Ernie Banks, Carlos Santana, and Morgan FreemanCarlos Santana is much better known for guitar playing versus singing. But his tirade during baseball's annual Civil Rights Game Sunday in Atlanta proved the musician can be vocal, too, if the situation calls for it.
The 63-year-old native of Mexico, who became a U.S. citizen in 1965, used the opportunity of receiving the Beacon of Change Award to scold Arizona and Georgia for passing legislation aimed at undocumented immigrants and was subsequently booed. Some baseball fans thought the setting inappropriate for a political rant in support of immigrant rights, but I'd argue it made perfect sense.
Only a couple days earlier, the Governor of Georgia signed legislation that aimed at cracking down on undocumented immigrants -- particularly Latinos -- in the state. Modeled off a similarly controversial law in Arizona that opponents consider to be unconstitutional, it authorizes state and local police the federal powers to demand immigration papers from people they suspect to be undocumented.
Many people maintain that demanding papers from someone just because they're "suspected" to be undocumented -- say, because they look a certain way -- is a blatant violation of civil rights. (Just imagine if it happened to you.) Yet, the state in which the civil rights controversy is occurring was also the setting of the Civil Rights Game, which supposedly honors the history of civil rights in America. Still not awkward enough for you? Then consider that Santana -- an immigrant and a Latino -- was being honored for being a pioneer of civil rights. How could he have not spoken out against it?
In this context, his speech doesn't seem so rude after all:
The people of Arizona, and the people of Atlanta, Georgia, you should be ashamed of yourselves ... This law is not correct. It's a cruel law, actually, This is about fear. Stop shucking and jiving. People are afraid we're going to steal your job. No we aren't. You're not going to change sheets and clean toilets. I would invite all Latin people to do nothing for about two weeks so you can see who really, really is running the economy. Who cleans the sheets? Who cleans the toilets? Who babysits? I am here to give voice to the invisible.
Even if you're fiercely opposed to Santana's position on undocumented immigrants, you've got to respect a guy who actually talks about civil rights during a civil rights event. I'd have a lot less respect for him as an artist and cultural voice if he sat idly by and let such hypocrisy go unmentioned. Not to mention the fact it seems like speaking out and trying to change things is exactly what we'd expect from a "Beacon of Change" recipient even if perhaps his opinion differed from ours. Maybe his content was inappropriate in some circles, but the choice of setting for his rant -- that was dead-on.
Image via Kevin C. Cox/Getty