meet her. They are reunited in 2003.
Like with Rodriguez's work, the many tribulations faced by immigrants in the recent past over ever-toughening immigration laws have triggered a slew of artistic movements. Artists have been inspired to use their talents to call for change. Movements such as Alto Arizona provide a forum for artists to showcase their work in relation to fighting unjust immigration laws. Similarly, various artists have also reacted to the campaign to get the DREAM Act passed, combining art and activism to make potent images.
We end with a short rap by Humble the Poet, a Sikh rap and spoken word artist from Toronto, Canada. His music addresses a wide range of social issues, from immigration to religion to sexual abuse. He, just like all the other artists and work we have profiled here, as well as the many others that continue to blend art with activism, lends a strong voice to the movement for comprehensive immigration reform. We need a major overhaul of the system now more than ever, and these artists are able to reach out and raise awareness for this crucial issue confronting our nation today.
This is the last part in a series of posts examining how to create super-packed districts of one race. The other posts in this series pack Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and whites.
Packing Native Americans
Alone out of all the ethnicities examined, there are not enough Native Americans in the United States to form a majority Native American congressional district. Indeed, Native Americans compose a mere 0.9% of America’s total population.
Native American living patterns tend to be extremely segregated. Native American reservations tend to be 90-100% Native American; outside the reservation their numbers drop to nearly zero. There are not enough reservations in any state to make a congressional district merely by joining together all the reservations.
The five states with the highest percentage of Native Americans are Alaska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and finally Montana. Unfortunately, all these states - with the exception of Oklahoma - have extremely small population sizes. This makes it very difficult to pack Native Americans. Oklahoma is the exception, but its Native American population is too integrated to effectively pack.
As it turns out, the most Native American district possible is found in Arizona. Take a look at Arizona’s racial demographics. Native Americans are black in this picture (so the darker-colored precincts tend to be more Native American).
From this, it is possible to draw this district:
This is a 26.9% Native American district. There are in fact more Native Americans in this district than Hispanics.
The district goes into several cities which have respectable Native American populations. Here is Flagstaff:
This city, located in northern Arizona, has enough Native Americans that the entire city was put into the district.
Here is Phoenix:
Phoenix is the key to this district. Surprisingly, it has a decent Native American population. It also composes more than half of Arizona’s population. Phoenix thus provides the population padding necessary to create this district.
Finally, here is Tucson:
Overall, this district is quite liberal; it gave President Barack Obama 58.9% of the vote in the 2008 presidential election. Given the fact that Arizona is both a fairly conservative state and Senator John McCain’s home state at the same time, this is quite a good performance for the Democrats. It is all the more impressive considering that the district is barely one-fourth Hispanic.
It does appear that Native Americans voted Democratic, in Arizona at least. But there may be another factor at work here. In many of the Phoenix precincts Native Americans were less than 10% of the population; their voting power was not very great. Nor was the Hispanic population especially great, and Hispanics were certainly not a majority of the electorate. Yet these precincts still voted fairly Democratic. It may be – and this is just a hypothesis – that Native Americans tend to live in areas in which white voters are more liberal.
The dispute was this: Did a local lawmaker intentionally point her loaded .380 Ruger at a newspaper reporter during an interview, or was it all just a silly misunderstanding? The reporter, Richard Ruelas, who writes for The Arizona Republic, said it was deliberate. Not hostile, mind you, but purposeful: State Senator Lori Klein was proudly showing off her piece. He told this story first in an article published Sunday in The Republic, repeated it in subsequent public comments and went through it one more time on the telephone with me. He sounded incredulous still. He said that as he sat with Klein just outside the Senate chamber to discuss her gun-toting ways, “I looked down and saw a red dot on my chest.” He looked up and realized the dot was the laser sight of the Ruger, which she carries in her pocketbook. Although he wasn’t sure just then whether it had bullets in it, she informed him — after she’d lowered the pistol — that it always does. The Republic article caused a public outcry that she had been reckless. Even Arizonans have their limits. She then disputed Ruelas’s account, saying that he had strayed into the gun’s sight as she demonstrated how it worked. After that she went silent.
The author goes on to bemoan the fact that "a cavalier attitude about guns persists and even flourishes" in spite of the recent high profile shooting in Arizona. He states that the Senator's pink gun is not cute and cannot be compared to Häagen-Dazs ice cream. But what in the world does Lori Klein and all the other lawful gun owners have to do with the criminal use of guns? Aren't they two completely separate things? That's what our gun-rights friends keep trying to say.
In my opinion they're all part of the same problem. There's much more in common between criminal gun owners and lawful gun owners than there is between either of them and the gun control folks. Let me explain.
All the guns that are used in crime start out legally owned by someone. In the case of Jared Loughner, he himself was the legitimate and legal owner of the gun, as sad a fact as that is, given the terrible and tragic lack of mental health screening that exists. He bought the gun, and then used it in a crime.
But, the same is true for the inner city hoodlum who shoots a rival drug dealer in Newark. He may have bought the gun from another criminal, in fact his particular gun may have had several illegal owners before it was used in a murder. But if you could trace it back far enough, you would find a point at which it passed from the hand of its legitimate owner to that of a criminal.
This is why we need strong gun control laws at the national level AIMED AT THE LAW ABIDING. No one disputes the fact that criminals won't obey our silly laws. That's exactly the reason, along with the fact that the legitimate gun owners of America seem to have such a hard time holding on to their guns, that we need proper gun control laws.