Today’s Washington Post (WAPO) has this story about the good news of a decline in overall hate crimes in the U.S., according to FBI Director Robert F. Mueller. Good news, that is, for almost every racial, ethnic, religious and other group except one: Latinos. The WAPO story also tells us that, for the 4th straight year, hate crimes against Latinos continue their upward tick in the downward spiral of hate in our “post-racial” society. 4 years; 4 years in the face of an overall decline in hate crimes means that anti-Latino hatred is becoming dangerously normalized, even institutionalized when we consider who profits economically and politically from hate.
According to the WAPO piece,
“Crimes against Hispanics also increased for the fourth year in a row, the ADL said, with 595 incidents reported in 2007, compared with 475 in 2004.”
And the FBI statistics are but a small -and inaccurate-measure of the size of this monster in our midst.
I was the President of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission (LACHRC) , one of the largest, most sophisticated government human relations agencies in the country, and can tell you that these statistics hardly begin to map what can only be the tragic topography of anti-immigrant hate. During my tenure at the LACHRC, we documented the obvious: most immigrants do not report crimes against them. For numerous reasons – fear, lack of institutional resources and outreach, ignorance about hate crime laws, etc.- immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, are not apt to report these incidents, even in places like L.A., where some human relations resources and sophistication about hate crimes exists.
Now, imagine what the situation in places where no such institutional resources or sophistication exists; The FBI is likely only able to report on what happens in big cities and the occasional killing or beating that is so blatant that it cannot be ignored in rural and suburban areas like Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, where 3 white men killed Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez (pictured above) in what his family and other witnesses believe was a hate crime (police declared the murder not a hate crime). And let’s remember that these are pre-economic meltdown statistics. Common sense and the statistical record tell us that spikes in hate crimes are inversely proportional to declines in key economic indicators. I fear we are entering a new, more institutionalized stage in which hating Latinos, especially immigrants, has become “OK”, “normal” and even “patriotic.”
What this means beyond the tragedy of it all is that there HAS to be a concerted effort to break the political back of at least some (it only takes the decimation of 1 to discourage the others) of the key think tanks, media outlets and pols whose bottom lines depend on cranking out hate against immigrants. Expensive “Stop the Hate” campaigns are important at the level of counteracting their messages in the general populace, but do nothing to get at the powerful interests that profit from keeping the hate alive. Somebody has to find it expensive to keep up the hate that cheapens life.