Arizona is under attack. That may sound extreme or exaggerated, but for those of us in Arizona who believe in equity and justice for all Arizonans, there is no doubt we are under siege. In opposition to these assaults, tens of thousands of documented and undocumented folks alike have protested, boycotted, petitioned, marched, and walked out around the state and the nation.
Children of color and communities of color are the targets of the assaults. A recent incident in my own community, Prescott, Ariz., provides a glimpse into the current climate in our state. The controversy began when the most racially and ethnically diverse school in our district was awarded a grant for the completion of a mural depicting children bicycling to school and enjoying the outdoors. Through a schoolwide voting process, the student body elected a group of students to be painted on the mural and the students themselves helped with the design and completion of the art piece. Miguel, one of the students elected to be on the mural, became the most prominent figure.
As the artists were completing the mural, they were shocked by a barrage of motorists yelling racial epithets out their windows about the students on the mural. The controversy exploded when local city council member Steve Blair used his radio show to espouse his disapproval of having a non-white child as the central figure of the mural because he felt a black child (in fact, Miguel is Latino) does not represent the Prescott he grew up in. “Diversity is a word I can’t stand,” he announced. “The focus doesn’t have to be on the minority all the time.” After his radio show, a series of articles appeared in the local newspaper reporting on the mural and Blair’s statements. Online responses to the articles included a slew of offensive rants, including references to the mural as “ghetto” and “something you would see in LA.”