Is the Arizona law racist? Not only no, but obviously no. For the simple logical reason that a law cannot be racist, only people can.
For example, suppose our betters in Congress passed a law stating that self-identified whites shall be granted twenty bonus points on each SAT test. So-called race-norming laws, rules, or mandates like this are quite common.
By which is meant, awarding advantages to individuals because their self-reported race matches certain categories are often institutionalized as lawful. Interestingly, it is still, at least here in the States, “self-identified” and not externally measured race.
But it is the people who created the law, and those that follow or implement it, who are racist, if by racist we mean people with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others, or a person who discriminates based on race (dictionary definitions).
Those who created the bonus-point law must either have believed that non-whites are, for whatever reason, superior to whites in SAT test scores, or they just felt like discriminating against non-whites for reasons of race, or they shared both attitudes.
Two things are of especial note here. First, you cannot have a positive without a negative, for just the same reason you cannot have a one-sided coin. Our race-norming law positively discriminates for whites, and simultaneously negatively discriminates against non-whites. Thus, whether the law is “good” discrimination or “bad” depends on your perspective.
Second, the people who created this law are racist while the people who create another law which awards points to specific whites who suffer identifiable (or provable) specific acts directed against them are not. That’s confusing, so here’s an example.
A white person, while taking the SAT, is told arbitrarily to leave the examination room early by the proctor. Our second law states that if the proctor’s actions can be proved to be arbitrary, whether or not the proctor made his decision based on the race of the test taker, the test taker should be awarded, say, a re-test.
Suppose the proctor indeed kicked out the white person because he was white. Then the law allows for a re-test. But the law is not awarding a re-test because the test taker was white. It is allowing him this re-test because he specifically was wronged. Thus, those that created this law are not acting as racists.
The Arizona immigration law, SB1070, states that if a person is detained by the police for some normal reason (traffic stop, beheading, breaking and entering, etc.), that the police also determine whether there is “reasonable suspicion” that the detainee is in the States illegally.
The law cannot be racist, but were the authors of this law acting as racists when they created it? Suppose the “worst case” scenario, which is that all illegal aliens in this country are native (and not white) Mexican. That is, each person who broke the law to come here is non-white.
Empirically we know that some of these law-breakers will commit other crimes that warrant their detention by the police, just as there will be citizens who also commit crimes and must be detained. The illegals whose status’ are checked will, of course, be discovered and dealt with, presumably by deportation. Citizens will go to jail.
Each deported person, by our assumption, will be a non-white. But the extreme ratio of non-white deportees cannot be the result of a racist act, just because the ratio could be no other value, regardless of the intentions of the law’s creators. So it cannot be legal deportations which are causing concern.
Some worry that police will indiscriminately target non-whites for immigration checks, even though the law specifically forbids such actions. Thus, critics, such as the Big O, must argue that the law’s creators are racist because these critics feel that Arizona lawmakers know that some police will eventually violate their mandate and indiscriminately check non-whites. Or critics must argue that the lawmakers are not racist, but that police certainly will be. Or they can argue both.
This must be the case, because the law has not gone into effect yet (it does in two days). There is thus no evidence of racist acts except fear that some police might act in a racist fashion.
And so they might, but again they might not. And so they might (or not) in the absence of the law. But since there is no direct evidence—there are only counterfactuals taken as factuals—that racist acts by police will be many in number, it seems a good policy to implement the law and watch what happens.
Incidentally, and although it is irrelevant to the logical points made here, my feeling is that we ought to allow as many Mexicans to become US citizens as possible.