Yesterday, the Honorable Cruz Reynoso spoke on campus in honor of the Ethnic Studies Department's 40th anniversary. Mr Reynoso has been a leader in civil rights law and has seen a lot of history during his lifespan. His comments were especially important in light of the latest immigration law in Arizona.
Mr. Reynoso spoke in part about the importance of acting against injustice. He said, "when you act on an issue, you can make changes." He spoke about what he refers to as his "justice bone," that part of him that feels the pain of injustice and spurs him to speak up and speak out. He spoke of his life experiences with civil rights, and how he's observed that denial of rights is often caused by fear - fear of "other," fears based on sterotype or pre-judging people, fear of what might happen.
Which is what made me think of Arizona. Here is a place where fear has nudged rational thought out of the spotlight. Immigration is a complex issue, indeed, and I don't pretend to have all the answers. However, I believe the new legislation is creating an environment where people make decisions based on fear - fear of "those people" - fear of what will happen to you if you're brown (whether you are legal or not) - fear of reporting crimes against us, if we are illegal, because we will then be deported - fear of getting help. It is a step in the wrong direction. And we need to speak up and speak out about it, because change is up to us.
My favorite editorialist, Mr. Leonard Pitts, Jr., also has a few things to say about how change happens. People too often feel that "time heals all wounds" and that time will fix social problems. But Mr. Pitts, like Mr. Reynoso, knows that it is people who bring change, people who make choices that lead to social justice.
Justice does not come with tomorrow. It's up to us to bring it forth, with our choices, our words, our lives.