As a symbol of my own little private protest against AZ SB1070, I've been wearing a big yellow star on my clothes since Sunday in hopes of reminding people of the terrible things that can happen as a result of racism and racial profiling. The message on the star is simple: "Profile This!" The choice of putting the message on a yellow star was deliberate. I wanted people who I met in everyday life to link the “show us your papers” mentality and the racial profiling allowed under the new Arizona state law with the most insidious example of racial profiling that once occurred under the Third Reich. I wanted them to make the connection and think about how these seemingly little things can lead to something awful.
Historical image courtesy of http://aworldofprogress.com/the-yellow-star-of-arizona/
Sunday morning, as I walked out the door wearing the yellow star in public for the first time, I had an overpowering feeling of sadness. A strong sense of dread came from the awareness that I was making myself a target and I had to remind myself that I had chosen to wear the star, whereas Jews in Nazi Germany had been forced to wear it. I felt empathetic and a little afraid so I put on the mental armor. I walked tall, purposefully, with a serious look on my face. I wore my protest star with self-righteous anger and an expression that said “Don't fuck with me.” The result was that no one came near me. I wore the star all day without incident.
The next day, I thought about what had happened and I decided that if I wanted the star to have any effect on people, they would have to get close enough to read it. I pinned my star on my tee shirt and tried on a friendly face as I headed out the door to walk my dog. Two neighbors stopped me. They didn't ask about the star right off, but glanced at it, trying to read its message discreetly as they talked about other things. One woman finally asked “what's that about?”
"I'm protesting racial profiling…" I replied, trying to open up a discussion without going on the offensive. She smiled, nodded her head up and down and said "yes" as if to say she understood or perhaps even agreed, but I couldn't qualify the nod because she immediately changed the subject. At the end of the second day, I was starting to feel ignored.
On the third day I was in full friendly mode. I went out of my way to say hello to neighbors, salespeople and strangers. I made sure I got close enough so that they could read my star and still no one would comment. At the market, a Hispanic man in the produce department wheeled over a cart of potatoes next to where I was standing and deliberately bent over to read my message. He looked at me and gave me a big grin but said nothing. That same day, a cashier at a Target store in Scottsdale smiled as she rang up my purchases, then politely and coolly handed me my things after reading the message on my star.
Last night, I was thinking that the whole star protest had been one big failed experiment and that the only one being affected by it was me. I had learned that to get people to even hear, or in this case, read what I have to say, I have to be non-threatening or they'd just ignore me, but I wondered if anyone had stopped to think about the message of the yellow star. I had no reason to think so.
I wore the star again this morning. I'm holding onto the hope that the people who read the star pinned on my chest are quietly, maybe even subconsciously digesting the message that racial profiling is wrong.