A Latino Rodney King?

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post (“Is Anyone Surprised?”). I appreciate the insights from Xey, Pprscribe, and Haysoos. Also, thanks to Jeremy for the support and Macon D for the tidbit that, despite his disclaimer, I did not actually know (he gives me too much credit).

But if the right wing’s reaction to the swine-flu outbreak was a depressing example of the disgust that many Americans hold for Latinos, what are we to make of the news out of Pennsylvania?

Last week, a jury in that state acquitted two teenagers of beating a man to death in a street brawl. The case apparently had too many contradictory versions of the truth, with multiple witnesses unable to clarify who did what to whom and why. The bottom line is that the teens were convicted of lesser charges and will more or less go on with their lives.

What has caught the eye of Hispanics and people interested in civil rights is that the town where the crime took place, Shenandoah, has a history of racial tension. The victim, Luis Ramirez, was a Mexican immigrant. The teens, as well as the other kids who earlier pled guilty to lesser charges, were white. They jury was all white.

It is impossible to escape the perception, therefore, that a mob of angry whites can beat a Latino to death right in the street without fear of being punished. Of course, those of us who weren’t at the trail (like me) can’t definitively say that this is a miscarriage of justice. But at the risk of getting all knee-jerky, I have to say that it appears highly suspicious.

Lawyers for the teens admitted that the kids were drunk and got into a fight with Ramirez, who was apparently walking down the street, minding his own business. Prosecutors said that the teens flung racial epithets at Ramirez, then followed up with kicks and punches.

The result was that Ramirez ended up with his brain leaking out of his head, and he died two days later. For no one to be seriously punished over such a crime can only mean one of two things:

  • A Latino man living in an economically depressed small town, where racial issues have flared in the past, inexplicably provoked a group of drunk white males to fight him. They had no choice but to defend themselves by kicking him in the head repeatedly. Or
  • It’s ok to bludgeon an immigrant to death.

The verdict would actually make more sense if the teens had been acquitted of all charges. In that case, the implication is that the boys had nothing to do with the fight or Ramirez’s death. Instead, by convicting them of a lesser charge (simple assault), the jury basically said, “Yeah, you walloped the guy, and he died, but we don’t think you should do time. It’s not like he was anybody important.”

The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund is pressuring the Department of Justice to file federal charges against the teens. This, as you may recall, was the route that civil-rights groups took after the cops were acquitted in the Rodney King case.

Regardless of how it turns out this time, there is one big difference between the cases. Rodney King is still alive, and Luis Ramirez is not.


5 Responses to “A Latino Rodney King?”

  1. May 5, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I think your conclusions are unavoidable. I’m sickened by this case, and I hope it gains more national attention. The devaluing of human life that these verdicts represent is a cancer in America’s soul.

  2. 2 xey
    May 5, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    I remember hearing about that story last year when it happened, and I was hoping that there would be justice and that the young men who committed the crime would get what they deserve. I’ve been thoroughly disappointed. I guess it goes to show that only certain people’s lives are worth making a fuss over, apparently.

  3. May 8, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Perhaps the evidence just wasn’t there. the two most culpable in the fight were the one who copped a plea and the one charged as a juvenile. The two that stood trial were the least involved. Read the trial transcripts; you will gain some much-needed insight into this case. Justice was served fairly.

  4. 4 Chris Diaz
    May 11, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Well, say a woman catches her husband going into a hotel room with another woman. Yes, it’s possible that he simply rented a room to assist her studies in pursing a hotel/restaurant management degree, but, it ain’t likely.

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