Alan Gómez, a former professor at Ithaca College who now serves as an assistant professor of social justice at Arizona University, spoke at 7 p.m. last night in Klingenstein Lounge. The event was a part of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity’s annual discussion series.
In his presentation, titled “U.S.ian Cultures of Human Sacrifice or: Every Day is the 4th of July in Arizona,” Gómez emphasized the importance of looking at past events in order to move forward in a productive way, and discussed the concept of a “border” acting as an apparatus that serves to organize society.
The title of Gómez’s presentation referred to an incident on July 4, 2008, in Maricopa County of Arizona. A Latino family was celebrating at a lake when a young white man approached the father of the family and said he didn’t like the way that some of his relatives were looking at “[the white man’s] women.” Shortly after, officers from the Maricopa County sheriff’s office arrived at the scene, asking for documentation proving that they were legal residents.
“The folks who called the police went over to see what was going on, and there began the taunts and the language,” Gómez said. “‘Go back to where you’re from, this is America, this is the Fourth of July, you’re an illegal, you’re not supposed to be here.’”
According to Gómez, this is a fairly common scene in Maricopa County. He said the “three villains” of the county were Sheriff Joe Arpaio, county attorney Andrew Thomas and Sen. Russell Pearce, whom Gomez said have policies that essentially “dovetail with the ideological beliefs of white nationalists.”
Gómez said Sen. Pearce is pushing policies that have been deemed “Arizona Apartheid,” where people in Arizona without proper documentation are considered trespassers and citizens are encouraged to turn in illegal immigrants.
“White supremacy doesn’t have a look anymore,” Gomez said, “but there are certain belief systems, certain characteristics of how they talk about immigrants.”
Freshman Daisy Arriaga said the discussion gave her a new view on race.
“I’ve heard these [concepts] before but not as in-depth,” Arriaga said.
Freshman Shyanne Ruiz said she came to see Gómez because she thought the concepts he might address would overlap with things discussed in her Latina Studies and Watching Race in American Media and Music courses.
“It did touch on a lot of things we’ve talked about in my classes, so it helped me relate a lot of things,” she said. “Being a Latina, a part of the ALANA community, a lot of that stuff affects me.”
Gómez stressed the importance of examining history — like the effects of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, which encouraged people to turn in runaway slaves — and listening to the “hauntings” of people who experienced genocide and violence.
“There are issues to deal with, and the only way I think we can come to deal with those issues is if we look back at history and we are honest about what’s happened,” Gomez said. “That might be painful and it might implicate a lot of people … [but] in the end it’s not about blaming someone else, it’s [about] seeing who we are when we engage these ideas.”