Over the weekend, 25-year-old Luis Ramirez was beaten to death by a group of White teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Ramirez, originally from Mexico, fell into a coma and died on Monday.
Ramirez’s fiancee Crystal Dillman told the Associated Press that Ramirez had often been insulted, including being called a “dirty Mexican.” A retired police officer who witnessed the beating said she heard one of the attackers tell a friend of Ramirez’s who was at the scene of the fight to tell her Mexican friends to get out of Shenandoa “or you’re going to be laying next to him.” And two of Ramirez’s friends who were present at the scene of the fatal beating also “said they heard the youths call Ramirez ‘stupid Mexican’ and an ethnic slur.”
Nonetheless, local police are denying that the attack was a hate crime motivated by Ramirez’s race. Despite acknowledging that there were racial tensions between Shenandoah’s White population and the recently arrived Latino population—said to number approximately 10%—Police Chief Matthew Nestor had this to say about the attack that resulted in Ramirez’s death:
“From what we understand right now, it wasn’t racially motivated. This looks like a street fight that went wrong.”
I won’t pronounce on the attackers’ guilt or innocence, or whether or not they attacked Ramirez because he was not White. That’s for the courts to determine. I will however point out that in Jena, Louisiana, six Black boys were tried as adults for second-degree murder after they ganged up on a White student in a schoolyard fight. The victim in that case was treated for injuries to his face, eyes, and ears, and released from hospital that same day. But one of his attackers was convicted of attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy.
To date, no charges have been brought against the young men who beat Luis Ramirez to death but I get the feeling that his attackers will get a very different treatment at the hands of the legal system. Local police are already indicating that they will not prosecute the case as a hate crime, a sentiment supported by Borough Manager Joseph Palubinsky, who said he did not think Ramirez was attacked because of his ethnicity:
I have reason to know the kids who were involved, the families who were involved, and I’ve never known them to harbor this type of feeling.”
This case has already proven that not every person who lives in this country gets equal protection under the law. The prosecution of these White teenagers will demonstrate whether everyone gets equal punishment.
In today’s globalized world, violence reverberates far beyond the locale in which it occured. For instance, an act of violence by Muslim extremists in London is met with a chorus of non-Muslim voices the world over demanding that moderate Muslims denounce the violence and reflect on why their religion is so violent. In a similar spirit, I want to appeal to moderate White people to denounce this extremist act of violence, reflect on why there is so much antipathy towards non-Whites within their communities, and begin to dialog about ways in which to stamp out these attitudes.
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Some other bloggers have been following this case and denouncing the violent attack that killed Luis Ramirez: