…”the only reason [Luis] is dead is because he was Mexican,” law experts recently argued on CNN. Recently, there was a disturbing verdict on a racially-charged case where an all-white jury found a group of teens as not guilty of a hate crime for beating up a Latino kid to death. CNN reported on this:
Equally troubling, is the fact that there is little attention being paid to the effects of verbal violence from certain right-wing media outlets and personalities that, under the cover of being “anti-illegal immigration“, get away with vicious statements that are sometimes full of misinformation at best and morally criminal at worst. During the recent swine flu media frenzy, for example, right-wing pudits seized on the opportunity to push their racist rhetoric. As is often the case, sometimes the most dangerous kind of rhetoric is the kind that is subtle and pretends or claims not to be racist, precisely because it lurks in the shadows. One perfect example of this is media-talking-head Lou Dobbs. He is married to a Latina, by the way, and that tidbit has often been brought up as an argument to claim that Lou Dobbs coudln’t possibly be racist. Yet at closer examination, this seems to defy logic. First off, the fact that he is married to a Latina does not give him license to spread lie after lie (after all, Hernan Cortes had the Malinche as a lover, and that didn’t make Cortes any less of a pillager of Mexico’s land and of its people). In addition, a little-known fact is that Lou Dobbs often quotes “reports” as “facts” from or has people on his show that are members of right-wing extremist groups that either have deep ties with or are themselves groups classified as hate groups. By all accounts, one cannot help but ask this: “if Lou Dobbs pushes defamatory falsehoods day after day based on racist sources (he does not disclose this fact, by the way) then what is his motiviation for doing so? Is it racism?”
Beyond Lou Dobbs, there is the larger issue of the potential effects that the violence (whether verbal or visual) in the media has on stoking the fires that eventually lead to violent murders against particular groups of people. While it is difficult to prove a direct relationship between violent hate speech or even subtle but vicious anti-Latino immigrant rhetoric and actual violent hate crimes, one would have to be a fool to not see a correlation that is just too evident to dismiss it as a coincence. People influence media and media influence people-it is a self-reinforcing cycle. To claim that media should not be held accountable for the impact that it has on people is just as naive as saying that individuals do not impact and influence media itself. Somewhere along the lines, there needs to be accountability-otherwise, grotesque acts of hate go unchecked.
Sometimes, some action is taken against the hate rhetoric on the media: recently, a radio talk show host was suspended because of his plainly racist comments against Mexicans:
As the video above discusses, Jay Severin should be fired (by the way, you can contact the station that puts him on the air and ask them to fire him; click here). Now, will Lou Dobbs ever take responsibility for his role in the rising violence against Latinos? Think again, he actually slammed and criticized the civil rights organizations that have denounced or warned the media of the hate speech that is on the air. Yet, the number of extremist groups continue to grow and the tide of hate acts continues to rise. For a list of high-profile cases exemplifying the rising incidence of hate crimes against Latinos, click here.
Perhaps what is most tragic and maddening is that amid all the violent rhetoric on the media and the grotesque acts it accompanies, it comes as no surprise that an all-white jury recently decided to let the murderers of Luis Ramirez walk free. There is something you can do about it, though. Read this message (below) from the organization America’s Voice:
Last year a group of teenagers brutally murdered Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.
As Luis lay unconscious at their feet, the teens yelled to a young woman by his side: “Tell your effin Mexican friends to get the eff out of Shenandoah or you’re going to be laying next to him!”
Just last week an all-white jury found the teens “not guilty” of the serious charges of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation. The ruling was greeted with cheers in the courtroom, and gasps of disbelief from Luis’s grieving fiancee and children.
Today we’re asking you to join with us and our friends at the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF) to demand justice for Luis, his children, and his fiancee.
Sign the petition to the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Demand that they prosecute Luis’s murder as a federal Hate Crime:
Afterward, the head of the jury said publicly “I believe strongly that some of the people on the jury were racist.” He said that some “had their minds made up maybe before the first day.”
Hate crimes against immigrants are on the rise across the country.
Law experts on CNN have argued that “the only reason [Luis] is dead is because he was Mexican.” It’s becoming clear that in that courtroom an undocumented Mexican immigrant was seen as less than a man.
Make sure justice is served for Luis Ramirez and the loved ones he left behind — sign the petition and forward it widely:
Together we can stand up to forces of extremism that threaten our country’s best values by playing upon our worst instincts.
Please send this email to 10 of your friends and loved ones now.
Thanks for everything you’re doing,