wordstrike: writers join boycott of arizona

Today, the Asian American Writers' Workshop announced Wordstrike, an initiative to unite writers to boycott the state of Arizona until it revokes SB 1070, which requires law enforcement officers to detain anyone they think is an illegal immigrant.

More than 100 writers have signed the Wordstrike letter, including Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz, Ha Jin, Jessica Hagedorn, Luis Rodriguez, Noam Chomsky, Maxine Hong Kingston, Adrienne Rich, Salman Rushdie, and Sandra Cisneros. Here's the letter:
We call on our fellow writers to join the growing movement to boycott the State of Arizona until it revokes anti-immigrant law SB 1070. Scheduled to take effect July 29, the statute requires law enforcement officers to detain anyone they think is an illegal immigrant. The law will lead to the profiling and detention of anyone who does not look like they belong—not just undocumented immigrants, but U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The law also criminalizes anyone who shelters or transports an undocumented immigrant and allows anyone to sue any Arizona county, city, or town, if they think the law is not being enforced zealously enough. What Arizona has legislated, in other words, is nothing less than a police state.

As writers, we are conscious of the power of the written word. The statutory language of SB 1070 wields the power of the state to decree that the narratives of certain people simply do not count. The law serves as one plank of a larger regulatory framework that not only defines who we are, but dictates whose voices are allowed to speak. Another Arizona law (HB 2281) prohibits schools at any grade level from offering courses that explore the literature and history of any particular race. The Arizona Department of Education has ordered the firing of any teacher who speaks English with a foreign accent. As writers, scholars and educators who are committed to deepening rather than censoring intellectual inquiry, we believe that no one's voice should be silenced.

We believe Arizona represents the epicenter in a major civil rights battle of our time. We oppose SB 1070, a law that has already been opposed even by the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police and several Republican leaders, and which has inspired a boycott movement by the country's leading civil rights organizations and union federations, as well as more than twenty-two cities and counties, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston. We oppose the national xenophobic fringe movement that last year alone helped pass more than 250 anti-immigrant laws and resolutions in forty-eight states. We call on the administration to vigorously pursue its lawsuit against Arizona and to use all its powers to block SB 1070. And we call upon all writers—no matter their citizenship, no matter their ethnicity—to join us in repudiating this virulent, repugnant law.

Andrew Hsiao, Ken Chen, Jennifer Hayashida
On Behalf of The Asian American Writers' Workshop

Tariq Ali, Russell Banks, Amiri Baraka, Breyten Breytenbach, Noam Chomsky, Sandra Cisneros, Ry Cooder, Thulani Davis, Junot Díaz, Martin Espada, Eduardo Galeano, Jessica Hagedorn, Tom Hayden, David Henry Hwang, Ha Jin, Maxine Hong Kingston, Naomi Klein, Yusef Komunyakaa, Jhumpa Lahiri, Chang-rae Lee, Ruben Martinez, Michael Ondaatje, Ed Park, Francine Prose, Ishmael Reed, Adrienne Rich, Luis Rodriguez, Salman Rushdie, Wallace Shawn, Andre Schiffrin, Anne Waldman, John Waters.
For more information about SB 1070, the Asian American Writers' Workshop and the writers' boycott of Arizona -- and to see the additional signatories and to sign the petition yourself, go to the Wordstrike website here.

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