We went on vacation to Arizona. Yes, Arizona. Before you judge, let me explain. My dear cousin got pregnant seven months ago and we had planned to go to her baby shower five months ago. Satish and I had booked our tickets and made camping reservations in the Grand Canyon. Then the Arizona Immigration Law (SB 1070) came into affect four months later. As California was getting ready to boycott the red state, I was looking forward to seeing my cousin/childhood friend in her new phase of life. Also, camping permits in the Grand Canyon are pretty tough to come by.
We spent Friday evening thru Sunday in the Beverly Hills of Arizona- Scottsdale. Except there were no Persians in sight. We tried getting into discussions regarding SB 1070 with the locals, but it seemed futile. Sitting at the bar of Olive and Ivy, we eavesdropped on two plastic girls’ conversation. They were happy about this new law and were perplexed as to why Californians were boycotting them. After observing and engaging in several other discussions, we concluded that most Arizonians were comfortable with SB 1070. We quickly assumed these are just the opinions of the rich and White. But, even our waitress didn’t have any qualms with it and went on to say that majority of the people wanted SB 1070 passed. Maybe, she won’t have to compete with the “illegals” for her position. It was eerie to see how Arizonians had justified SB 1070. The law doesn’t address border security, it only targets those who have already been here. We felt remorseful and uncomfortable. Why didn’t we just fly in for the baby shower and leave soon afterward? We felt all eyes on us all the time. Maybe, it was in our head or we really were being discriminated against at the Cancun-style Margarita joint. All aspects of racism are unnatural to us. We have to think twice before we realize the act or words were racist. I was born and raised in ever-growing diversity- the San Francisco Bay Area! Satish lived in Alabama and Campbell, CA for a good part of his life and still didn’t encounter much racism. Anyway, I could go on about the big, drunk, White guy who got in Satish’s face with racial slur and how we were so oblivious that we thought it was joke for a second. Or I could write about the two really nice, young grass roots activists we met a half hour later.
The problem is that racism is normal in Arizona-all of Arizona. Well, except for in the Grand Canyon National Park. Racism and profiling is not controversial there. It’s a way of life. It’s just the way it is. With this realization, I felt the bubble that I live in shrink.