Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Long Island Murder Highlights Impact of Hate Speech

As LGBT activists and their supporters continue to protest against the passage of Proposition 8 in California last week, a particularly gruesome murder of an Ecuadorian man on Long Island over the weekend serves as a particularly heinous reminder of the impact hate speech can have.

Suffolk County police say seven teenagers allegedly beat and stabbed Marcello Lucero, 37, to death near the Long Island Railroad station in Patchogue late on Saturday night. Officials indicate the teens came into the village from out of town to beat-up Mexicans" and other Latinos.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy was quick to condemn the killing, but an editorial in today's New York Times editorial page correctly points out his long-standing opposition to undocumented immigrants in the county. His anti-immigration rhetoric has strained the county's relationship with its growing Latino population, but Levy is far from alone in his arguably misguided attempt to scapegoat others from their own bureaucratic and municipal failings.

Lucero's murder is an all too obvious tragedy that highlights the much broader societal problems that still exist in this country around race, class, immigration status and other identities. Barack Obama's election last week has given many hope the steady stream of rhetoric against those on the margins of this country will abate, but Lucero's death is a stark reminder there is much work left to be done--and this task includes those in California who continue to use the N word and other racially inflammatory language and rhetoric to scapegoat black voters for Prop 8's passage.

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