Yesterday on Twitter, I received a link to Theroot.com. There, an article titled "Taking a Costly Stand on Arizona" described the decision by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., America's oldest African American college fraternity, to move their national convention from Phoenix, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada in response to the recent passage of Arizona's SB1070, A.K.A. the "Paper's Please" bill.
Alpha Phi Alpha General President Herman "Skip" Mason and its board of directors made the decision to boycott Arizona in order to join the protests against the bill. This decision was not made lightly.
The decision to boycott Arizona is not without a cost for Alpha Phi Alpha. Breaking contracts with Phoenix area hotels, catering, and meeting rooms means the fraternity is now in litigation with contractors. And while Mason can't give an exact amount on how much the boycott will cost the fraternity, he estimates that Alpha is looking at over $300,000 in penalties. That doesn't include over 3,000 Alphas who will have to change their flight and hotel reservations as soon as possible.
The fraternity, which proudly claims members including former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall has had to boycott Arizona before when the state refused to recognize the national holiday in honor of another one of their members, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The outrage over Arizona's SB1070 has galvanized much more support across the country than supporters of the bill care the realize. Others have tried to use divide and conquer tactics by framing immigration reform as a "Black vs. Latino" issue. But as evident by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity's decision to sacrifice potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to boycott Arizona, the marches being led by leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton, comments by prominent athletes including Charles Barkeley, and the recent decision by the Phoenix Suns to show their support with their choice of jersey demonstrates that support for those opposing the bill runs deep, and it runs across the racial spectrum.
As I was writing this entry, I received via email a press release from my own Fraternity, La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity Incorporated - one of the largest Latino college Fraternities in the country, urging congress to take on comprehensive immigration reform, and supporting an economic boycott of the state of Arizona.
That some the nation's largest Black and Latino college fraternities demonstrate their support for immigration reform just days apart is not a coincidence. What we are seeing here are individuals and groups of all races and ethnicities, from all across the country, understanding that SB1070 is legalized racial profiling and a misguided attempt to solve real issues.Together, they are punishing the government of Arizona in ways usually reserved for the most rouge of countries and the most authoritarian of regimes.
The protests, marches, and boycotts will continue to gain steam as more groups and individuals realize the scope of what is happening. It is only a matter of time before organizations like Major League Baseball, will have to make decisions about their relationships with Arizona, as players and fans pressure the league to boycott the All-Star game. Arizona' s politicians in their continued attempt to win points from the far right, are placing their state on the wrong side of history, and the cost of this short sighted-ness will effect the state in the long term.
Congress and President Obama need also take notice. Up until now, both branches of government have been reluctant to bring comprehensive immigration reform to the floors, thinking this to be an special interest issue. But what they are finding is that the majority of Americans of all types want reform, and they want it now. This is not and never has been "just a Latino" issue. As the chorus grows louder, it would be smart for our leadership to listen closely.