I spent twenty- three years living in Arizona, primarily Scottsdale. Yes, the land of Senator McCain,  Sheriff Joe, photo-radar- on -the -freeway, and melanomas by the bushel. I moved to Arizona from Chicago when my sister relocated there. I didn’t know a thing about the state, then. When I first saw palm trees and idyllic sunsets, I was in absolute awe. This is the place that people who have some money come  to get away from the hustle of Chicago, New York, and other major cities. It is a rather transient place. It is difficult to find someone born and bred in Arizona unless you go to South Phoenix  (or at least as it was before bogus eminent domain planning stripped the people there of their land to give it to some developers-where some taken areas remain undeveloped to this day!) You can find many tribes with their reservations and casinos. You can also find second & third generation Mexican-Americans who own their own businesses and have given the state a strong work ethic.

I arrived at Christmas time, elated. By the summer, I felt as if someone had shoved my head into an oven, or that a giant blowdryer was focused on me. I had to visit the dermatologist quite often because of the effect that the radical heat and bright sunlight was having on my skin. It seems as if the heat was baking out impurities within my skin, erupting as acne. I never had acne before, even as a  teenager. I also had eczema which made my condition slightly complicated to treat. Too much chemical drying-eczema; too much moisture-acne. When one lives in the state of golf courses, tennis courts, and horses, there are alot of outdoor activities that can give fair-skinned people a problem. I know a man with a landscaping business, who has battled recurring melanomas for many years, always managing to catch a new case. There are necks out there that rival rough leather saddles, to be sure. My daughter-in-law is a redhead. She cannot go out into the sun without a sunscreen.  Sun bathing is absolutely out of the question. I also have an allergy to the sun!  So it was that I became one of Arizona’s finest vampires-LOL. I worked the night shift, slept during the day, and wore Raffia-fiber hats because I am allergic to sunscreen, as well as the sun. Everyone who lives in Arizona is told at some point that they need to always wear sunglasses so that the intense sunlight would not cause some vision problems due to burning out of retinas.

So in Scottsdale, I would see all of the Jaguars, Porsches, Mercedes, and BMW’s with beautifully-tanned women emerging from the driver’s seat with sun-streaked blonde hair and expensive sunglasses headed out to Scottsdale Fashion Square- Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus.  Scottsdale is  the city who pioneered the on-the-freeway-flash-in-your-eyes-photo radar program. Now, make no mistake. There are photo radar areas everywhere in Scottsdale; at most main intersections, as well as photo radar police cars hidden in the brush to take photos of speeding vechicles when the speed limit changes by five m.p.h.  This is obviously a big source of revenue for the city of Scottsdale to the dismay of unwitting  “snowbirds” flocking to the pleasant winter weather playground.

Sheriff Joe’s Tent City is all too real in Phoenix. It is a massive tent outside that remains outside in 115 degrees.  It is quite a punishment for those who break the law. It is not known how many people have suffered from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, having done a stint in this special place. When someone arrives at Tent City, they are donned in pink-cotton-candy-colored boxers, pink slippers, and pink handcuffs.  When I was called to jury duty, I saw that Arizona is no place that anyone black could receive a jury of his peers. Hey, I was the only black person in this vast pool. I, then, understood what it meant to have an approximately 2% black population. I believe that Mike Tyson and DMX were quite foolish to move to Arizona. The judicial system is stacked against blacks by demographics.

Sedona, the hideout of Senator John McCain is the New Age capital of the United States. There are proported vortexes there, and thriving local businesses who capitalize on everything from spiritual guides to U.F.O’s. There are guides who will take you to the vortexes, as well as maps available to find them yourself.  Only people with money can afford this real estate. I would suspect that the reason that Senator McCain has a ranch in Sedona is not just because he can, and not for the “spiritual energy” asserted to be there, but because the temperature is usually at least ten degrees cooler which would be a plus for a melanoma survivor.

After a few years enduring the six-month-long summers, I hated Arizona with its ancient Native American curses, its Keating Scandal, its AZ-Scam sting operation, its bankrupt Governor Symmington, its Tent City, its rude newly-transplanted-from-back-Easterners, its phony eminent domain scams (which turned South Phoenix from predominately black into suburbs with white residents, gated communities, new schools and Starbucks with outdoor misters) I hated the way older white people looked at me when I went to Scottsdale’s Costco and asked me the disturbing question, “where were you born?” I used to wear colorful turbans as a reminder of “tignon law” that was enacted  by Spanish Governor Miro in Louisiana to make sure everyone knew who the “colored” women were.  I could wrap a scarf around my head in a hundred different ways. After 9/11, I had to take them off, and wear the simple “slave rag” I have been asked if I was Egyptian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Iranian, or anything “colored”  These questions were alright until after 9/11 and the illegal immigration issue began to cause discomfort. Funny thing, after leaving Arizona, moving to Nashville and returning to visit my children, I was returning from Nogales when a Mexican border patrol officer looked at my driver’s license and asked, “what state were you born in?” Had it not been for the fact that my husband has a chocolate complexion and that I was in the passenger seat, I am sure that I would have been pulled over at a check point about twenty to thirty minutes North of Nogales. Now, I do not ever want to go back to the state of melanoma. I do not want to get caught in the sweeping net of racial profiling, and I do not want to lose my temper. I do have a passport, of course, but it never stopped  judging eyes.

Golf-lovers, tennis players, horse-riders, swimmers, tanners, and retirees. You can have Arizona! Take it and its latent racism and swallow it whole. Slather on your sunscreen, keep your hands from being burned on the hot steering wheels, sit in those melting carseats, suffer those huge electic bills, live close to the Palo Verde nuclear plant, suffer from allergies from transplanted olive trees, avoid scorpions in the closet, watch out for black widows, drill traps for legendary subterranean termites in costly homes, keep your children from drowning in those expensive pools, let the casinos take your retirement income. You are welcome to it all!!!

Alice Parris


  1. It always feels good to hear or read another persons feelings that resonate with my own. It’s almost a sense of community with someone I don’t know, if even for a moment.

    I am a white woman, 45 yrs. old, who has lived in Scottsdale for almost 14yrs. Though I was aware I was in hostile territory upon arrival, as I have gotten older and more aware of who I am, living here becomes almost unbearable. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area with a liberal, activist, Tlingit ( Alaska Native ) mother who went hungry many times as a child as a result of prejudice and discrimination. My grandmother could not get state assistance or they would have taken my mother and uncle away to a boarding school ( horrible places for Indian children ). I share that because I feel a need to qualify the fact that I have a zero tolerance of discrimination. I believe that though there are similarities in groups, whether regional, religious,racial, whatever, that we all have a right to be judged as an individual. Every group has ignorant, intelligent, kind, artistic, motivated, lazy, mean, racist, and every other type of person, in it.
    The reason I replied to this is because an 18 yr. old friend of my son’s was pulled over last night, a victim of blatant racial profiling. He is black, a college student, graduated early from H.S., and is one of the most polite and interesting of my son’s friends. He has a good relationship with his parents and therefor has spent a lot of time visiting with me in the kitchen, where my son and his friends make frequent stops. The Scottsdale police officer who pulled him over had warned him previously to ” watch out, you’ll be seeing me again”. He was pulled over and written up for a variety of questionable charges, and was told he was pulled over for speeding. The officer refused to respond to repeated questions of when, how fast, etc. And there was no charge for speeding or any other traffic violation on the citation. The young man passed his field sobriety test, and on and on and yet spent 6 hours at the police station. He was sworn at and treated roughly and called names. Of course there were no witnesses.

    This reply is just the beginning for me. I cannot let this lie. My search on Google for info on Scottsdale police racial profiling led me to this essay and I was compelled to aknowledge my appreciation for such a well written expression of my own thoughts. Thank you Alice Parris, and I hope my family and I will be on our way out of Scottsdale at some time in the near future as well. Sincerely, Jennifer Greco

  2. Dear Jennifer,

    I am delighted to get your response regarding this situation in Scottsdale. Racial profiling on the rise, there, and I fear that it will get worse. My deepest sympathies are for the Native Americans who look Hispanic, and black people who might get harrassed because are not in great numbers there. When I applied over the phone to get my house refinanced, the mortgage agent put on my application that I was white. He never even asked me. He assumed that there could not be any other persons who could live in a house like mine if they were not white.

    When I said that I did not want to lose my temper, I meant exactly that. I do not like condescension and it makes me go instantly “off” To others, it looks as if I have gone on the warpath. I did not see any upside and I know that I had to bail out. I wish you and your family a relocation where there are not these awful practices going on under the radar. It is a confusing place for someone black to grow up. They grow up “color blind” which is a wonderful thing until a travesty like a police detainment for -God- only- knows -what occurs.

    Sadly, I do not even want to go back and visit -and I have alot of family there. The fear that has cast a broad net is making people crazy. The answer for this seems to be government allowances of more weapons for everyone (save the felons and mentally-ill.) It is all too dark; disturbing for such a physically beautiful place. Thank you for sharing with me.
    Blessings 7 peace,
    Alice Parris

  3. I’m a 28 year-old Black woman who has lived in Arizona for three years. My employer relocated me here back in 2005 but I have recently begun to seeK outside opportunities.

    I’ve worked at one of the largest, most successful financial institutions for 6 years, am bright, educated, well-read, and have had a progressive history of career advancement.

    So imagine my surprise over the fact that I have been job hunting since April and have only had ONE job offer thus far.

    My experience is very reminiscent of the movie “Groundhog Day”.

    I walk into an interview. My interviewer is white. Nearly every person in the office is white. I mostly interview for managerial positions since that is where I’m at career-wise. I expound upon my experience. I’m concise. I make eye contact. I’m gracious. I’ve read tons of books on how to conduct successful interviews. I’m never NOT prepared.

    Like clockwork, I am decline shortly thereafter.

    Now I KNOW the economy is a sorry state of affairs, but I am a person who has had numerous interviews for positions I am uniquely qualified for and I am STILL routinely rejected without genuine, adequate feedback. My qualifications fit, I am articulate and thoughtful in my interviews.

    It is my Blackness that hinders me. I’ve been in denial over this for several months now but I don’t think I can run from the truth anymore. I’m searching for other Blacks to validate my experience with stories of their own. I KNOW I’m not alone in this.

  4. Dear Childfree Chick,

    I am sorry about your experiences since April. I cannot say that I am surprised. Especially in these economic times, nobody in a position to hire is going to want to share a slice of the “American pie” with you. You are probably overqualified and deemed as a serious threat. I imagine that you would be the supervisor of many of the white people who you happened to observe there. Did you put down the salary you wanted, or did they give a salary range? If you asked for a salary amount, was it competitive for Arizona for that position? Did you apply in Phoenix or Scottsdale?

    I can imagine that the good people of Arizona (many of whom live far beyond their means) are in a major panic. It has been my theory, that Arizona has a glass ceiling and that since Governor Symington had to declare bankruptcy, you would be amazed to find out how many of the rank and file citizens have also been to bankrupcy court on multiple occasions(prior to the latest bankrupcy law revisions) Most people make their money somewhere else and then spend it in sunny Arizona.

    Can your financial/managerial skills be used in HEALTHCARE? There will always be sick people and they will always need to have someone who knows what is going on with the money. Have you considered a State or University job? The skills that you have can be applied to other areas, where you could expand your resume. Think in terms of what services which are absolutely necessary to sustain life. These are the businesses that must be maintained. None of us know what the financial forecast will be.
    Alice Parris
    P.S. It is also difficult to find a suitable partner for a single black professional female. There are quite a few who have “potential” but no prospects. They are looking for a sister with a GOOD job. Try going to First Fridays during the networking portion and stay for the party. Get some of the business cards and don’t believe what you cannot see. Also, there are alot of con artists out there who talk about the Lord. Many of these are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Many of the professionals who really are what they state, are in love with themselves and are not even interested in a sister, anyway. I have lived it.

  5. Hi Alice,

    Actually finding a partner hasn’t been an issue. I don’t want children and I’m not looking to get married or even shack up. I’m casually seeing a few Black men who are professionally employed, single, AND childless…which surprises people but honestly, finding men hasn’t been an issue.

    To answer your other questions, I have been applying in Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale and due to the fact that most all of the jobs I’ve applied to screen applicants via phone before granting an in person interview, I always give my salary request in the initial phone interview when asked. I make sure I’ve done a significant amount of research via the internet regarding the average salary for that particular job in this area before stating my preferred salary range.

    I haven’t looked into jobs with the health care sector but that may be the avenue I pursue next, along with the insurance field.

    I think another part of my problem is that I’ve been focusing on interviewing with smaller firms which I’m noticing are MUCH less diverse than large companies, such as the one I currently work for. The reason I’ve been focusing on these though, is generally because the salaries are higher. Large companies, in the banking field especially, are VERY cheap when it comes to salaries. It comes as surprise to many, but take it from me, it’s the truth.

    At this point, I feel like I’m at a stand still. I’m seriously re-evaluating whether or not this is a place I plan on living for the long term. My family is located in the northeast where the economic woes are much more pronounced. Between that and the horrible winters, going back isn’t even on my radar, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider relocating to a more diverse city where obtaining a job while Black isn’t such a major hurdle.

    As a professional Black woman, I don’t think staying here in Phoenix is conducive to my personal success.

    I hope I’m proven wrong…

  6. I am glad that you are not having an issue that does affect many professional women upon arriving to Arizona. This economy is so helter-skelter, it is hard to figure out a correct move. I left Arizona and moved to Nashville, TN, where I had attended Fisk and then graduated from TSU many years ago.

    I wish you the best. Nobody wants to go from the frying pan into the fire. I am glad that I do not have to work. The wages here are sooo low. There is are no state taxes (but they charge almost 10 cents on a dollar for all sales) The two friends that I have from the 70’s both have STATE JOBS and are in for the long-haul. The benefits of these state jobs speak for themselves.
    I wish you the best in any re-location efforts that you may make.
    Alice Parris

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s