Racist Profiling in Arizona

I wrote a version of this a few weeks ago while driving back to Los Angeles from Arizona. I pulled off the highway to write it. The whole drive until that point, from the Grand Canyon to Williams to Kingman to Ludlow, I couldn’t stop wrestling with how I felt when I was in Arizona and why. It was the first time I spent real time in the state – meaning “not holed up at a business conference” – since I was a kid, since I realized how some people look at me and people who look like me, since I learned what that 7th grader meant when he called 6th-grade me a “spic.”

I wrote it on the side of the highway, then I put it away. It felt too angry, too unfair, too personal. Then tonight happened, and I feel too angry because this feels too unfair, too personal. To me and people who look like me and other people who don’t look like him. So here’s my anger. Here’s how unfair it feels. How personal.

To the white in the “The 2nd Amendment is my Homeland Security” shirt.

To the white who smiled at my white girlfriend but didn’t look at brown me.

To the white in the bright orange vest and bushy mustache.

To the white in the UNC hat with the sunburnt neck.

To the whites wearing biker cuts into the Kingman Cracker Barrel.

I don’t know you. Who you are, what you believe, how you see me. I could hardly see you. I saw around you.

This is Jan Brewer country. Joe Arpaio country. Land of the Minutemen.

I couldn’t see if yours was a racist’s face because I couldn’t see past this place.

I couldn’t see what you saw in my face. If you saw my face. If you saw what I saw in you, even if it wasn’t in you.

And then I looked away. I didn’t want to see it, even if it was in you. I didn’t want to give it life.

And then I crossed the border into California.

And then, two minutes across the border, I saw a Trump billboard.

And then, three-and-a-half hours outside of LA, surrounded by a desert that turned brown or always was, I saw a big rig in my rear window, its grill coated in the confederate flag.

And next?

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Election night

I can’t sleep, so I’m just gonna write until I can.

Give me a keyboard I want to write

Not a pen or pencil

I want the words to rush too fast for that

Blaze like the pain, burn onto the page

Words to hurt

I hurt

This hurts

 

The TV hurts to look at, to see what this means

Half the country wants him

Half the country believes in him, in what he believes

At least half of those that voted

 

The remainder, the ones who sat it out

This is what you stuck us with

This is what you said with your silence

Fine

Fine that he disrespects anyone who’s other

Fine that he disrespects the truth

Fine

This is the line you let us cross

 

The others, the ones with their third parties and write-ins

This is on you too

Did you believe your candidate could have won?

You wouldn’t vote for her, but did you think your votes for them would beat him?

Did you want them to?

This is what your vote won

This is what we lost

 

And this is how he won

This anger

This fear

This crush

This blame

This pain

This hate

 

And this is how we let him

That ignorant innocence that thought this isn’t us, not anymore

That thought this couldn’t happen, not here

That thought this couldn’t win, not him

This is us

This did happen

He did win

And now we feel like them

And we can’t

What say me

I have things to say. I want this place to be where I figure out what they are.

There’s this old documentary about Jack Kerouac. In it John Clellon Holmes talks about how jazz musicians would size up a young player by asking one question:

“Does he have something to say?”

I saw this documentary back in high school, and that line has never left me. It’s become my north star. Whether I’m writing an article, making a video or scribbling some little nothing: Do I have something to say?

Yes. But I’m not sure what.

I have plenty of somethings to say about what tech companies are up to. I get paid to say something about those things, though more accurately I get paid to say what those things are and repeat what other people say about them. Lately I’ve been sneaking in more of my own thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts are ironed-out opinions. Sometimes they’re questions or a juxtaposition of facts. Mainly they’re from me.

But I have more to say. Or at least I used to and want to again. So that’s what this space is for: For me to say things and put them somewhere.

Sometimes those things will be job-related. Sometimes they won’t be. Sometimes they’ll be worked-out. Sometimes they’ll be me working something out. Sometimes words, sometimes video, sometimes an image, sometimes a mix. Each time, hopefully, they’ll have something to say. If not in the beginning, then by the end.