Earlier this week Montreal’s Stars responded to the passing of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law by declaring via Twitter that they wouldn’t tour in the state until it was repealed. We haven’t heard of other bands joining Stars yet (though Shakira traveled to Phoenix to speak with the mayor and the police chief), but Fucked Up’s Pink Eyes did engage Stars (via his own Twitter account) to debate a band boycott’s effectiveness. We invited him to expand his views below.
I’m sure most of you know by now that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer recently signed SB 1070 into law. This law is purported to be a way of addressing what is a perceived to be a lacking in enforcement of immigration laws but it is felt by many — myself included — to be a massively flawed piece of legislation that is, at its core, out and out racism. In a very small nutshell: It requires all “immigrants” to carry their proof of citizenship with them at all times and police officers are required to demand that anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant to produce said proof, among other things (Example: Punishing anyone that helps out an “illegal.” A more complete picture can be found here.)
This thing you are reading, however, is not specifically about the law in question. I have made a major assumption when writing this: That you, the reader, already know about what is going on and think this is a travesty, that you do not buy the insane correlations being made between illegal immigration and drug violence, you think that this is one of the darkest moments in recent history, etc. If I have, however, assumed wrong then please stop reading now — and I am sorry you feel that way. I think that the problems with a law like this should be clear to everyone and thankfully I’m not alone in thinking this, as many people have stood up in solidarity with Arizonans that are opposed to this bill. Many are suggesting different strategies of addressing what is going on. One suggested strategy is boycotting Arizona. Some bands have also gotten on board and stated that they will not play the state until the law is repealed.
Before I go any further, I want to say that this is in no way meant as an attack on the bands that have chosen to boycott Arizona as a reaction to this bill. I think they have their reasons for choosing this tactic to try a force the repealing of this law. That said, I think this strategy is severely flawed. First, I think it makes assumptions about the people that like your band. It presupposes not only that the people like your band are incapable of coming to the reasonable idea about this bill, but that they are in favor of this bill. The fact is, this was a ugly divisive issue across the state and that there are a huge number of people in Arizona that were bitterly opposed to the legislation and are now disgusted that it has been made law.
I think instead of boycotting Arizona, bands should make a point of going there now more then ever. They should use whatever profile they have to address the issues around this law by talking about it in the local press. Bands should also engage the people at the show to get involved. This doesn’t necessarily require lecturing the people at the shows (They are, after all, living in the eye of the storm and are no doubt inundated with it all the time. The last thing they need is an outsider coming in and telling them about it). There are organizations throughout Arizona that have been working for years on the behalf of immigrants both “legal” and “illegal.” I’m sure any number of these organization would love the chance to set up a table, hand out literature and encouraging and empowering people to get involved. I think that by supporting and encouraging these people, the opportunity for producing change is far greater than with any sort of music embargo.
Boycotts certainly have a place in activism, but I feel they are only effective in certain situations. I just don’t think that this is one of those situations. There is such a huge number of people that are opposed to this law within Arizona that by trying to force a change through a boycott, the side effect is punishing these people. These people need support now more then ever. They probably feel marginalized enough as is. One of the worst possible outcomes of a boycott is inadvertently disenfranchising the people that you are siding with. I am not saying that this will happen, but at the same time I think it is important to show these people that they are in no way alone. Once again, I want to reiterate, in no way am I attacking those that have chosen to boycott. I think it is more important that groups of people have been moved to action by what they have see as an injustice. Hopefully one of these strategies will prove effective and this law will be overturned.