There is much remembering that one year ago the United States elected it’s first person of color president. The U.S. was overwhelmed with bold, bright promises of hope and change. People wept, and I was among them. The start of the Obama era marked the end of the Bush era and hopefully would mean policy changes that would directly impact the everyday lives of all people pero yes, for people of color and immigrants there was a special hope. Hope that immigration reform that would keep all families together and value the lives of people who live and work in the shadows and out in the open.
But then something happened that many thought wasn’t supposed to happen anymore. Weren’t we post-racial? Days after Barack Obama became the president-elect a group of teenagers in Patchogue, Long Island, NY hung out doing what they did about once a week. “Beaner jumping”. That’s what they called it when they went out looking for anyone who looked Latino (they don’t care what kind of “beaner” you are) so they could assault them. That night the young men were out for blood though and they killed Marcelo Lucero.
Instead of asking where you were Obama was elected president, I want to ask where were you when Marcelo Lucero was killed? I wasn’t even in NY when it happened. I can’t rememember if I heard about the killing when I was still out of town or when I returned to the neighborhood in Queens, NYC where years earlier another Latino, Manny Mayi, was chased and beaten to death by a gang of white young people. And yet what I saw happening in the coverage and organizing around Lucero’s murder wasn’t people making connections between a lack of immigration reform and hate crimes, or connections between hate speech that browned immigration as Latino which of course equaled Mexican and hate crimes. Instead people worried about the semantics of calling Lucero an immigrant. In a way the debate would be repeated around the nomination of now Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor. Pero to paraphrase from a story one of my mentors, Vicente “Panama” Alba, they don’t care what kind of spic you are.
Having worked with Latino families who have experienced the loss of a loved one to hate crimes, the initial death is loss enough. That grief is added upon, however, when you see the same type of crime repeating itself, over and over. It means multiple things. It means that law enforcement and the community didn’t care enough to try and make that death the last of its kind but is also means that the name of your loved one gets lower on the list of names that people remember and struggle for. It’s why when I write about Marcelo Lucero, I write about Manny Mayi. It’s why when I write about José Sucuzhañay, I write about Marcelo Lucero. Especially since it seemed that killing Marcelo seemed to be the start of a new wave of violence against those marked as immigrant/Latino/Mexican.
And when they aren’t killing us for who we are and what we represent, they are orphaning children, stealing and deporting children. I do not draw a line separating the violence unleashed on our communities based on whether it is committed by private individuals or individuals acting on behalf of the local, state or federal government. One allows and promotes the other. The continuing criminalization of immigrant communities dehumanizes and sends a message to private citizens that immigrants/Latinos/Mexicans are all criminal anyway, not worthy of protection under the law or justice. Programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities are in essence legalized hate crimes against our communities.
So where where you when Marcelo Lucero was killed and what have to done since then?