When hate kills, are politicians and journalists culpable?
By Kim Pearson on November 30, 2008
BlogHer Original Post
Earlier this month, 37-yearold Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero died because, according to police, seven teenaged boys in Long Island decided to "go find some Mexicans" to beat up. While county executive Steve Levy was quick to condemn the attack, some are suggesting that his own anti-immigrant statements, as well as and actions by politicians and media personalities might have helped roil the violent passions that culminated with Lucero's murder.
Here's the New York Times' editorial of Nov. 10:
A possible lynching in a New York suburb should be more than enough to
force this country to acknowledge the bitter chill that has overcome
Latinos in these days of rage against illegal immigration.
At a Nov. 18th town council meeting in Patchogue, some community residents called their neighbors to account, according to this report from New American Media:
Charlotte Koons of the Suffolk New York Civil Liberties Union was the
first speaker. She read a poem about Lucero's death, ending with this
line: "We must all own our part in this crime ... We can legislate and
educate the hate away." Suffolk resident Andrea Callan, also with the
NYCLU, blasted the lawmakers for setting a bad example. "The policies
coming out of this legislative body, and no doubt from the playbook of
Steve Levy, have been divisive and unfair, and send a message of
intolerance into our community."
Levy's efforts to keep undocumented immigrants out of Suffolk County have attracted controversy for years. In 2006, he drew the ire of the National Council of Churches for proposing that County businesses should be required to sign an affidavit each year attesting that all of their employees were legal residents, according to this news report. A 2007 New York Times editorial said Levy's sometimes-extreme rhetoric marred an otherwise respected public service record.One example of that rhetoric -- he reportedly claimed that pregnant Mexican women came across the border to have their babies for free in US hospitals. He later apologized.
Blogher community member LatinoPoliticsBlog reports approvingly that civil rights groups, including the National Council of La Raza, the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP are banding together to combat what an increase racially motivated hate crimes:
I’m glad that NCLR is teaming up with other ethnic rights
organizations, as part of a larger strategy to combat hate crimes
against our people and the hateful immigration rhetoric that has helped
fuel the violence.
Parents should be accountable when their children take their beliefs to
violent ends. But parents should not be held solely responsible. Not
when you have respected social figures subtly inciting violence and
reinforcing the hate.
Meanwhile, Blgoher community member Marie Theresa-Hernandez responded to a caustic, bigoted comment she got whe she wrote about Lucero's murder:
What makes Lucero's
death much more tragic is how it all happened. The young men who
attacked him live in a place where community leaders provoked U.S.
citizens, telling them horrible things about immigrants. The place is
full of people like Lou Dobbs. You add this to a few mis-guided angry young men and you have disaster on your hands.
Hernandez is talking about CNN host Lou Dobbs, of course, whose show refers to border security as "the most critical issue facing our nation." The Southern Poverty Law Center has a list of Dobbs'errors and distortions about the status of immigrants in the US. According to this article at Alternet, Dobbs rejects criticisms that his program helps fuel anti-immigrant hate:
Dismissing concerns about anti-immigrant rhetoric leading to hate
violence, Dobbs called the groups "advocates of open borders" and
mocked them for being "long on rhetoric and absolutely, absolutely
devoid of facts or respect for them."
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