Art By Lyfr

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Day in the Lyfe Graffiti Magazine’s Online Blog Updated daily with graffiti, street art and original photography from around the world.

Tag: arizona

Repeal SB1070

“What we need is awareness; we can’t get careless

You say, what is this?

My beloved let’s get down to business

mental self defensive fitness…

make everybody see, in order to fight the powers that be…”

– Chuck D (of Public Enemy) from the song, Fight The Power

In the State of Arizona, there is a proposed bill called, SB 1070 which if passed, on July 28th 2010, would give law enforcement the right to stop, ID, arrested, and possibly deport any person(s) whom they believe to be a so-called “illegal alien”. This green-light to stop or interrogate a person is based on [the officer’s] suspicion that an individual is “illegal”. This means if they feel you look “illegal” you can stopped. Furthermore, if you have a brown or darker complexion, you are “illegal” in the eyes of this law. Even people of darker complexion who are “legal citizens” born and raised in Arizona can be stopped by the police and if they do not present proper documentation -upon request- proving their “legal status” that individual can be arrested and fined. Indicting people based on their colour reminds me of something from the Jim Crow-era of “American justice”.

The Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer claims that racial profiling will not be tolerated in her State yet she personally signed the bill which is overtly racist and discriminatory??  During a televised press conference when asked to explain what an “illegal alien” looks like Governor Brewer said, “I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell that I think there are people in Arizona who assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I don’t know if they know that for a fact or not.” That should be raising alarms, people. When the politician who endorses bill SB 1070 cannot explain its language, you know that something wrong is in effect. We are not dealing with logical individuals.

We live in a time where few people in the position to speak out on such matters are handling their responsibilities. Where are the leaders? It is now socially acceptable to “go with the flow” and not make waves. We’re told to be politically correct, yet our lawmakers are not following that ideology.

Next to music, graffiti is one of the oldest and most accessible forms of artistic expression on the planet. Yet this form of expression has been criminalized and vilified due to its inability to be part of the mainstream. I know this may seem silly, but for the sake of further explaining this message, I will draw loose comparisons between the culture of graffiti and the citizens affected by bill SB 1070.

Both entities are considered “bad” by the mainstream (we are called “vandals” while migrants are dubbed “illegal”). We are both judged passed on appearance and treated as if we are unwanted. The only time [mainstream] society accepts us is when they need something done for their benefit. We are used to both buy and sell their products … to market their goods … to elect their politicians … and even, at times, to make them [the mainstream] appear more tolerant and caring, when in reality we know that is a lie. Only when it helps the mainstream are we looked at as “valuable”. It doesn’t take a genius to see what is up.

I sense that too many within graffiti have allowed society to make them feel unwanted, unimportant, and undervalued.  It has happened to such a degree that many “big name” artists declined to be part of this project due to the fact that “graffiti is not well respected” and any participation from our culture could, “do more damage than good.”

Why is it so hard for graffiti artists/sites/companies/brand/etc. to step up and speak out against this bill? How can so many “rebels” who claim to “keep it real” be so passive when it’s time to defend the rights of others? How can one culture be “bad-ass” enough to tag up cities and then so willingly be so silent when something this SERIOUS is taking place? We cannot pick and choose our fights; that’s a luxury no person should ever enjoy. We –within the culture- must not pick and choose the way we fight.

We have to get involved, but we must do it correctly. Anybody can write, “F*CK SB 1070” on a building but that has no lasting affect; it’s meaningless. We need to use our talents to express a message that is both thought-provoking and TRUTHFUL; this is where the artistry is found. Social change does not benefit from anarchy. We need to organize and form coalitions, support networks, and more outreach programs.

In life, silence is too convenient. Let’s make some noise and show the State of Arizona- through our words and our PRODUCTIVE actions- that this bill is not acceptable and that no person should ever be called “illegal”. We have the numbers, the creativity, and I believe the ability to make the mainstream recognize what is happening. A culture cannot represent the people; however, the people can represent a culture. Our culture is graffiti, and no matter how much some dislike that word, it is built on making something out of nothing … taking a negative and producing a beautiful positive.

I feel it is our responsibility to represent those who are being misrepresented. This situation is bigger than talking about our individual crews, more crucial than who is a “king” or “toy”, and far more important than our geographic locations. This is about a perverse governing body trying to make a particular segment of people “illegal” based on their colour, race, and appearance. Indicting people because of their appearance is a terrifying act and for graffiti to not empathize is equally terrifying.

History is full of examples proving that terrible things happen when people say nothing. Examples: Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa, and modern-day Palestine. Is it hyperbole for me to write this? Is it more acceptable to do nothing?? Am I wrong for approaching this matter in the way that I am? Am I doing more harm than good? Time reveals all things so to quote a great man I will say that, “history will absolve me.” But will it absolve graffiti if we all remain silent? Most importantly will the people affected by this bill be absolved if we do nothing? If we stay in our imaginary “comfort zones”, saying nothing, than those affected by this racist bill will not be absolved nor will they get justice.

In closing, no person should ever be called “illegal”. No law which wrongfully attempts to obstruct an individual’s right to pursue a better life should ever be labelled “acceptable”. And lastly, no group/culture/community, with the scope of influence which graffiti possesses, should passively sit by and do be quiet in the face of such an injustice.

Now you know what’s up. It’s time to wake up, people. Everybody has the ability to do something.  We need to raise awareness, help spread the word, and organize. No matter where we live on this planet and no matter what nationality we claim, this brand of injustice affects all of us, one way or another. We have to get involved!!

– Matthew J