Supporters of the Arizona “papers please” law keep insisting that the only motivation for the law is a strict love of law-and-order, and that racism has nothing to do with it. And that anyone who disagrees is the real racist because neener neener neener. We’re expected to believe that this doesn’t stem from a tidal wave of racial hatred that’s rising in Arizona, probably in no small part because of Obama’s election (and beating of a candidate from their own state, adding to the nationalist sentiment). This was a hard story to buy in the first place, but it gets harder and harder all the time to take that excuse seriously.
The latest story coming out of Arizona is just another example. A school in Prescott had a mural painted that used the children of the school as models, and thus the students pictured were a mix of different races. City councilman and AM radio show host Steve Blair decided to throw a shit fit about this, which resulted in a number of adults driving by and taunting the painters—including the children present—with racial slurs. In response to the controversy, the school initially decided to tell the painters to repaint the mural so that all the students pictured were white. But the outcry was so swift and dramatic that the school changed their minds, and the principal and superintendent both apologized for the hasty decision. Blair was also fired from his job as a radio show host.
As you can imagine, Blair is insisting that there’s no racism underpinning his anger that non-white people are prominently displayed on a school mural.
It’s good that there were repercussions, of course. But I hope this story doesn’t just sink under the radar, because that it happened in the first place should be enough to make it clear how ugly the situation in Arizona has really gotten. In the bigger picture, I hope stories like this give everyone pause when they feel that urge to run forward and suggest that something like the “papers please” law or Rand Paul’s rejection of the Civil Rights Act must be based in something besides plain old racism. The attempts to keep under wraps the straight-up racism that drives a lot of conservative resentment have apparently been abandoned, and they nuts are just letting their most vicious sides see the light of day. We’d be insulting their intelligence along with our own to pretend that it’s anything but what it appears to be going on.