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Race War in Arizona

Saturday, 24 July 2010 18:29
Three Points Arizona Minuteman Pete Petruccione, 88, checks out the range before nightfall with the unit from a $1,800 US Nightvision Starlight, 10/10/06. (photo: Gary Williams/Getty Images)

Three Points Arizona Minuteman Pete Petruccione, 88, checks out the range before nightfall with the unit from a $1,800 US Nightvision Starlight, 10/10/06. (photo: Gary Williams/Getty Images)



Reader Supported News | Perspective

n August 20, 1914, the Los Angeles Times ran an article titled "Race War in Arizona; Death List Is Sixteen" at Ray, Arizona. Two days later Regeneración echoed the Times, "Guerra de razas en Arizona." The Times reported that four white men and twelve Mexicans were killed in a bloody riot precipitated by a posse hunting "horse thieves," a euphemism for Mexicans. According to the Times:

"Infuriated at the news of the death posse members, white residents of Ray invaded the Mexican section of town, driving the terror-stricken men, women and children of the section from their homes.

One American and seven Mexicans were killed when a number of the Mexican residents resisted the attack upon their homes. The others fled to the hills.

Reports said that many Americans were searching the hills near Ray tonight; bent upon killing every Mexican they meet.

Officers and citizens have been sworn in as deputies, were sent to patrol the entire section to prevent a spread of the race rioting, if possible."

Regeneración concluded that "The American working class is ... [a] mentally retarded class," not knowing its interests as workers.

Tensions had escalated with the Mexican Revolution and the passage of the 80 percent law. For white Americans, every Mexican crossing the border was a Villista and they clamored for government to control the border.

Racism was nothing new in Arizona. In 1903, the Arizona legislature passed the eight-hour day law; a law that already benefited white miners. Mexicans worked ten hours a day for $2.50. The new law reduced the Mexican hours and the mine owners cut the Mexican workers' wages by 10 percent.

This injustice touched off the Clifton-Morenci-Metcalf strike. The largest strike to that time in Arizona, it was a precursor to the 1906 Cananea, Sonora, strike.

Agitation to exclude Mexicans continued throughout the 1910s. In 1914, through the initiative process, voters passed the Arizona Anti-Alien Labor Law, which required 80 percent of a firm's employees to be native-born Americans. Arizona's newspapers equated the law to patriotism, editorializing, "The Flag and Eighty Per Cent."

The following year the law was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. The Court held that the law would exclude immigrants from Arizona. According to the court, immigrants had the right to work and the law discriminated against alien lawful residents.

This was the context for the "Race War in Arizona," and the Bisbee and Jerome Deportations of 1917. At Bisbee, 2,200 Minutemen arrested over 2,000 strikers, mostly Mexicans, without due process and loaded 1,286 arrestees on railroad cars and dumped them in the middle of the New Mexican desert.

After this point, the copper barons, determined to break the unions and convinced that their docile Mexicans could not be controlled, began a campaign to cleanse the mines of Mexicans. The repatriation (better still, the deportation) began in January 1919. It was similar to that of 1913.

The copper barons required naturalized status to get a job. In April 1921, they assembled Mexican families at Morenci Southern station at 5 am, boarded 1,600 to 1,800 Mexican men, women and children on a special train and shipped them to El Paso. Simultaneously, tens of thousands were deported from the agricultural fields and literally dumped across the border.

The story does not end there. Since then the Mexican-American has suffered numerous instances of discrimination. During the 1930s an estimated million were blamed for the Great Depression and deported.

The similarities with what happened in Arizona's past and the mob mentality of many Arizonans today is frightening. I just returned from a five-day conference in Tucson and numerous participants of all colors referred to current events as a "Race War in Arizona." It is doubtful whether most of them had ever read about the eighty percent law or about the numerous deportations.

Take the rhetoric of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who this past week claimed law enforcement agencies had discovered "bodies in the desert" either "buried or beheaded" in addressing crime related to "illegal" immigration. The governor's claim was disputed, even by some of Arizona's compliant press, days before Brewer claimed "illegal aliens" were transporting most of the drugs into the United States.

T.J. Bonner, president of the union representing border agents responded, "some illegal border-crossers carry drugs but most don't. People with drugs face much stiffer penalties for entering the US illegally, and very few immigrants looking for work want to risk the consequences."

On the sane side, last week The New York Times reported "Militia With Neo-Nazi Ties Patrols Arizona Desert." This item was picked up by Arizona's compliant media because it came from the New York newspaper. Arizona's media has itself abandoned the art of investigative reporting.

The article identified Jason Ready as a neo-Nazi, the same Ready previously identified as a close associate of Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, the author of SB 1070, and Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio. All of them have close ties with the Federation of American Immigration Reform. Brewer and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, the author of HB 2281, the bill that seeks to ban La Raza Studies from the Tucson Unified School District, have never dissociated themselves from this cabal.

When KGUN 9 asked me why we had not tried to convince Horne about La Raza Studies, which has all but eliminated the dropout rate of students taking the classes, I replied that I would if Horne would visit La Raza Studies program and test his assumptions. Incredibly, Horne replied that he did not have to observe the schools or listen to facts to form his ideas.

Arizona is a state without laws, without leadership, without an independent media. It has laws that allow psychopaths to carry guns, vigilantes to take the law into their own hands, and there is no such thing as inciting a riot, which is exactly what elected officials are doing today in Arizona.

With this mindset, with this lack of responsibility, there can be no resolution. Like the Mexican proverb says, "No hay mal que dure cien años, ni cuerpo que los resista" (There is no wrong that lasts 100 years, or body that can withstand it.) This makes a confrontation inevitable, since there is a growing mass of people born here who are not afraid of the big bad wolf.

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+3 # Guest 2010-07-25 09:48
I've come to realize that many of the so-called conservatives in Arizona are really not racists. They are certifiably nuts! Their actions and behaviour are so filled with hatred that only a crazy person could behave like they do. The right wing of Arizona belongs in an insane asylum. Or is that the goofy barn?
-3 # Guest 2010-07-25 11:22
I am always suspicious when an article about race is written by someone representing that race. I lived in Arizona for eight years and I know that Hispanics coming across the Mexico/USA border are a problem. Mexico actively encourages its poor, illiterate populations to leave Mexico, come to the USA for jobs, and then to "send money home" so that Mexico gets billions of American dollars while the US gets more poor people which its state governments then have to support with taxpayer dollars. Cross into Mexico illegally and you get a jail term. Our federal government is not doing its job but refuses to allow states to help do the job. Mexico takes advantage of the situation--but it is a one-way street with no benefits in the US except to the corporations who get "slave labor" while American citizens and Mexican illegals "get the shaft."
+2 # Guest 2010-07-25 19:04
I see where there is a two sided situation here- and don't people get that it's not good for either side?! I'm shocked at the amount of talk about racism, class-ism and so forth- what's missing is exactly what your last sentence proclaims because the US gov't protects corporations as "people" with rights and Mexico uses the US like a cheap whore while ignoring their own responsibilitie s (socially and fiscally) to their own folks at home! They don't want us moving there and can in fact deny us the ability to acquire certain property and jobs there! Is that fair? No one can deny Mexican American natives fair treatment, but the obvious problems lay unaddressed by the US and Mexico jointly. PS, my paternal grandma was from Mexico and her family picked fruit in Michigan during Hoover years- I have nothing but love for my fellow Mexican Americans!!
0 # Guest 2010-07-27 10:32
Mexican illegals become a "problem" when failed states like Arizona loses control within itself. During the GW Bush Administration, Arizona basked on greedy corporates bilking the US government of hundred of billions of dollars. When the Administration petered out, and for good measure, a bi-racial president was elected to correct the damages the GOP did for 8 years, and the incompentent governor of Arizona show the failure that she had inherited, finger pointing began to sway. Arizona went back 100 years in lawlessness again.

The only thing that is going to solve the on-going problems failed states like Arizona has is for the entire country to kick out all the republicans! Every single one of them. They have destroyed America credibility in the global standarts of civility and democracy.

Either that or it will be a civil war.
The people don't care anymore.
-5 # Guest 2010-07-25 11:37
this is obviously biased reporting, and it's not going to affect present day events
-1 # Guest 2010-07-27 10:39
It hard for individuals to accept the truth. Perhaps the American Workers Class aren't the only mentality class, it the republicans which now showing the affects of brain damage after decades of believing lies, falsifications and pointing fingers.

Today's republicans are the nastiest, the lyingest, the sorriest group class of people who now inhibits planet earth.

It's like a medieval curse arising from the ashes of the Dark Ages! A civilized people haven't yet recovered from the shock because we though it would never come to this!

The USA is no longer a civilized nation.
0 # ericlane 2010-07-25 12:36
Katherine, is the definition of biased reporting anything you don't agree with? Please give an example of biased reporting in this article.
+2 # Guest 2010-07-25 12:53
"Cross into Mexico illegally and you get a jail term"? The difference is, U.S. citizens don't NEED a visa to go to Mexico! It may surprise you to know that Mexicans view their northern border with as much alarm as we do. For them it's the place of arms smugglers and drug demand.

The writer has a point about Mexico encouraging its citizens to come, but U.S. policy has also driven migration, specifically NAFTA which put tens of thousands of Mexican farmers out of work.
+2 # Guest 2010-07-25 14:58
We'll know for certain just how racist this Arizona issue is when everyone who isn't White (or appears to be White) is suddenly detained in Arizona. The USDOJ was absolutely right to file suit against Arizona.
+2 # Guest 2010-07-27 10:43
When they run out of people or if people resist, one can bet their sweet booties they are going to start asking white people for "proof of citizenship" if only to justify the unlawful acts that are bound to exist on minorities.

Brewer has opened a can of worms, pandoras box, something that will most likely make her leave Arizona and hide.
+1 # Guest 2010-07-27 19:38
We demean Mexicans for coming north looking for jobs, but a recent study pointed out that the U.S. heavily subsidizes agricultural corporations so that American corn is cheaper than what Mexican farmers must get for their crops. Hence, their market is undercut - so many head for the U.S. for jobs. Cut government subsidies for U.S. crops, and Mexican farmers would be able to grow and sell their corn in Mexico, at a profit, and would no longer head for U.S. jobs. I can't give the source, but this aspect should be considered before denouncing Mexican farmers who head for the U.S.
+2 # Guest 2010-07-28 17:21
NAFTA-it destroyed both Mexican and american and increased immigration is one facet. Also union busting-since big corporations like poultry processors can bust high paid union members and then hire immigrants who will make up a less demanding work-force because they may be in the country illegally.

We are all Third Worlders now-the only question is will we understand what we all share or will we be divided against our interests and thus conquered!

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