Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
114

I'm Going Back To Arizona (And You Should Probably Come Too)

AZI have a friend I'll call Patrick who lives in Tucson, the small southern Arizona town where I spent 14 years of my childhood. A six-four wall of a man, softened in parts by pints and whiskey, Patrick and I have been close since high school, when his family–a big, pasty, Irish affair–moved to town from Phoenix. Once, on a trip to a low-budget Mexican beach community named Rocky Point, Patrick and I conspired to eat our vegan friend's entire supply of peanut butter and jelly while he was in the shower, leaving only his toothbrush in an empty jar of Skippy. While he screamed, "Do you know how hard it is to fucking eat vegan down here!?" Patrick and I held each other and laughed until we cried. Patrick burned me my first copy of "Orange Rhyming Dictionary" and gave it to me when I went away to college. I listened to it every chance I could, especially when homesickness, precipitated by waves of Dave Matthews Band, left me doubled over in loneliness.

In the years since moving away from Arizona, as any fan of the "coming home" film genre should expect, Patrick and I have drifted apart somewhat. But whenever I return, we'll still get together for at least one evening of karaoke and a seeming ocean of Guinness. Even when I'm away, I'll occasionally get texts from Patrick saying things like, "Just wanted to tell you that your latest article was great. Proud of you."

Patrick is my friend and I love him, which is why it broke my heart a bit to hear that he recently went on a rant about how black people are shiftless and cheap. Apparently, over late-night burritos after a long bout of drinking, Patrick started complaining to our mutual friends that, at his job as a waiter, black diners always tip less than white diners, even after demanding extraordinary service. Despite everyone's protestations, Patrick's conclusion was, "They're cheap, lazy bastards."

I was disappointed, but not surprised.

When I left–to school, Italy, LA, New York, Saudi Arabia, etc.–Patrick stayed in Tucson. He dropped out of community college and, though he made a living delivering pizzas for a few years, that ended when he loaned his car to his roommate, who totaled it. Patrick couldn't afford insurance after that, so he had to find a new gig. Eventually, he started serving food at a decent-for-Tucson restaurant, where he's been ever since. I'm not sure he's ever worked somewhere that didn't require he wear a uniform.

Patrick loves music and film, but few bands worth seeing or movies worth watching ever make their way to the Old Pueblo, so he fills his time with other activities. He drinks a lot and dates younger women who do the same. A few years of mixed martial arts training–a growing obsession throughout Arizona–have left him more eager to fight than ever, with the rage that always coursed like blood under his pallid skin now dovetailing perfectly with technique. One of my friends says he thinks Pat hit his last girlfriend, but he can't be sure. I've personally seen him smash a guy's face into a steel-barred window before casually walking over to a keg for a refill.

Patrick is poor, uneducated, sad, bored and angry. And while some of that is his fault, I'm confident that a great many external things contributed to his predicament. His father is a cold man and, from what I've heard, a racist himself. Arizona's public education system is notoriously abysmal, a mismanaged, ramshackle thing that found the state ranked "stupidest" in 2007. As of 2000, fewer than 23 percent of Arizonans between 25 and 34 had a bachelor's degree or better.

More funding might help the schools a bit, but what little money there was in Arizona went away in mass quantities once the overinflated housing bubble burst. Since then, Arizona's construction jobs have shrunk by almost a third, leaving natives to battle each other and immigrant labor for what little work remains. In all sectors, Arizona's unemployment has hovered close to the national average of about 10 percent.

Of course, not everything is deflating: There are now more than 10 Walmarts per million Arizonans, and more than 50 Starbucks per million.

Though they have no major breweries, Arizonans drink as much beer as the citizens of Wisconsin. In fact, in 2008, Arizona was ranked the 17th drunkest state in the union. And when it came to alcoholics "needing but not getting treatment," it was 8th. When not getting smashed (or probably while getting smashed), Arizona youths are more likely to smoke weed than any other state's young people.

The Cato Institute notes that, in 2008, crime in Arizona was the lowest it's been in 40 years. That's true, but that doesn't tell the whole story. In 2009, despite the prior year's drop, Arizona was still the 7th most crime-ridden state. Tucson itself has for years had above average rates of practically every single crime (save for white collar offenses), including twice as many rapes and more than double the larcenies/thefts. And according to a March 2009 New York Times article, over a period of about 12 months, Tucson police officials counted more than 200 violent home invasions, more than three-quarters of which were linked to Mexican drug cartels.

On the heels of all this comes Arizona's latest bout of insanity, a law requiring authorities to determine the legal status of anyone suspected of being undocumented. As a thinking person, I'm appalled by the law and the dark, chaotic forest I fear it's planted. But as an Arizonan, I'm just as taken aback by the national response to its passage.

Besides the blog comments proving Sarah Palin and the anti-elitists right–"the only business in [Arizona] is brewing meth and building Taco Bell McMansion kits (to brew meth in)"–I'm especially troubled by the calls to boycott the state. From the New York Times to Raúl Grijalva, a Democratic congressman from Tucson, it seems that every liberal with a slight platform (and Shakira) is asking Americans to stop buying Arizonan goods, and to not travel there. The assumption is that what worked for MLK Day will work now.

But a boycott is exactly the opposite of what Arizona needs, at least in the long-term.

I've tried hard, to no avail, to think of any time in which calling a destitute population stupid and making it even poorer has effectively engendered in its people new ways of thinking. Indeed, a boycott might force Arizona legislators to overturn their new law–which 70 percent of voters supported, by the way–but I think it's likelier to just frustrate and further impoverish a whole lot of people who are already frustrated, broke, mad, jealous and increasingly worried that the East Coast is out to tell them how to live their lives. I'm not saying I have the key to unlock the Arizona of my dreams, but I can't believe the answer is calling its citizens unwashed meth-heads, canceling your reservations at its resorts (which employ illegal immigrants), or sapping even more money from its public schools (which educate illegal immigrants).

What's more, I wonder what good it is to commit one's progressive self to not visiting Arizona from now on. If this new immigration law is proof of anything, it's that more rational people are needed within Arizona's borders, regardless of their purpose or destination. In fact, if you really want to change Arizona, move there. Houses are damn cheap.

My friend Patrick is a lunkhead and a bigot, but I'm going to call him when I'm home next month, because to abandon him is to make him that much more insular and neglected. I'm going to hug him and buy him a beer, and then I'm going to remind him that not all black people are cheap and lazy.




Cord Jefferson is a writer-editor living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in National Geographic, GOOD, The Root and on MTV. You can reach him by email here.

114 Comments / Post A Comment

Dave Bry (#422)

Man, this piece is excellent. (As was your last one, Cord, way to go!) Such a good, important point, so well made there at the end.

mathnet (#27)

I wholeheartedly agree! And I hope it doesn't take anything away from our shared opinion for me to say that the PB & J story made me cry with laughter in this here vegan coffee hovel.

David Roth (#4,429)

Really, really good stuff. And a salutary reminder for me that it's not just New Jersey people who get that nervous/embarrassed/proud thing going on for their defective-but-loved home states.

joe (#2,899)

Dammit, I'm not trying to cry at work.

We all have these roots, these friends. Also, I think Arizona is basically Florida.

El Matardillo (#586)

Also from Tucson, left at 19, haven't ever moved back. This is one of the best articles ever to appear on The Awl.

P.S. – Sahuaro High rules! Suck it, Palo Verde!

fuck, that was so great.

HiredGoons (#603)

Dave Matthews band leaves me doubled over.

the teeth (#380)

This is entirely beside the point, but: I really wonder how Patrick will respond to being publicly, if anonymously, called out in this way.

Slava (#216)

I foresee Cord getting thrown into a barred window.
Really mate, don't go trying to hug him next time you're in AZ. That bridge is burned.

HiredGoons (#603)

Actually my parents are visiting my racist uncle in Phoenix with his exish hot-mess of a wife (my cousin is addicted to heroin and barred from their property) and my mother calls me last night "Jesus, I think this was a bad idea – all I want to do is get to fucking Vegas honey!"

I also hate Las Vegas.

This was a really good piece, kudos.

TroutSavant (#1,990)

Thank you. (Well, except for making me cry at my desk.)

doubled277 (#2,783)

Fantastic article

Abe Sauer (#148)

Beside taking a swipe at my beloved Wisconsin's beer consumption levels (a stat which I find truly hard to believe but…), I would say that unloading one's out of state tourist or consumer dollars is also no way to "engendered in its people new ways of thinking." To do this requires committing your "progressive self" to a lot more than visiting or not boycotting. You have to go live there and become a part of these communities (like attending – or even running for! – the boring petty little local school board). It's the only way. And yes, that is a huge sacrifice for somebody who will be depressed that "few bands worth seeing or movies worth watching ever make their way" or that you will be very much a social minority probably for most of your lifetime. And this is why, while a lot of progressives may recognize the course of action, few are willing to make the sacrifice, which is why the problems of which you speak will not only persist but, for a time anyway, grow worse. Visiting as a social action seems to me to be as much about making the visitor feel good as the visitee.

NicFit (#616)

But then, like, you have to live there.

deepomega (#1,720)

Much like traveling to Guatemala to "volunteer", locals'd probably prefer you just sent a check.

oudemia (#177)

I dunno — I would actually like to MLB say "No, thanks!" to having spring training in AZ (if the law survives until then, which I very much doubt). I don't know what percentage of players is of Hispanic origin, but it's significant, and if I were one of those players, I would be genuinely afraid of having my family there for however many months.

raf_oh (#1,296)

I hadn't thought of the MLB angle, but that's a good point. Imagine if a big leaguer (even a visiting player vs the DBacks) got picked up by the cops?

hman (#53)

@abe – Governor Brewer, dude.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Some (not you) are talking about this law as if it doesn;t already happen. But for your baeball example, you on;t need to go to AZ
http://www.click2houston.com/news/18837247/detail.html

oudemia (#177)

That article was about racial profiling in TX? But anyway, yeah, I am certain lots of darker shade of pale folks are pulled over and fucked with in AZ already. In fact, I recently rewatched that old Tom & Tom sketch from Living Color about AZ — back when they shitcanned MLK Day. One of the jokes is that AZ loves black folks so much they pull them over all the time! Just to give them really firm hugs around their neck! But now of course if Carlos Zambrano were to get profiled and pulled over in AZ, he may well end up in jail for failing to carry his green card (or passport — I've no clue as to Z's immigration status). But if I were an athlete, I'd worry way less about myself than my kids.
In any event, speaking of the MLK Day incident, the fact is the boycott *worked*. The NFL threatened to move the Superbowl and AZ reinstated the holiday. The new law is going to make life shitty — shittier, even — for lots and lots of folks and the faster it goes away the better people's lives will be. I'm for subjecting people to this law for as short a time as possible, and if that means boycotts — fine. One can worry about hearts and minds later.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Should have clarified. That link included bit about a pro ballplayer's son sued for having been racially profiled, re: above comments on players being worried fo their families. The thought of Zambrano here illegally is, really, quite funny.

I would hazard that the black racism/hispanic racism angles aren't at all the same. It was easier to get a nation on board re: MLK b/c (at least then) nearly every black american was, in fact, an american. Supporters of this can more easily say it's a jobs issue, not a racial one.

What is even more interesting is that mexicans make up, i believe, "only" about 83% of illegal immigrants. Are police there going to stop every single Asian they see that looks a little too "native" or doesn't speak "Engrish" as well?

oudemia (#177)

I think you're likely right about differences between black and hispanic racism, but people will, I think (hope?) be enormously sympathetic to the stories about all the good American citizens of hispanic heritage in AZ getting repeatedly hassled for their papers. There's something so distinctly — god help me, I'm gonna say it — unAmerican about being stopped and asked for papers, that I really cannot imagine this playing well. (And of course the only hope AZ has for defending themselves in court is to demand the papers of lots and lots of white folks, too. That'll be fun.)

Abe Sauer (#148)

I wish I could agree with you but I cannot. In this political "go team!" climate, each side, and I would say especially the right, has made an admirable talent of ignoring wildly hypocritical viewpoints w/r/t recent history (such as seeing this kind of government intervention and the Bush Patriot Bill illegal overreaches as get-over-it no-big-deal government seep yet healthcare reform etc. are big government socialist nazism Stalin would find offensive. Psychologically is fascinating and wild to witness. Otherwise it's pretty reprehensible.

the teeth (#380)

@oudemia

I'd like to think you're right about 'not playing well', but here in NYC stop&frisk is SOP, and while of course all right-thinking people oppose the policy, we don't actually oppose it enough to put an end to it. And the difference between stop&frisk and this is only a matter of degree, not kind.

Cord_Jefferson (#2,111)

You know, I know it wouldn't have allowed you to berate me quite as much, but why did you completely ignore this sentence: "In fact, if you really want to change Arizona, move there."?

As a friend from my time in New Mexico reminds me, many in the Southwest are pretty inured to illegal search and detainment at Border Patrol stops, which are located all over border states. (I'm white as snow, and never once was I let through without an interrogation–and I don't mean crossing the border. I mean going from one city to another in the middle of NM.)

The differences here are massive of course: You can usually find a way to avoid the BP stations if you want, and nobody stops you on the street, but it's also true that harassment for many in border states has long been a way of life. Of course this doesn't make it right. It was wrong in those cases and its 1000x more wrong now.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@Cord: Berate? Berate any more than you berated everyone in Arizona (only some of whom I think deserve it)? And I didn't ignore it. You're arguing about what good you are going to do for Arizona and you (unless I missed something here) don't at all plan on moving there. Aren't "you" the one who endeavors to change Arizona? Who "you" do you mean?

paco (#2,190)

Cord: Can you explain to us why, after all of that, you are *not* moving back to AZ? Can you not write-edit from there?

Also, your depiction of AZ as a poor state is demonstrably wrong. AZ is firmly in the middle in terms of median household income, per capita income, etc. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_income Is your reference to the number of Starbucks supposed to make us weep with sympathy? It's a total non-sequitur. Your story about your friend is interesting, but it's simply anecdotal. One dot out of a million: it tells us very little. (Like your Starbucks statistic.)

Does it matter to you that SB 1070 is the product of white supremacists?

See http://trueslant.com/charlesjohnson/2010/04/27/video-the-white-supremacist-roots-of-arizonas-immigration-law/

Should we have gone and vacationed in Apartheid-era South Africa?

And I'm really sorry you feel bad about your former place of residence being called out as a racist backwater for the actions of its government. But it has passed a racist and vicious law that indisputably targets minorities. According to you, 70% of the state supported the law. (And it's telling that you parrot this number and foist it upon us. See, e.g., http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2010/04/post_2.php .) So shouldn't the state be made to feel the consequences of passing such horrific legislation? Doesn't a boycott, by your logic, punish and affect largely those who supported this law?

NicFit (#616)

These are the kinds of friends that get left behind as you stop thinking of the place you visit a couple of times a year as "home".

HiredGoons (#603)

Also, my own pet theory: once oil prices rise where shipping in food becomes unrealistic, and a long enough drought makes self-sustaining food production impossible, Arizona is going to be the Mad-Max-Post-Apocalyptic-Hellscape we've all been waiting for.

Thunderdome tourism might actually be enticing.

conklin (#364)

I love this, and fully get it based on both where I grew up and where I am now, but the quantification of how rough the people of Arizona have it makes me even angrier about the law itself. It's chickenshit for politicians to duck responsibility for the quality of their constituents' lives and offload the blame to the poorest, most reviled people with the least access.

Kevin (#2,559)

Kind of reminds you of something.

Suzi (#3,593)

Great piece. I went to grad school in Flagstaff (northern AZ) and AZ is the weirdest, most awesome state out there (in my opinion). I wish more mainstream news outlets were focusing on the widespread problems that AZ has, instead of just hating the new terrible law. They aren't doing it right, but they are just trying to do SOMETHING and I feel sort of bad for the whole state.

On the one hand, I think this is great.

But how is this guy going to be your friend after you've called attention to how much better and luckier you are than he is and so publicly called him a bigot? He's going to accept your assertions above his experience?

As I said, part of me wants to applaud, the other wants to say: "Good luck Christianizing the savages, you pompous asshole"

Bettytron (#575)

I use a similar argument when my friends lucky enough to have international passports threatened to leave the country if Obama didn't win the election. Before that, my mom used the same tack on me when I threatened to move to Canada if Bush won in 2004.

Wonderful article. I'm passing this along to everyone I know.

maywee (#1,993)

I really take issue with the tone of this post. I'm from Arizona and I keep seeing these types of comments again and again. Those from the coastal cities look at us and shake their heads as if to say, "Silly fly-over states, I need to come rescue you from yourselves." We don't need you.
Your friend sounds like a complete asshole. I interact with a variety of people in the state with whom I often discuss politics. The majority of people I've met disagree with this law. The 70% being thrown around is bullshit based on something like 40% of the state being legally hispanic. Many have debunked that as being inaccurate. Those I've talked to who do support the legislation know that it reads near verbatim to the federal immigration law. The issue is that it's completely inappropriate to have local police enforcing federal immigration policy. Although, I have to say, I prefer the police after having met some ICE agents.
The city from which you wrote this post probably has the same number of jerks as Arizona, including those that believe their false sense of moral superiority requires them to save everyone else below them.

Abe Sauer (#148)

This guy!

tigolbitties (#2,150)

Although I didn't take issue with the tone of this post – perhaps because I'm not from AZ – I also question this saving of the assholes, especially with my tourists dollars*. I'd be interested (for real) to hear how my not boycotting AZ and spending money is going to make Patrick and his racist ilk any less angry, frustrated and jealous?

*I did celebrate my last bday in scottsdale and was considering spending this next one there, but being asked to produce papers is not my idea of a good time.

maywee (#1,993)

Well, my husband and I own a restaurant in Scottsdale. If you do make it back, we insist you come by! We'll only ask for your papers after you pay the check. Promise. We actually have a couple of friends in the Scottsdale Police Department. From what I'm to understand, they have no intention of enforcing this piece of crap legislation.

Tom Scocca (#48)

Is this really an issue on which people want to play yet another round of the Prole-ier Than Thou Game? Those darn coastal snobs, looking down on Arizona's latest vicious, nativist, police-state temper tantrum! They're only harassing the Browns because of their FEEEEEELINGS! Put a sock in it.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@Tom: Really? The author, after claiming "friendship" with an Arizonan he basically throws under the bus sets off to make wildly sweeping generalizations about the state as a whole, including the tried and true (and tired) mere suggestion that a lot of wal-marts mean you suck. Then, despite all of the outside observation and full admittance of not having lived there for years and years and years, he calls himself "an Arizonan." He runs down Arizonans and then NY liberals and their snide blog comments and then, why not, Arizona liberals. The only one who seems to be in the right in terms of a course of action in the opinion of the author appears to be the author himself. His heart may be in the right place, and this is certainly moving, but the most "than thou" gamesmanship going on here is coming from the author himself.

Mina Kimes (#4,649)

What's tired about pointing out that Wal-Marts can cause problems for communities? Study after study has shown positive correlations between the stores and poverty rates. It may not be entirely causal, but there's no doubt that they bring down prices, harming small businesses.

Setting aside the author's tone, his point is important and hasn't been made very much: Economic (and reputational) embargoes will only increase the problems cultivated by Arizona's provincialism.

tigolbitties (#2,150)

oooo what restaurant? i did think scottsdale was lovely and the food was amazing, and i have friends from college who live there now, so even if i don't make it i'll make sure they go!

Abe Sauer (#148)

@Mina: By all means, show that in this case (it isn't ALWAYS true and is very case-by-case). But throwing out a sentence with the two of the most stereotypically derided chains (to a certain social group, anyway) with no context as a way of saying "see, AZ is screwed, is lazy. e.g., AZ has totally average wal-mart saturation compared to national rates so why's it worse off? And why are starbucks so bad exactly?

Mina Kimes (#4,649)

@Abe: you're right – I didn't click through to look at the scatterplot graph, which actually puts arizona in very good company, demographically speaking (northwestern states). I don't think there's a lot to be said about "starbucks states" and "walmart states," since both groups contain economic successes and stragglers. The Wal-Mart effect is more tangible on a municipal and federal level.

Re: your above point, though, I think change will come less from convincing motivated people to move back to AZ and set up shop, and more about getting motivated people to stay. And much of that will come from making the state part of the national conversation, both culturally and commercially, not isolating it.

maywee (#1,993)

It's called POSH. We opened about a year and a half ago. Best restaurant by Phoenix New Times and Best New Chef by AZ Republic (I like to brag). I work for ASU and help out on the weekends sometimes. I should go ahead and say that in no way do any comments I make on any internet site represent my husband's views. He's been trying to disavow me for years with not much luck. I'm persistent like that.

shostakobitch (#1,692)

As somebody who has been on the Patrick end of that equation in a town so shitty there's currently a TV show on Comedy Central about it I can tell you nothing pleases me more than when the local-boy-made-good comes back home to teach us poor ignorant assholes important lessons that were learned in far away places. The LBMGs are always very conscious of how they impart their special gifts to the laity. They are oh-so-humble and human and tactful.

Perhaps some day this gentle diffusion of knowledge will penetrate my thick skull and neutralize the under-funded public schooling I was cursed with.

Slava (#216)

I think someone needs a hug from a New Yorker…

shostakobitch (#1,692)

I tried that but the guy wouldn't shut up about how glad he is that all us hickville slobs serve as a wonderful baseline with which to measure his sophistication and accomplishment. Hell I even made out with a girl just because she kind of looked like Fiorello LaGuardia but all that did was upset the dozens of parakeets in her studio apartment.

pemulis (#903)

This, times so much.

I'm sure Patrick will really appreciate that beer after this really kind, really compassionate, really respectful blog post. Stay away from barred windows.

Mina Kimes (#4,649)

As a native Arizonan turned New Yorker, thanks for this!

When I lived in Gilbert, Arizona ten years ago, it felt like the state was at a turning point: property taxes were low, gas prices were hella low, and high-tech multinationals like Honeywell and Intel were importing thousands of engineers and programmers. Entrepreneurship was rising in fields like solar power. Sure, we had Sheriff Joe, but we also elected Janet Napolitano. John McCain was a good guy back then! Even the Minute Men, a blight on our ascendant reputation, were largely viewed as an extremist, ineffectual bunch and received little media attention (at least compared to similar right wing groups today).

As you pointed out, Arizona was hit harder than most states during the Great Recession because its economy was highly levered to the housing bubble. Economics and political frustration tend to move inversely, and, as a result, our state–so promising just a few years ago–is now a national embarrassment. And that's precisely why it's a terrible time to turn our backs on Arizona, which is still mired in the muck of the real estate fallout while other regions are beginning to return to prosperity. Now, more than ever, Arizona needs business investment so that income rises, schools get better, and kids like your friend Patrick grow up surrounded by people on the rise, not flatliners.

sigerson (#179)

Any state with an unemployment rate at the national average should just shut up and thank their lucky stars that they aren't Michigan or Nevada.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Or my hometown of Rockford, IL!

A recent item in the local paper was crowing that the unemployment rate has dropped to a mere 17%.

oudemia (#177)

I also want to double underscore and exclamation point the awesomeness of Jets to Brazil and Orange Rhyming Dictionary (and Jawbreaker and Forgetters forever and ever amen).

BadUncle (#153)

move there? too many scorpions.

Dave Bry (#422)

Klaus Meine, Rudy Schenker, Michael Schenker, Mathais Jabs…

You can never really have too many. (They are actually playing there, July 27th!)

BadUncle (#153)

Holy hairband!

oedrex1 (#4,651)

Nimbus Brewing, while not major is in fact, a brewery. Gentle Ben's brew's their own as well.

And I've seen Sebadoh, Against Me!, Malkmus, Matt Pryor and Bright Eyes in Tucson and Phoenix amongst others.

You waxing nostalgic about JTB ORD does not absolve your sweeping generalizations about Arizonan's anymore then your criticism of your friends racism absolves him of his ill mannered beliefs.

I think you need a rewrite sir.

HiredGoons (#603)

I actually support immigration reform (also to protect people from exploitation)to a certain degree sympathize with people upset at illegal aliens, however there is something about having police officers hunt them down that just strikes me as a little Philip K. Dick.

This was fucking great. As was the census piece a couple weeks ago. More please.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

Wait, you can't oppose an insane violation of civil rights that tarnishes our national image without moving to the place responsible for it? Sounds like someone's drumming up business for U-Haul!

Also, maybe the substantive complaints are lobbed less at Arizonans than at the Arizona state government, which I hope we can all agree is even more awful than most state governments.

dham (#4,652)

I had to create a login just to say that, were I Patrick, or really anyone this author has formed opinions about, I would probably have murder fantasies about said author. If only NYers treated their homestate friends with a little condescending love and derision, they wouldn't be the poor lonely bigots they are today?

I respect my hometown friends enough to save my hugs for those who managed to avoid intolerance despite their unemployment rates, walmart ratios, and lack of good live music.

Really? Do you respect your hometown friends when they talk about how the blacks and Mexicans are lazy? I don't!

dham (#4,652)

I was trying to say I respect them enough to not be friends with the ones who say that; ie I "respect" them by taking their racism seriously.

NinetyNine (#98)

Serious question time! I am about to drive through AZ. I'm totes white, but you know, I read that New Yorker article about the Phoenix sheriff — scary! So my passport is expired. If I happen to get pulled over (speed limits are socialist!) will a state issued ID be adequate to prove citizenship? Because all my shit will be in a box somewhere and I don't want to spend a week in pink underwear because I don't have a Wal Mart issued RFID chip implanted in my ass.

conklin (#364)

No. Last week in Arizona a truck driver pulled into a weigh station, presented his commercial truck license, and was arrested and detained by immigration officials until his wife could present his (US) birth certificate. This was before the law went into effect.

http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog/2010/04/28/no-racial-profiling-in-arizona-no-sir-none-at-all/

NinetyNine (#98)

Motherfucker. Utah it is. Thanks for the update.

HiredGoons (#603)

Just for the record: I was smug and condescending before I moved to New York.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Don't even get Arizona started on the gays.

HiredGoons (#603)

It's fine, I think Spanish roof tiles and stucco are tacky.

oudemia (#177)

There's nothing tackier than that fake adobe look. Do they do that in AZ, too? Or just NM?

petejayhawk (#1,249)

The only thing I kind of wonder about here is the characterization of Tucson as some sort of sleepy southern Arizona backwater. The University of Arizona is a major research institution and the city itself has over 500k people. It's not the dying, destitute small town you make it out to be.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

(that said, I didn't grow up there, so who knows? Well, you did, not me, but still, I have to think that some of that was for effect.)

harrison (#4,653)

This is true, Tucson is hardly a small rural community. Tucson has a strange cultural sensibility to it though that's hard to express to people who aren't familiar with the city. The author gives a somewhat accurate depiction of the situation for many local residents in Tucson; outside of the university and being an engineer for Raytheon, job opportunities are rather limited. Drinking is easily the number one past-time.

That being said, I really need to take issue with the author claiming Tucson doesn't have many breweries or movies or bands coming in. Tucson has all of these, and several venues frequented by big name acts, and the university and Loft theater play many foreign and art house films year round. Maybe it's not up to Brooklyn standards, but, jesus christ, that's an unfair comparison to make

sigerson (#179)

Yes! Gentle Ben's anyone???

I went to UofA back many moons ago and also served in the Air Force at Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Tucson, so I am familiar with a couple different sides of Tucson. The college community is just like Austin or Ann Arbor – smart, liberal and a little self-righteous. It's annoying to have undergrads lecture you on a trail in the Rincon Mountains about having a bottle of Poland Spring instead of tap water (I mean, we're complete strangers and you're all up in my grill?). But they were right, of course.

As for racism, it's a little misleading to focus on poor Patrick's drunken slur about black people. You have a lot of hispanic folks (some of whom pre-date territorial days) and a whole bunch of Tohono O'odham (sp?) native americans in that neighborhood, so it's very diverse ethnically (although Asians and African-Americans are pretty rare).

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

I did live in Tucson for many years and I agree that it's a city with a dual culture. The University community, including a lot of alumni, is one side of it, and the other is basically a reactionary right-wing cult. It's a very strange place.

Tucson is a great town! It's not a big town. But it sure has a great music scene.

mmmark (#4,458)

More lavish praise. Weekly column, please.

Teresatothemax (#4,654)

I moved from San Francisco to Arizona (near Flagstaff, which might as well be called "Nowhere") two years ago, stayed for six months and moved promptly back to SF. Flyover and drive-through. That's about the extent of my relationship with AZ these days. Sedona was beautiful and a little magical though. Let's transport that place out of there.

Arizona is screwed unless more people start caring. Bottomline.

paco (#2,190)

I'm certain that almost all of the people here who are saying this piece resonated with them are white and are in little fear of being affected by laws like SB 1070 (or of their family being affected by such laws). This shit is not so understandable when you and yours feel like a state has passed a law that makes it kosher to come up to your mother or father and demand proof of citizenship or face imprisonment.

Anecdotal stories like this are nice and all, but I am again surprised at how swayed the Awl community is by such illogical and unsound argument.

HiredGoons (#603)

For me, the issue is what exactly is a 'reasonable doubt' for search and detainment? Is it being Mexican?

brent_cox (#40)

Not swayed.

paco (#2,190)

It's not even "reasonable doubt". (You are thinking of the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard necessary to convict someone at a criminal trial.) SB 1070 allows police to demand papers from someone they have a "reasonable suspicion" is an undocumented alien. WTF? On what do the cops base this "reasonable suspicion"? Oh, I don't know….

(Text of the law:
http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/sb1070s.pdf )

Also see Linda Greenhouse's take-down of this bullshit law in the NYT:
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/breathing-while-undocumented/

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

No one is being "swayed" to support the flagrantly unconstitutional and offensive law. They're just being asked to reconsider whether a boycott will actually help or simply make people outside the state feel better about themselves.

In my personal opinion? The boycott might help in the short term to get the law repealed, contrary to what the author says, but he's right that the only way to address the underlying problem is to spur economic development in the state.

And regardless of anyone's position on the issues, the article is impassioned and persuasive and generally a great piece of writing.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I have to disagree that simple economic development is an answer. There are states with healthy economies and low unemployment etc etc. that don't suddenly become socially progressive because they're flush. Texas and North Dakota being just a couple.

paco (#2,190)

"In all sectors, Arizona's unemployment has hovered close to the national average of about 10 percent."

Cord: And so? This is added to support your argument in what way?

#56 (#56)

This has given me a lot to think about. Thank your for sharing this, but i have to disagree. We should let Arizona suffer whatever economic consequences come from this law. Only then can we possibly change the tone and temper of this discussion. If businesses and the state government lose revenue due to these crazy xenophobic tactics, maybe we can begin to talk about the complicated issues surrounding immigration. It's a codependent relationship, America and it's cheap labor.

Your last paragraph just made me sad. I think your friend Patrick already sees you as the exception to the stereotype. He could even bring up your friendship to defend himself the next time someone calls him on his racism.. "but my good friend Cord is black". It's not enough to be someone's "exception". Minds and hearts need to change.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

I'm going to start a boycott of Scranton, PA.

My solenoid went out there once. The Sears recharged my battery and I was able to get to the Pep Boys down the road, but they didn't even give me a free burger for my troubles. Cheapos.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

Pennsylvania killed my car once too! Let's all torch Pennsylvania!

laurel (#4,035)

So I wonder who the voters are who support this legislation, and how long they've lived in the Southwest?

I've spent a lot of time working in AZ in the past six years. Yes, there are the xenophobic hard-right wingers, but there are also many very independent-minded conservative people–people very different from me–from whom I've learned a lot.

One of the challenges for progressive policy in Arizona is the huge number of recent *domestic* immigrants. People from all over the US move there to make quick money, or to retire, etc. They lack ties to the community and while they love what they think of as the Hispanic cultural aesthetic, they fear the deep connections to Latin America.

While they may think Arizona is beautiful–and it is, and amazingly diverse in its landscapes, you should go–they feel no sense of stewardship for the land and wildlife. You see this in "wildcat" developments that strain municipality budgets without adding commensurate amounts to tax revenues, developments that scrape clean the land and carve up wildlife habitat. There's a nasty "I got mine" attitude among developers, speculators and snowbirds that leaves even pro-economic-growth conservative natives horrified. The newcomers simply "aren't from around here", in the worst possible way.

erikam (#4,659)

This breaks my heart. I live in Tucson. It is relatively enlightened town with a lively arts and music scene. The neighborhood nearby successfully fought off having a Wal-Mart move in, so hey, we're not all about the Wal-Marts and the meth. That said, the laws passed recently in Arizona make us look like a bunch of gun toting racist fuckwits. I hate to see our state lose more money when we're already struggling to keep schools open for the full day, but maybe this is what we deserve. I don't know what more it will take for Arizonans to start getting their act together.

Friday (#3,166)

It seems a lot of people have taken Cord's generosity toward his friend as condescension. You know, POC do not have a responsibility to be nice and understanding toward bigoted white people, they do not have to go out of their way to educate racists about the simple truth that not all black people are 'cheap and lazy'. Cord, you have a big heart as well as a great writing talent.

paco (#2,190)

So this all finally makes sense. Have you all seen Cord Jefferson's piece in THE ROOT, entitled "HOW ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION HURTS BLACK AMERICA"?
See http://www.theroot.com/views/how-illegal-immigration-hurts-black-america

I call BULLSHIT on Cord's weepy tale of love for "Patrick". He's simply found a way to advance his agenda against THE DIRTY ILLEGALS here at THE AWL. And judging from a lot of the positive comments above, Cord has succeeded in suckering a lot of fatuous people here.

Hey Cord, take your divisive bullshit back to Arizona. PLEASE.

paco (#2,190)

And dear AWL editors: Wouldn't it be helpful to indicate, maybe in the About the Author section or whatever, that Cord Jefferson has been busily rallying the troops against ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION for some time well BEFORE AZ passed its stupid-ass law?
See http://www.google.com/#hl=en&source=hp&q=cord+jefferson+immigration&aq=1&aqi=g3&aql=&oq=cord+jefferson&gs_rfai=&fp=d90e7c340cb31971

Jefferson has an axe to grind and an agenda to advance. I wish we didn't have to independently research him to get some sense of where he was coming from. Thanks for giving Jefferson a podium from which to continue his racially divisive blitzkrieg.

Abe Sauer (#148)

First, I have to give you credit for finding and bringing this to light. It's genuinely appreciated. But I do not really see that as the editor's job, especially on something filed as "opinion." It is the readers' (like you and me) and that's exactly what's been done here, as I noted, admirably. For all the terrible characteristics of the internet (anonymous trolling) one of the positives (sometimes!) is that "journalism" becomes a living thing, update-able and fact-checkable in real time. Your notes here are exactly the sunlight something like this needs. From there, readers can further make their informed opinions on the writing. Readers should always be more engaged in what they read.

Cord_Jefferson (#2,111)

"THE SUNLIGHT SOMETHING LIKE THIS NEEDS"!!!!!?????

HA! Who am I, I G. Gordon Liddy? Compliments to you guys for discovering how to GOOGLE someone and discover their DIRTY SECRETS!

Lemme help you out:

Here's me addressing a dude who irrationally whines about that article, as you're doing RIGHT NOW: http://imagine2050.newcomm.org/2010/02/19/cord-jefferson-gets-it-wrong-on-immigration-and-black-america/
Also, here's me talking about that article on NPR:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123811962

Have at it! Enjoy!

Not sure I have an "axe to grind." Though, thanks to Abe, I do now know that I'm "pathetic." Sorry I was out getting beers with friends and not obsessing over people yelling at me, Mr. Sauer. I'll be more on top of it next time! Good talk!

PS Sauer: An aptronym!

Cord_Jefferson (#2,111)

PPS "Actually, Section 2 provides that a law enforcement official "may not solely consider race, color or national origin" in making any stops or determining immigration status. In addition, all normal Fourth Amendment protections against profiling will continue to apply. In fact, the Arizona law actually reduces the likelihood of race-based harassment by compelling police officers to contact the federal government as soon as is practicable when they suspect a person is an illegal alien, as opposed to letting them make arrests on their own assessment." http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/29/opinion/29kobach.html

Also, Paco, take two deep breaths on the Internet, it really helps, when you've got your "axe" up for your "agenda."

paco (#2,190)

Hi Cord: You officially do not make any sense at all.

In your piece, you claim to be against SB1070, saying: "On the heels of all this comes Arizona's latest bout of insanity, a law requiring authorities to determine the legal status of anyone suspected of being undocumented. As a thinking person, I'm appalled by the law and the dark, chaotic forest I fear it's planted."

Okay, great. But then here in the comments, after getting pissed off by the negative reaction some have had, you come out and uncritically quote, of all people, Kris Kobach, the author of SB1070, in what is plainly your attempt to defend the indefensible SB1070.

So which is it? Was your claim in the piece to be opposed to SB1070 — that it was a "bout of insanity" — just BS? Or did you feel that way until you were then overwhelmed by the persuasive powers of Kobach? Your uncritical "PPS" quotation of Kobach's op-ed piece above leaves no other conclusion than that you have obediently swallowed his propaganda. (Or, perhaps, did you simply Google for things to back up your view, and happen upon a NYT editorial and think, There we go! — having no idea who Kobach was?)

Never mind that left-wing luminaries such as Jeb Bush, Karl Rove, Michael Gerson, Tom Tancredo (before he caught himself), and Marco Rubio say the bill goes too far. You've got Kris Kobach — the author of the freakin' bill — on your side. That dude wrote the bill — he must be right!

Your position is utterly incoherent. I'm done here.

paco (#2,190)

For those who have any sensitivity to such matters, Cord gives his entire game away with his insistence on referring to undocumented workers as "ILLEGAL ALIENS" throughout his piece. Hey, Cord, do you have room in your heart, next to your boundless sympathy for "Patrick" and his fellow travelers for this idea: no human is "illegal"?
See, e.g., http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122314131

Also, nice niche you've worked out for yourself, Cord, battling the threat of the *wrong types* of browns. Lovely work.

You're being ridiculous.

paco (#2,190)

Choire: Really? I can't really see any other way to explain Cord parroting Kris Kobach's talking-points-to-eliminate-the-Browns above. Can you? I don't think so. Cord's purported concern about SB1070 in the piece above is simply fraudulent. And in a pique of anger, Cord's shown his true colors, by referring us all to the person he apparently views as the authority on this matter: Kris Kobach, author of SB1070, loyal advisor to John Ashcroft, etc.

kimiko1231 (#4,668)

Elitist.
This is almost a reasonable response to what's happening. The only problem is, my mom lives in Tucson, she teaches and she sees foreign and indy films about 4 or 5 times a week (no shit, the woman is an encyclopedia of film knowledge, it's bizarre). The amount of culture that Tucson contains – he has just made it even more likely that no one… See More will ever want to visit Arizona. When I lived there, I was impressed by Tucson, for the lazy, sleepy place it was, it was also a place with very good restaurants, a lot of cheap theatre – opera, dance, and plays – and some of the most beautiful scenery you'll ever see (while on your way to the bar to get wasted, that part's TOTALLY on the money). Under the guise of being worldly and educated and leaning on his Nat Geo cred, he sounds like a bit of a racist himself.

All that before my morning coffee.

kimiko1231 (#4,668)

And…a response from my mom, Carol Masuda:
Good article. I can see his point too. However, I mostly see people my age or my Mexican friends of many ages from school or the people who work at the environmental groups of many ages who have my viewpoints and like the things I do. They do read, love music, movies and are aware of what's going on in the world.

There is … See Morea population of poor, illiterate and disgusted people here who are angry no doubt about it. There are also a lot Hispanics who work hard and are not out getting drunk all the time and have a limited income (the college kids add a lot to the drinking population by the way). He does not mention the Hispanic population here which is pretty family oriented. They mostly have low paying jobs but do not fit into the description he gives.

Yes, the schools are in bad shape because we have so many retirees and people earning very little and the houses are cheap so that means a low tax base for the schools. Retirees don't want to spend on schools as they did that before they moved here. A catch 22.

I think he is right in many things but also is seeing things from only his perspective as I see them from mine. The people in Tucson that I know are pretty mad about the new law and there are a lot of university professors, teachers, Hispanic families and professionals who are pretty angry. They are not the total population but I also think that if one doesn't live here and meet all sorts of people, one has only one viewpoint. When you come to visit only, you see the same people each time and it is necessary to know a larger segment of the population before making a judgment. I don't know if he does know a lot of people here (all ages, all nationalities and all walks of life) He is right though, there are a lot of disgusted "rednecks" too. They are easy to find and pretty vocal. I guess I would have to know how much he gets involved with life here and how much he socializes with a large segment of the population because his article seems to be based on one friend and maybe friends from high school.

leandro (#4,669)

I'm sorry, but this article is bullshit. By all means, let's not insult the delicate sensibilities of the 70% of AZ residents that think that unwarranted stops of "suspected illegals" is the way to solve their state's issues. They "don't know any better." (But don't call them ignorant! Because that would be elitist). By all means, let's not offend the delicate sensibilities of your racist childhood friend. I'm sure that your warmed-over nostalgia will provide great comfort to those Hispanic residents of AZ that now feel too insecure to walk the sidewalks of their own cities and towns. Are you kidding me?

But Cord,
you didn't tell me anything about what's good about Arizona. I understand that there are societal and personal limitations holding Patrick and others back but I still need to know what is Arizona doing right RIGHT NOW that makes it worthy of your love and respect as home.

And do you think there was anyway you could have brought Patrick along on your world travels? The way you describe your friendship is very Prince and Pauper.

Does he know how much better you have it compared to him, even though you love each other like brothers?

Jay Baer (#4,680)

The Grand Canyon, Sedona, London Bridge, Monument Valley, Painted Desert, Colorado River, Chiricahua Mountains, Superstition Mountains, Lake Powell and every other amazing natural attribute of AZ is apolitical. Yes, it's a bad law. It's poorly written, and drastically overreaches. That doesn't mean border security isn't a problem in AZ. It's a huge problem. Many Phoenix and Tucson hospitals' patient loads are nearly 50% undocumented, uninsured persons. The strain on AZ's social services (such as they are) due to the border security issue is significant and real. As is the increasing personal security problem as the drug war in northern Mexico leaps the border (AZ leads the nation in kidnappings, and that's not drunk, stoned teenagers). That's the reality, but it doesn't give the state (IMHO) carte blanche to engage in racial profiling and witch hunting. But as you rightly point out, a boycott is absolutely the wrong approach. That's just going to make the fringe element that's controlling this debate in AZ emboldened. They don't care about $$$, they care about social engineering, and being "right" – metaphorically and literally.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Mr. Jefferson, I am very disappointed you have not even attempted to defend your treatise here amongst considerable respectable contention. It's pathetic.

He doesn't have to "defend" a "treatise," any more than you do when you publish here. He wrote an essay. In this modern age, we allow commentary on essays. That's a nice newfangled thing. You get to rebut what you don't like about it! Isn't that nice? But it's not court. If you object, you get to have your say, and leave a printed trail regarding your objections.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I didn't say he had to. I commented that I was disappointed he didn't try. Opinion!

Swift-one (#4,688)

The problem in these places is brain drain. So what if the author is going back to Arizona? I'm willing to bet that he or she (sorry, the name is gender ambiguous) doesn't live there. I was born and raised in a left-coast university town, a veritable bastion of ticky-tacky non-conformism, where every third car is covered in bumper stickers touting political causes, from the obscure ('free western sahara!') to the absurd (a 'save the sea turtle!' sticker on a hummer). Every year the rent gets more outrageous and every year we're seeing more and more of these self-righteousness-mobiles with Missouri and S. Dakota and Texas license plates. Every hipster blue blood from yonder red-territories is moving here. Maybe as places like my town fill up with educated, affluent leftists, people with less fiscal pull will start pulling up stumps in search of cheaper digs, taking some of our laid-back accepting vibes out into beef-and-potato country with them.

Stop Okay Go (#365)

Uhh, Cord, you know the saying "you can't go home" again? It's true, you can't. Or you shouldn't after saying all the stuff you've said about Arizona! (Maybe hire Charlie Sheen to help you come up with disguise?)

paco (#2,190)

Okay, sorry, one last bit of background on Cord's authority on this matter, the heroic Kris Kobach.

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