Friday, May 22, 2009

Louis Ramirez - Apparently, it's OK in PA to Beat People to Death

How incredibly disgusting can the racist debate over illegal immigration get? How much further can or xenophobia plunge us into a love of lawlessness? Apparently, in my home state of Pennsylvania, it can get to the point where beating a man to death is OK. I received this e-mail yesterday:


After they had beaten Luis Ramirez to death, the white teenagers who attacked him sent an ominous message to Luis' friends:

"Tell your f**king Mexican friends to get the f**k out of Shenandoah or you'll be f**king laying next to him."1

Just over a week ago, two of Ramirez's killers were acquitted of all serious charges by an all white jury2, with the jury foreman making it clear that justice for Ramirez had no chance in the small town of Shenandoah, PA:

"I believe strongly that some of the people on the jury were racist. I believe strongly that some of the people on the jury had their minds made up maybe before the first day of trial...And I believe the four boys that were involved the most are racist. I absolutely do..."3

The Department of Justice is now looking into Ramirez' death.4 But that's only part of what's needed. Where are the leaders in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? Why has Governor Rendell had nothing to say? His silence is shameful.

Until our elected leaders speak up, we can expect more stories like Luis'--not just in Shenandoah, but across the country. Governor Rendell owes it to Pennsylvanians and Latinos everywhere to condemn and speak out on what's happened. Together we can demand that he does. Please click the link below to add your voice and ask your friends and family to do the same. It takes only a moment.

If Luis Ramirez's death were an isolated event it would be outrageous enough. Sadly, it's part of a growing trend of racially motivated violence against Latinos, particularly in rural communities. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Latinos rose 35% between 2003 and 2006.5 And as author David Niewert writes, the target of hate crimes goes beyond their immediate victims: "The purpose is to terrorize the target community, to drive them out, eliminate them."6

That kind of intimidation only works only if the people who are targeted remain silent, and officials in positions of power remain unaccountable. That's why we need to speak out and let folks across the country know we won't tolerate hate and violence towards our communities. It starts with demanding that the Governor of Pennsylvania make clear that anti-immigrant hate has no place in Pennsylvania. It's time for him to show leadership now.

Join us in calling for him to speak out:

Thank you and Adelante!

The Keystone Progress Team
The Team


1. "Town struggles with fallout from immigrant's fatal beating," CNN, 7-31-2008

2. "Jury acquits teens of murder in Mexican immigrants' beating death," Associated Press, 5-2-2009

3. "Jury Foreman Calls Other Jurors Racist," WNEP, 5-2-2009

4. "Luiz Ramirez Hate Crime Petition," MALDEF, 5-5-2009

5. "The Year in Hate," Southern Poverty Law Center, Spring 2008

6. "A jury's hate-crime verdict in rural Pennsylvania reinforces the racial divide," Crooks and Liars, 5-3-2009

Note that this letter includes references to articles detailing this information. This is not made up. This man really was beaten to death.

When I read this story, two things came to mind:

1. Do we really believe that being an illegal immigrant makes it OK for you to be beaten to death? I mean, really, we must consider that this was part of the thinking of the jury. Would these teens have been able to get away with this if this man was an average white 25 year old. I mean, just imagine a white man visiting Philadelphia from some other part of the state is waiting for a subway, when he gets into an argument with three black teens. The white man is beaten to death. We all know that those three black teens would be tried for felony crimes as adults. Connected to this, doesn't this underline the ways in which the immigration debate has created unsafe conditions for all Latinos in the United States, even those who have been U.S. citizens their entire lives? I mean, really, when you hear about these attacks, are the attackers first doing research to verify that their victims are indeed illegal immigrants?

2. I immediately flashed back to the Jena 6 incident, in which six black teens were charged with attempted murder for beating a white classmate. This, of course happened after a series of events left the African American community in Jena, LA, feeling threatened and targeted. These events included the hanging of a noose on a "whites only" tree that black students attempted to sit under, threatening words from the District Attorney seemingly directed toward black students, and an alleged incidents in which blacks students were threatened with a gun by white students, were able to take the gun, and then were charged with robbery for taking the gun. The real disgrace in the Jena 6 fiasco was not the exceedingly harsh level of the charges against the six black teens, but the fact that they came from a DA who showed a pattern of overacting to the actions of blacks, even when they were legal, but underreacting to violence against blacks. It is ironic that we here little about the Louis Ramirez incident, but we saw many Americans rush to the defense of the Jena DA.

What this really highlights is who can and cannot be a victim in this country. Black teenagers can't be victims. It just doesn't fit the archetype we've created. So when we look at their encounters with the law, we can't see the injustices perpetrated against them; we only see the wrong they've done. So, when the Jena story broke, almost all the focus was on the beating. On the rare occasion that anyone focused on the events leading up to that incident, the focused in on the hanging of the noose, something that dealt with race in the general. However, to focus on the way in which the legal system, particularly that corrupt DA, had victimized the black youth of Jena was virtually impossible.

Likewise, in the United States, an illegal immigrant (at leas a brown illegal immigrant) cannot be a victim. These white teenagers essentially had a free pass to do just about anything to Louis Ramirez, because there is almost no way that a jury would unanimously agree to seriously punish them for attacking an illegal immigrant. This incident is just the latest illustration of a truth that minorities have know for the entire history of this country: when it comes to certain people, the rule of law just does not apply.

1 comment:

rockync said...

I think the worst offense in the increased violence against immigrants - be they legal or not, Latino, Middle-Eastern, whatever - is the complicity of the adults involved. These kids would probably not be turning into lawless thugs without perceiving that the adults approved of the behavior. We Americans enjoy the right to freedom of speech, but with that freedom comes the responsibility for those things we say. There has been so much hate-mongering and fear-mongering going on in recent years and now it is coming home to roost. The death of this man, a human being, is horrifying and the lack of concern for keeping these hateful, pyschopaths off the street is equally appalling.
Sometimes I just feel like there is no hope...