Explaining Anti-Immigrant Violence Committed by People of Color

Watching the local television news for 5 minutes, I heard two reports of violence against immigrants. The alleged perps, caught on video in both incidents, are young men and women of color.

Earlier this week, at least four young men attacked 26 year old Mexican immigrant Rodulfo Olmedo with bats, two-by-fours, a chain and anti-Mexican slurs in Staten Island. All four of the young men are men of color. One is a Latino.

And in Downtown Manhattan, near Chinatown, Asian women between the ages of 50 and 70 are being physically assaulted in the housing projects where they live. The attackers are young African-American men and women.


So for progressives and even radicals, who fight anti-immigrant sentiment in a variety of ways, the question is, do we express the same outrage? Do we call for the police to descend upon communities of color looking for the suspects?

There are no easy answers to these questions. These young men and women of color, are clearly not the Minutemen or the roving white “beaner jumpers” that killed Marcelo Lucero. These are young men and women of color who are in the cross-hairs of law-enforcement and the prison industrial complex. These are young men and women who don’t have access to a good education, good jobs, good housing, good healthcare, or good nutrition but whom the federal government are anxious to count in the Census, especially if they live in corporate prisons so that more money can be sent to prison driven small towns.

The media and law enforcement are looking to people of color advocates and activists to give their consent. Law enforcement will say : “Well didn’t you say we weren’t tough on hate crimes? We’ll get tough now”. Look for example of the Angie Zapata case. Was Angie’s killer a disgusting person? Yes. But the conviction of Allen Andrade wasn’t made easier because suddenly the justice system started giving a shit about the lives of transgender Latinas. The conviction was made easier because the system is already convicting men of color.

A few years ago, there were a series of sexual assaults on women during Puerto Rican Day parade festivities. Some of the women were white. Some were women of color. The organization I worked with at the time was contacted by a major feminist organization to join them in speaking out against the attacks and in support of the women. The only women I ever saw the org represent were white women. I spoke to the media, denouncing the attacks, because women like me were being assaulted as well (I cannot tell you the disgusting things that have been said to me, often by men in blue uniforms) but also being clear that speaking out against violence against women did not equal a license to go into our communities and amp up police interventions.
Police interventions have not made our lives safer.

I’ve been engaged in a conversation on facebook, based on the earlier post I did about another round of hate crimes against Latinos. In the case of Marcelo Lucero, it’s easy to look at geography as a factor. The suburbs were built as an escape from the city and the racial and ethnic integration there but what of NYC and other urban areas? Are disenfranchised youth of color internalizing hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric and thus acting out a divide and conquer agenda?

No doubt that something needs to be done and the young people attacking immigrants and immigrant women need to face consequences pero I want some fucking alternatives to “pass hate crime laws” and “throw em in jail and throw away the key” because prison is where they want us all to be.

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3 comments on “Explaining Anti-Immigrant Violence Committed by People of Color
  1. When you’re at the bottom of the pecking order and here comes someone new who ranks even lower, then you treat them the way you feel that you (and your family, other members of your race or class) have been treated when at the lowest rank.

    You had to pay dues and if the new lowest class doesn’t have to pay the same dues then it feels like you went through all that racism for nothing. It’s your turn to be the oppressor and feel relief that it’s not you.

    Have you heard about the Tennessee company that processes nuclear waste which has subjected black employees to much higher levels of radiation than white employees. Because of the health risk, this is the worst race-based discrimination to be inflicted upon innocent workers, says U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity chairman. There is a good post on this at:

    http://www.ethicsoup.com/2010/01/nuclear-racism-black-employees-subjected-to-excessive-radiation-exposure.html

    And folks say our country has changed — we just USED TO BE racists. And just a few days ago there was Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s proclamation declaring this month as “Confederacy History Month.” No, no mention of slavery, just a celebration of white folks who fought FOR slavery.

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