When a Street in Jamaica, Queens was Present-Day Arizona

I’ve been thinking a lot about the proposed Arizona bill SB1070. And I’ve been also thinking a lot about my brother.

My brother looks more, “stereotypically Mexican” than I do. Especially in the summer. You can decide for yourself what I mean by that.

In New York I once lived in Jamaica, Queens, in a room on the third floor of a friend’s house.

The time came to move. My brother came to help me. This was way back in the early 90’s.

It was a hot day, in the middle of the summer. My brother was wearing a white tank top, the one with the foul nickname of, “wife beater.”

He took my stereo down from my 3rd floor room, and put it into his car. His car was parked in the driveway. My friend and her family were not home at the time of my move.

The street where I lived was predominantly white, working-class, and Catholic.

Someone on that block – I’ll never know who – looked out their window, watched my brother load up my stereo system into his car, and called the police.

I was vacuuming, and then took a break. I went down the three flights of stairs and outside, because I hadn’t seen my brother in a while. I was wondering what was up.

The police had my brother face down against their patrol car, with his hands behind his back. A cop was holding his wrists.

I explained to the cops that he was my brother, and that he was helping me to move.

I saw many neighbors peeking out from their front windows. Their white lace curtains pulled ever so slightly to the side.

The cops left. My brother and I continued with my move. The rage and fear that we felt was pushed down way inside of us as we went up and down the three flights of stairs.

Today I’m thinking about my brother, and what would and can happen if he lived in Arizona.

That rage and fear that I pushed back down so many years ago is flaring up, kids. Flaring up full force.


2 thoughts on “When a Street in Jamaica, Queens was Present-Day Arizona

  1. Yuck.

    I always wish that ideas like my “everyone leave your IDs at home!” would work, but I know that the burdens of such civil disobedience wouldn’t be borne by white girls like yours truly. No one would stop me and ask for my immigration documents, and that makes me feel at once complicit and impotent.

    Although, frankly, no one would stop an undocumented European, either… there are a heck of a lot of undocumented Irish in Boston, and you can bet they don’t get detained and deported at nearly the same rate as the Latinos and Brazilians… especially — I will venture — the darker ones.

    Have you read “They Take Our Jobs?” It does a great job not only deconstructing immigration myths but also calling American immigration policies by their true name: racism, plain and simple.


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