Smart v. Stupid
The ignoble death of Arizona racist J.T. Ready
Neo-Nazi embodied the vile white-supremacist underbelly of Arizona’s anti-migrant movement
Last week I offered Russell Pearce’s anti-Mexican jihad as an example of the kind of overt racism that is no longer tolerated in politics. Now just a few days later we learn that J.T. Ready, Arizona’s leading white supremacist, appears to have committed a murder-suicide. Along with killing himself, he allegedly murdered his girlfriend, her 2-year-old daughter, her adult daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend.
Ready was a protégé of Russell Pearce. Though Pearce has consistently claimed to have disavowed him in recent years, Ready called Pearce his “substitute father.” Last year, Pearce was recalled by his conservative Republican district for his stewardship of legislation that many have called racist (including SB1070, Arizona’s “papers-please” law.) Ready was prominent at pro-Pearce rallies leading up to the recall election.
Southern Poverty Law Center named J.T. Ready as one of the national leaders of America’s Neo-Nazi movement. He’s the founder of the U.S. Border Guard, an armed vigilante group that doesn’t actually patrol the border, but does sneak around (wearing camo and ghillie suits) in the Pinal County desert, some 140 miles to the north. He had recently threatened to run for sheriff of Pinal.
Ready was also the subject of speculation that he was involved in last month’s ambush killing of two illegal migrants. They were murdered in the Pinal County area where he was known to “patrol.”
J.T. Ready embodied the vile white-supremacist underbelly of Arizona’s anti-migrant movement, consistently promoting the notion of white supremacy and neo-Nazi beliefs while pretending to stand for law and order. He was anti-Jew, anti-Latino, and pro-white – and he spoke adoringly about Adolf Hitler on at least one occasion.
He and his ilk are part of the same continuum of racial opportunists as some of Arizona’s top lawmakers, including Pearce, Governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. All of them operate from the same playbook of imaginary threats:
“Sheriff Arpaio continues to crackdown on immigration and will not be deterred by activist groups and politicians for [sic] enforcing all immigration laws.”
— Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office press release
“This is the minuteman project on steroids. We’ve got people with assault weapons. We will use lawful, deadly force when appropriate.”
— J.T. Ready, reported by KOLD News 13 via Southern Poverty Law Center
"The simple truth is that the majority of human smuggling in our state is under the direction of the drug cartels, which are by definition smuggling drugs"
— Arizona Governor Jan Brewer
“This is a white, European homeland. That’s how it should be preserved if we want to keep it clean, safe, and pure.”
— J.T. Ready at a National Socialist Movement rally via Southern Poverty Law Center
Except for Ready, perhaps no one has been more of an opportunist on illegal migration than Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio. I believe SB 1070 was originally concocted not to reduce illegal intrusions but to give Arpaio legal cover from a mountain of civil rights lawsuits. At the time, Arpaio was threatening to challenge Jan Brewer for the nomination for Governor. When the law was passed, he changed his plans.
In 2010, the same year that Ready was promoting his vision of the white homeland, Arpaio was busy deputizing an “Illegal Immigration Posse,” ostensibly to round up illegal migrant workers, but maybe just to get some more publicity:
“Hollywood actors and real life law enforcement professionals Steven Seagal, Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk) and Peter Lupus (Mission Impossible) all signed on to work this detail. A retired Chicago police official aptly named Dick Tracy who now lives in Arizona has also joined this posse. And Wyatt Earp, a local resident whose uncle was the famous lawman, is joining the posse as well.”
— Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office press release
Despite attempt these officials will make to distance themselves from J.T. Ready they still occupy the same side of the same street. Pearce, Brewer and Arpaio campaign by demonizing Mexicans. They invented an imaginary pestilence 180 miles to the south (the actual border) and invented phony crime statistics about it. Like J.T. Ready, they aggrandize themselves in white Arizona through the lies they tell about brown Arizona.
The takeaway, of course, is that there is not a lot of sunlight between the recognizable racism practiced by a J.T. Ready and the obscured racism of ethnicity-based lawmaking. Brewer, Arpaio and Pearce all dealt cards from the same deck as Ready. They just hid behind the Arizona flag while doing it.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”