Feathered Bastard

Sheriff Joe's racist clown cars? You be the judge...

Whaddya think, is this clown car a cultural stereotype?

So, I've received a couple of calls about this Billy Moore Heritage Days parade that was held in Avondale a few weeks back on October 27. It's sort-of a founders day thing, and it seems Sheriff Joe has an entry in it every year. The report I was getting from folks, including the principal of a local school, was that Joe's parade entry included himself in a convertible surrounded by his security detail -- no doubt members of Joe's dreaded Selective Enforcement Unit, and some clown cars riding behind them. (They couldn't have been real clown cars because Joe wasn't in one. Get it?)

According to the principal, who's of Hispanic descent and did not want her name used, at least one of the toy cars was done up like a sheriff's vehicle, with someone in MCSO brown driving it. The other was a tiny, white Ford truck driven by a guy in a brown cowboy hat, with a bushy black mustache, shouting "Arriba! Arriba!" a la Speedy Gonzales. This, as he was being chased by a miniature cop car.

Check it, Diego, it's officer friendly come to arrest your mom.

"I guess he was trying to stereotype the Mexican immigrant," the principal told me. "The person inside of the truck was dressed with a hat and a mustache, yelling out silly things like, `I’m bad, I’m bad.'

"The people I was with didn’t realize it at first until I pointed that out to them," she continued. "It seemed like he was trying to make fun of Hispanics. There were also some little police cars that were chasing that truck."

Hey, let's all watch while Manuel kicks this old gabacho's ass. (This image supposedly from '06.)

Now, this seems like a rather provocative entry, given Sheriff Joe's current war on illegal immigrants, and the fact that Avondale is around 50% Hispanic. Indeed, many of the folks there to watch the parade were Hispanic, from all accounts.

So I rang up Pier Simeri, the City of Avondale's Public Affairs Director, and she and others in her department dug up a few photos of Joe's part in the wing-ding. As you can see, the dood in the truck might be a cultural stereotype, or maybe he's the leather guy from Village People. I reckon it depends on your point of view.

"Do you mean the American kiddie-clown in the floppy cowboy hat with a Yosemite Sam mustache?" asked MCSO flack Paul Chagolla when queried about it. He referred me to Avondale's parade organizers for more info.

So I rang Amy Bolton, Avondale's Public Information Officer.

"I really don’t think the Sheriff was trying to make a political statement," offered Bolton. "But I can’t speak on behalf of the Sheriff or his department. My feelings and my interpretation obviously are based on my experiences. I’ve not been hunted down by the sheriff for any reason."

Bolton mentioned that the same clown cars had appeared with the Sheriff in last year's parade, and no one complained then. She also mentioned that Billy Moore, Avondale's founder, was himself an outlaw, so perhaps the guy in the truck was meant to personify a criminal in general.

Maybe, but why would he by driving a truck and shouting, "Arriba!"? By Arpaio's logic, all illegal aliens are criminals. And as Nickel Bag Joe suspects all Hispanics of being illegal till proven otherwise, he doubtless sees every Hispanic as a possible collar for his deputies.

Avondale sent me a photo from the '06 parade, and it looks like the very same guy in the Magnum P.I. 'stache. What's changed between '06 and '07? Joe's punitive, racist 'round-'em-all-up-and-let-God-sort-'em-out approach to the undocumented. Even if the intent of these clown cars was not a bigoted one, Arpaio's cynical, prejudiced showboating on immigration now taints everything his department does. No wonder a Hispanic person would view such a display with a jaundiced eye.

Sheriff Joe: One more reason to be ashamed to be white.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons