The slaughter in the Charleston church has prompted a Twitter discussion under hashtags #capturetheflag and #takedowntheflag which generates the ancient debate of whether confederate symbols are racist or benignly historic.
Arizona has its own Confederate symbol very close to the state capitol grounds in Phoenix – a monument to Confederate troops erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1961, in the midst of a centuries-old effort by African Americans to gain their civil rights. That year, The US Commission on Civil Rights came out with another scathing report on unconstitutional policing in the South, as well as lynchings and murders of blacks by whites.
I came across Arizona’s Confederate monument at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, near the state capitol area in Phoenix, in 2010. I was covering civil rights protests by Latinos and their friends who objected to unconstitutional policing and unconstitutional laws in Arizona.
Given the context, the monument was a slapping stinging metaphor.
Why do we have such a monument praising Confederate soldiers in faraway Arizona? Because part of Arizona was once part of the Confederacy. Because at one point in Arizona history, a wave of southern migrants settled in the territory because they wanted to escape the poverty and devastation of their homeland, just like today’s modern migrants. The southerners brought their culture with them. Only, in Arizona they segregated and lynched Mexicans. Their descendants erected the monument ostensibly because there was a teeny battle between the North and the South in Arizona. But really, what does the monument symbolize?
Look at our history and judge for yourself whether the #capturetheflag and #takedowntheflag monument in Phoenix attests to a racist legacy that still lingers today.
About 10 years ago, in Sierra Vista, Arizona, a Border Patrol officer told me he feared post 9/11 “surges” in hiring at the agency would have shattering consequences, inadvertently luring bad recruits into the Border Patrol.
Now the fired Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs Commissioner, James Tomsheck, has become a whistleblower. He blames post 9/11 rapid and increased militarization of the border for sloppy hiring practices in a fascinating NPR story that aired last week. The agency is protected by a cloak of secrecy by the Homeland Security Act, which is a byproduct of our national fear following the Twin Towers bloodbath.
NPR reports that Border Patrol agents and officers have killed 28 people since 2010. Tomscheck told NPR that some Border Patrol insiders covered up several of the shootings, exaggerating the danger the soon-to-be slaughtered migrants or Mexican nationals posed to the Border Patrol agents who shot them.
Beyond the Border Patrol’s secrecy and coverup, Tomasheck told NPR, many within the agency consider themselves part of a bonafide paramilitary force.
This is the best video clip I’ve found of Charles Bowden, the Arizona writer who died recently. He was enormously talented, generous and angry. His life worked, but didn’t work, and in the end, he died just as we all will die.
Washington’s gridlock over fixing the nation’s immigration system enabled Arizona’s rogue laws, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s enforcement of them. The courts had the last say.
Here’s the story for The National Journal Magazine.
My 2014 New Year’s resolution was to get a website that archived the best of 30 years of ongoing reporting and writing on Arizona and the changing American West.
Well, that hasn’t exactly happened yet, largely because I’ve been reporting and writing.
But slowly, we’ll get some of the memorable stories on immigration, crime, politics and environment up on this website.
Thank you for your patience.
Feel free to contact me on the contact form.