Why Is It Never a Hate Crime?

Luis Ramirez, a Mexican migrant, lies in a coma after he was severely beaten by White teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The photo was taken by Ramirez's parter hours befored he died from injuries sustained during his beating.

Luis Ramirez, a Mexican migrant, lies in a coma after being severely beaten by White teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The photo was taken just hours before Ramirez died from injuries sustained during the beating.

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:

Standing Firm: An Online Community for Immigrant Rights
DMI Blog: Politics, Policy, and the American Dream
Citizen Orange
Daily Kos
Latino Politics Blog


23 thoughts on “Why Is It Never a Hate Crime?

  1. Well, the killers in Shenandoah got convicted of just simple assault, which is outrageous. However, what does race have to do with this? Whatever happened, whoever said whatever, who escalated this into physical violence? I don’t know who did that, but that seems relevant. Whether certain racial taunts were used seems quite besides the point. Let’s not criminalize speech, or feelings (hate), for God’s sake. That would be even worse. I sure as hell don’t want the government punishing me for words or, Heaven forbid, thoughts. Motivations are not relevant at all. Provocation is only marginally relevant. Who attacked who?


  2. I would be the author of the articles, and my posts have the name “Turtle” on them, articles, comments, and all. I hope you’ve been following the testimony from the trial, being that there was a gun involved, several different witnesses stated that Ramirez kept coming back at those boys, and oh yeah, that Ramirez was in a park preparing to have sex with a minor. I won’t hold my breath for the apologies, because I know you won’t be giving any. The fact remains, I was right.


  3. Ummm I do hope that I was not being confused with Wendi Medashefski… maybe thats why it has been stated that I am spewing venom? Because someone clearly overlooed that even though I share the same name ( not the same spelling )I am not the author of the articles mentioned above.


  4. Dee,

    Thanks for the support. I had read Wendi’s post on PA Pundits when Luis Ramirez was first killed, and I was struck by her total lack of sensitivity or empathy and her blame-the-victim attitude. I should have known it was the same person posting comments on my blog.

    Thanks too for the information.


  5. Abdul,
    You wrote an excellent article here. You have reported the facts published in the local newspapers and via court documents.

    I´ve seen Wendi post on PA Pundits, Alipac, Voice of the People (VOP) and on other extreme ANTI Immigration websites. She is attempting to make this murder case into an illegal immigration issue when we ALL know it is not. Wendi has written an open letter to the Mayor asking him to take a public stand against Illegal Immigration in relation to this case and she and her group have some sort of rally scheduled in their town on Aug 30. Check out this website:

    And note how this site´s members are responding. There is one good person from Shenandoah that responded. My heart goes out to him.

    Wendi is making a bad murder case WORSE for their community by bringing in this agenda.

    I feel sorry for the community!
    The case needs to be judged in court. Let justice be served and those guilty be punished for their crimes. Then allow the community to heal.



  6. Wendy,

    Thanks again for the clarification. Clearly you and I see this case from two completely different—and probably irreconcilable—points of view.

    I don’t think the problem in this case is that people enter the country without the proper paperwork. That’s a bureaucratic matter that could be fixed. Take a look at Europe’s open-border policies. How many construction workers or waiters in London are from Poland, for example?

    But that’s another matter entirely.

    What we have here is a 25-year-old man who was beaten to death by a group of teenagers. In the course of beating Luis Ramirez to death, these teenagers racially abused him. The national media seem to be in agreement that this was a hate crime. What else is there to say?

    If you have information that is being ignored by the mainstream media, I’m sure you can find an intrepid journalist who would be more than happy to investigate your claims and publish the “facts” you’ve uncovered, the “facts” you maintain are being kept from the American public by the media.

    But until that happens, please don’t post any more blame-the-victim comments on my blog. It’s bad enough that a hate crime cost Luis Ramirez his life without having you and other people trying to divert attention from the barbarity of this racist attack by constantly harping on “illegal aliens.”

    The courts have decided this case is about murder and ethnic intimidation. I’ll reconsider if more information becomes available. But I won’t let people like you use my blog as a platform for disparaging Luis Ramirez and his friends and family, or for spewing your anti-immigrant venom.


  7. Jim,

    Did I just misread your comment or are you saying “websites, like this one”—i.e., my blog—“are assisting in spreading libel against the defendants”? I really hope I’ve just misunderstood you because I don’t think anything I’ve written on my blog is libelous.

    I’m also a little confused because I would not assume that MALDEF (The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) would consider anything on this blog to be libelous against Crystal Dillman, her sister, or Arielle Garcia. Secondly, who are the defendants against whom libel is being spread? Are you referring to the three young men being tried in the Luis Ramirez death?

    Perhaps you are concerned that I allow comments justifying the killing of Luis Ramirez on the basis of his immigration status, or comments defending the boys responsible for his death. That’s a matter of free speech and I feel perfectly capable of responding to such ridiculous comments. The people who post such comments just show themselves to be ignorant, callous, and insensitive at best and—at worst—bigoted and xenophobic.

    If you are worried about where I stand on the issue Luis Ramirez’s death, please read my other posts on the subject, as well as the posts on race relations and racism. You can use the “Search” feature in the top right-hand corner of this page.


  8. MALDEF is presently collecting evidence for a defamation suit againt Wendi Medashefski on behalf of Crystal Dillman, her sister and Arielle Garcia. Included as defendants are websites, like this one, that are assisting in spreading libel againts the defendants. There are now several owners of websites included. Medashefski of VOPUSA will soon be served at her home.



  9. No, I was just trying to clarify some of the misinformation that has been posted.

    In no way did this man deserve to die , and in no way did i say it was. These boys need to be punished to the fullest extent , because if this happens again and these boys are let off lightly it will set a standard as to how others are judged for this type of crime and that cannot be allowed.

    This fight did not start because of racial issues, oh thats right anytime something happens to someone besides a WHITE person its immediatly about race..am I right? No one EVER says anything hateful in a fight to someone else only racist WHITE people.

    And no its not because of all those Mexicans, the boys in question had Hispanic/Latino friends at school and the general public workwell and have good relationships with most (yes I said MOST) of the immigrants that have come to this entire area.

    The issue that has blossomed from this tragedy is the ILLEGAL problem, the fact that the law is being broken, and it is not only to be blamed on Mexicans but the Government as well. The whole issue is a double edged sword there are rights and wrongs for both sides.

    Who knows why Luis got nasty with the boys that night ..maybe it was the 2x the legal limit of alcohol in his system or quantity of Xanax in his system … The boys were boozed up as well.. yes this fight turned hateful and these boys said nasty things but this fight did not start out this way.

    You can talk around what I have written all you want and try to twist up what I am saying like the meter maid and whatnot , I just tried to shed a bit more light on the subject im sorry you did not see it that way.


  10. Wendy,

    Thanks for the clarification. But what does the former profession of an eyewitness have to do with her credibility? I hope you’re not insinuating that retired police officers make better witnesses than retired meter maids.

    As for how the fight happened, enough information has come out—and been published in major media outlets—outlining the circumstances under which Luis Ramirez was killed. Now it’s up to the courts to decide how to punish the people responsible for his death. Whether or not Luis Ramirez deserved to die is obviously not up for debate at this point—otherwise, the three boys who killed him would not be on trial for murder and ethnic intimidation.

    As for Luis Ramirez having impregnated his fiancee’s younger sister, it seems that little nugget has been overlooked by the local and national media. Have you informed them of this oversight? I’m sure any journalist worth his salt would give his right arm for such a scoop.

    Furthermore, I’ve never been to Schuylkill County and I’m sure it’s a lovely place, and I for one don’t think it’s “being portrayed as a backwoods redneck area filled with nothing but hateful racists and bigots.” As far as I’m concerned, it’s a place that’s dealing with an influx of Mexican immigrants, and this is causing a lot of racial tension. Nobody seems to be denying that. Shenandoah also happens to be the town in which three White teenagers beat a Mexican migrant to death.

    Luis Ramirez’s immigration status has nothing to do with the fact that he’s dead. Those boys had no way of knowing his visa status. They beat him and he died from head injuries sustained during his beating. They also called him racial slurs while they were killing him. That’s the real issue here. Let’s not lose sight of that.

    Last time I checked, it was illegal to beat anyone to death, even if it was someone who entered the country without getting the proper visa.

    I wonder what your argument would be if Luis Ramirez had entered the country with a work visa.

    And, for the record, if people in Shenandoah and the surrounding area are upset by the negative press this case has brought them, perhaps they should work on educating themselves and their children to make sure such racially motivated killings don’t happen in their town. Oh wait . . . silly me! What was I thinking! This wouldn’t even be an issue if not for all those Mexicans, right?


  11. Just a few added facts if anyone has missed them

    1. It was not a police officer it was a retired meter maid.
    2. The fight had ended Luis called for his friends and then they went after the boys.
    3. The young woman Luis was walking home was his fiance’s 13 year old sister …who is pregnant with his child
    4. No racial slurs were thrown at the beginning of the fight one of the WHITE boys yelled to the girl that it was past her bedtime should she be out this late, Luis yelled back in a threatening tone in Spanish.

    thats just a few of the facts that have been left out ..there are quite a few more.

    These boys did wrong and deserve to be punished. There is NO excuse for thier actions. What has everyone so mad and up in arms is the fact that Schuylkill County is being portrayed as a backwoods redneck area filled with nothing but hateful racists and bigots. I am not saying we dont have racists in the area, but the issue besides the murder is that he was illegal, it doesnt matter if he was Cnadian, French, Polish, Irish, ect.. Breaking the Law is Breaking the Law no matter how good of a reason you have for doing it, it is wrong.


  12. Queta,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree that there is quite a bit of antipathy against “illegals” in the Black community too, and it’s not just down South.

    Hopefully we can educate one another about the histories of exploitation and persecution that Black people and Latinos share.

    What we need is solidarity between people of color.

    Sadly, some Black people view Latinos as “job thieves,” in much the way as poor White people.

    We just gotta educate people.


  13. Roy,

    What’s scarier is the fact that down in the South, a lot of blacks there are against ‘illegals’.

    This is something I cannot understand. Why would we (I’m black) want to push that hate onto someone else?

    It seems like it’s analogous to a sophomore hazing a freshman because it was done to him the year before. It’s like a cycle that will never end.

    I don’t think racism will ever go away. As long as people look different, we won’t stop making judgments.

    White people have been told all their lives that they’re the best.

    Flaxen hair and blue eyes is the ultimate beauty.

    Everything that’s pure is white and any blemish or hint of coloring is an impurity. Darkness is evil, emptiness and loneliness.

    Yes, these connotations may go away if we’re all dead, but who wants the end of the human race?


  14. Thanks for the link to Citizen Orange. We could really use your help fighting online nativism. If you’re interested send me an email at kyle at citizenorange dot com.


  15. creeping,

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at in your comment. Did you just compare Islam with the US justice system? One’s a religion, the other’s a national administration. Does Islam have the power to try and convict terrorists?

    And speaking of terrorism and terror, guess which emotion Luis Ramirez’s friends and family, along with millions of Latinos and other minorities, are feeling in reaction to this attack.

    It’s terror, just in case you’re having trouble figuring it out.

    And if you want to see non-Muslims condoning an act that terrorizes entire communities, just pay a visit to the Stormfront website.


  16. basically the way islam treats non-muslims…hence the global jihad and quest to establish the global caliphate…with the exception that the justice system here will punish this act while islam justifies and even promotes jihad


  17. Here we go again! First off, this is a hate crime…period. And that Police Chief Matthew Nestor who say he doesn’t know that it’s a hate crime, has already begun the “cover-up” to save his white people from more years in jail than they have to serve. White people will never, ever be fully right in the world as long as they can get away with crimes like this and turn around and cover for each other. Racism will never go away until all of our present generations has passed away. But what is here to stay is justice! And that needs to be exercised in this case immediately! Those kids are killers. They taunted that poor man until he gave them an excuse to beat him and they beat him to death in front of everyone…just like they did to black people for years and years. Now it’s just too hard to beat and kill, lynch, burn, and torture blacks. So now you have the Mexacans to kick around. Those devils who killed that man need to burn for that! And they need to burn badly! They made his wife a widow now with 3 kids. They need to burn for that.


  18. Hard knock life, Shagnaz, and CitizenOrange,

    Thanks for your comments. Hearing/reading about the murder of Luis Ramirez left me deeply troubled, with an unshakeable sense that something is terribly wrong with our country. Reading the comments posted on Stormfront didn’t help matters either.

    It seems some people believe that undocumented migrants do not have the right to life (not to mention liberty and the pursuit of happiness) in this country. We’ve basically managed to criminalize an entire population with the label “illegal immigrant.” But our legal system is set up this way. For example, EU citizens do not need a visa to visit the US and they can stay for as long as 90 days. If you go out to Ocean City, MD or any of the North/South Carolina beaches, you would be surprised by the number of European kids working as lifeguards, waiting tables, or bartending. But these kids have special visa programs that allow them to come here and work for the summer. Many come back several summers in a row. Fruit and vegetable pickers like Luis Ramirez have no special visa that would allow them to be here “legally,” but there is no shortage of employers willing to hire them, usually at a low wage. And I remember there was a time when in some states, it was “illegal” for any Black man to be caught off a plantation without proper papers. No need to remind y’all of the consequences in these instances.

    The problem is that there is a real need for migrant labor, which is why people keep coming. It’s not like these guys are coming here and sitting around unemployed. There is a direct link between employment and their presence in this country. But there is no official program to recognize those migrants who come here for work or to regulate their movement into and presence in the US. Instead, we devalue and dehumanize them with the term “illegal aliens” and leave them at the mercy of White supremacists. After all, the kids who killed Luis Ramirez had no way of knowing his immigration status, but they assumed he was an “illegal” because he was Mexican.

    At the end of the day, and Irish or Romanian summer worker who overstays her/his visa technically becomes “illegal.” But a group of White teenagers looking to beat up an “illegal” would never go looking for them.

    Such is the way of the racist, I suppose.


  19. Thanks for the link. Email me at kyle at citizenorange dot com if you’re interested in taking the internet back from nativism. I can’t say it’ll help with cases like this, but you never know.


  20. This makes me extremely angry!!! I use to live in good ole PA, by way of Pittsburgh. It often said that if you eliminate “da burgh” and “Philly” from PA, you have essentially Arkansas. Living in Western PA, I was very aware that it had the highest concentration of KKK activity, so what happened to Ramirez reflects the general indifference and complete pathological hatred of any sort of difference that can be found outside of “big city limits”.

    Yet, while living in “da burgh”, there were many famous cases of African-American men routinely being harassed by the police and in one particularly case of an African-American man being picked up on a bogus charge and being beaten to death because he appeared “suspicious”- i.e. he was passing through an all-white neighborhood. In that particularly case, I believe the police involved got off on all charges and were able to return back to work- business as usual. It is commonly understood among the African-American community that it’s best to stay out of certain neighborhoods (usually all white) at night, thus reinforcing a hidden segregation.

    People keep going on about the Southern legacy of racism, but wake up and smell the java, the North also has its fair share of hostile racism too! While I consider Pittsburgh an East Coast-meets-Mid-West city, there have been many cases of police brutality among non-white and often poor residents in the city-looks can be deceiving. The influx of illegal migrant workers is also happening- part and parcel of a globalized economy. I suspect that in the smaller communities outside of Philly and Pittsburgh, already economically depressed from lack of job opportunities (think of Billy Joel’s Allentown), the local population will jump on the racist bandwagon to eliminate what they view is an outright threat to their economic and social well-being.

    From personal experience, I always sensed Pittsburgh’s racial/ethnic tensions, but after September 11th, listening to KDKA, WKQV and other talk-radio formated stations, and all the rabid Islamophobia and “let’s nuke ’em to bits” rhetoric, it left a utter chill down my spine. Even in very “liberal” areas, you’d see people all hyped up ultra-patriotic gear (the U.S. flags made in China, the “We Stand United” bumper stickers), I realized how quickly these so-called “liberal” people could change the tune of their song, and it left me feeling very unsafe and unsettled.

    I remember under Mayor Murphy, there were many projects designed, which I participated in and collaborated on to help jump-start highly skilled immigrants to settle in Pittsburgh, in part to create job growth. After one year working on some of these ventures, I realized it is the city and the mentality of many of its inhabitants that need to change for diversity to exist. If it wasn’t for places like Oakland, Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, Strip District, and the South Side, then they would hardly be any diversity or cool things to go/do.

    The rest of PA needs an mentality “face-lift”. Highly-skilled and creative people (like myself) aren’t willing to live in areas where bigotry is institutionally accepted policy.


  21. Keep us updated Abdul. I’m curious as to how this will turn out. Although I can guess the perpetrators will get off scotch free… or perhaps with just fines and probation.

    Very unfortunate the value of a human being is measured by their ethnicity. If that one factor — race — were to be switched, FOX, CNN, BBC PBS would pick it up as headline news. But the way it is is just an unfortunate situation: “a street fight that went wrong.”


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