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April 29th, 2010

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03:16 pm - Musing on Arizona and Bigotry
The vile immigration law recently passed in Arizona doesn't particularly surprise me, because I visited Arizona in the early 90s with my friend Aaron, and this law reminds me of my visit to Tucson. I was in Arizona for a few days and visited by Arizona and Tucson. My primary memory of Phoenix is of the ugliest city that I've ever seen, which seemed to largely consist of freeways, used car lots and pest control agencies. Given that I was living in LA at the time (which is exceptionally ugly during the day, and deceptively lovely at night), the fact that I found Phoenix ugly is particularly striking.

However, what I most remember about visiting Arizona was a day I spent in Tucson. It was clear that there was something seriously wrong with that city when we drove in – we can in through the hispanic & native american slum. It was quite literally that – multiple square miles of run down depressing poverty where everyone seemed to be either hispanic or native american. Then, there was the downtown – a large, well off, and generally pleasant and artsy city, where the vast majority of people were white, with a small number of asian and black people. There were a few hispanic or native american service workers evident, but not many. The downtown seemed far more functional than many US downtowns, with an abundance of high-end galleries (many of which featured native american art and native american designs being sold by white people) and a wide variety of nice-looking restaurants.

However, the single most striking thing I saw in Tucson was the downtown bus mall. Like Portland, and many other cities, Tucson has (or at least in the early 90s had) a central area where all of the city buses converged. It was an area several blocks long with what looked like several stops for every bus route in the city. It was a utilitarian but not ugly area with abundant shade and metal benches. However, what struck me was the people. At one end of this multiple block strip were a group of people waiting for the bus who were predominantly white, but with a moderate number of black and asian people. People were talking and interacting with one another to a degree common in fairly functional cities. Then, literally more than a block away was another group of people – all of whom appeared to be hispanic or native american, who were also interacting with one another. There was literally no one in between these two groups. At the time, I was considerably less aware of racial issues than I am now, but I still remember those two groups of people who did not interact or even glance at one another. I was vividly reminded of images I had seen of the pre-desegregation South. The bus mall in Tucson is my most vivid memory of Arizona and also why their recent immigration law did not surprise me.
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Date:April 30th, 2010 10:20 am (UTC)
I was heartened to read yesterday in the Washington Post that the Justice Department may sue Arizona to overturn that stupid law. A coalition of civil rights groups is also going to court over the law, too.

Since the law is not going to take effect until summer, there is an excellent chance it could be tied up in court by then.

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