There are those who insist that there is no such thing as anti-Hispanic racism. First, they quip, there is no Hispanic “race” — and so, technically, there can be no racism against Hispanics. Besides, they claim — inaccurately — Hispanics in the United States didn’t experience the kind of historical discrimination endured by, say, African Americans. Even as the deniers bear witness to a national immigration debate that went from anti-immigrant to anti-Hispanic, they insist that America’s largest minority is no worse for wear.
A rash of recent anti-Hispanic hate crimes says otherwise.
- In a Staten Island neighborhood, 25-year-old Rodolfo Olmedo was attacked by a group of men shouting anti-Mexican epithets and bashed over the head with a wooden stick outside his home. Olmedo was hospitalized for five days and briefly lapsed into a coma. The suspects are African American. In the weeks that followed, there were ten more suspected anti-Hispanic bias attacks in the same neighborhood. Most of the suspects were described as young black men, and a grand jury indicted only one of seven people arrested on a hate-crime charge. According to news accounts, residents of Port Richmond — where an influx of newcomers has arrived from Latin America over the past decade — blame the attacks on the bad economy, high unemployment, and even the divisive debate over Arizona’s immigration law.
- In Baltimore, 51-year-old Martin Reyes was beat to death, and the suspect in the case — Jermaine R. Holley — is described as a mentally deranged teenager who reportedly told police he killed Reyes because of a pathological hatred toward “Mexicans.” According to police, Holley was being treated for schizophrenia. Police suspect Holley had stopped taking his anti-psychotic medications, and they say that it is at least plausible that the anti-immigrant hysteria demonizing people of Hispanic descent nationwide may have pushed him over the edge. In the weeks before the attacks, there were a number of other assaults on Latino immigrants in Baltimore. In some cases, the motive was robbery. But in others, the evidence suggests they were hate crimes.
Other anti-Hispanic hate crime victims, who were attacked years ago, are only now finding justice in the courts — even if they’re not here to see it.
- A sentence was finally handed down in the murder of 31-year-old Jose O. Sucuzhanay who, in 2008, was killed by 30-year-old Keith Phoenix in Brooklyn. Prosecutors insisted that Phoenix — who beat the Ecuadorean immigrant with a baseball bat — singled out Sucuzhanay for the beating because he was Hispanic. Phoenix was convicted, and he was recently sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.
- More sentences were handed down in the racially motivated stabbing death of Marcelo Lucero on Long Island in 2008. Four New York teens were sentenced for their role in the murder of the Ecuadorean immigrant. Anthony Hartford, Jordan Dasch, and Jose Pacheco, all 19 years old, will serve seven-year prison sentences. A fourth teen received a six-year sentence. In May, another defendant, 19-year-old Jeffrey Conroy, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for stabbing Lucero. Conroy was convicted of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime. The teens admitted to taking part in what they called “beaner hopping,” where they would prowl the streets looking for Latino immigrants to attack.
Confronted with such barbarism, good people have choices to make. They can offer excuses for these heinous acts, or claim that these are isolated incidents. Some might even challenge the idea that there is such a thing as a “hate crime” and insist that it’s wrong to distinguish one class of victims from another.
Total rubbish. One of the reasons that haters who turn into bullies and murderers deserve so little leniency is because they don’t just brutalize the individuals they attack and the families they leave behind wounded and scarred. Armed with the deadly combination of ignorance and violence, they savage one of this country’s most important and valuable traditions. In fact, Mr. Jefferson considered it a founding principle:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
It doesn’t say “all U.S. citizens” or “all native-born Americans.” The people he was talking about were neither. It says: “all men.”
If someone is the country illegally — and it’s not clear that all the victims were — then they should be apprehended and deported by authorities, not beaten and killed by thugs.
In the heat of the immigration debate, some people seem to have forgotten that. It’s up to the rest of us to remind them.