Terrance Heath

Hatred We Can't Ignore

Filed By Terrance Heath | December 14, 2008 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: cross burning, hate crimes against LGBT people, John McCain, McCain campaign, McCain/Palin, racial progress, Sarah Palin

If nothing else, this election revealed how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.

Yes, there’s the irony of celebrating the historic election of Barack Obama while simultaneously mourning the passage of Proposition 8 and the other anti-gay ballot initiatives in Florida, Oklahoma, and Arizona. But this started way before November 4th. It started, this time, with a decision -- conscious or not -- by the McCain campaign to play to the basest of its base.

I said to myself at the time that, whether McCain won or lost, there would be a price for that tactic; one that John McCain would be among the last to ever have to pay. As president, there would have been no way he could have united the country. And even in the aftermath of his loss, we will continue to live with the belligerent bigotry and racism he and his running mate stirred up from their bottom-of-the-barrel base.


The evidence? The rise in hate crimes in the wake of the election.

Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting “Assassinate Obama.” Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.

Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the post-election glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.

From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders.

There have been “hundreds” of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

What was going on during the election? Well, it was all over YouTube. If the 2006 election had its “Macaca Moment” this one had more than its share.

Civil rights leaders have taken notice.

The brutal murder of Marcelo Lucero, a Long Island resident of Ecuadorian descent, brought seven national civil rights organizations together on Monday to denounce the recent wave of hate crimes against communities of color.

“In the wake of an election that sends a message to the world about freedom, it seems incongruous to raise the specter of hate in America,” said Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) during the event in Washington, D.C. “Hate did not win the election, but it has certainly reared its head in local communities across the country.”

…The murder of Marcelo Lucero is the latest on a list of immigrant attacks that has grown by 40 percent in the last four years, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. At the event, civil rights leaders detailed different attacks, such as the one committed on election night against a Liberian-American teenager, assaulted by two other adolescents shouting racial epithets and “Obama” in Staten Island, New York.

Representatives of the seven organizations described their fear of a backlash in hate crimes after Barack Obama’s victory in the presidential election. “This is a time of mixed emotions for a lot of folks; this is a very hopeful moment for our country. A lot of people are excited in the communities that we represent about the ascendancy of Barack Obama, but at the same time, some of us at the leadership of our communities are nervous that there might be a backlash,” Murguia said.

The most recent hate crime happened in New York.

An Ecuadorean immigrant who was brutally beaten in Brooklyn last weekend in what the police have described as a possible bias attack was declared brain-dead on Tuesday, a law enforcement official said. But the man was being kept on life support while his family decides whether to donate his organs, the official said.

There have been no arrests in the attack, which came four weeks after the fatal stabbing of an Ecuadorean immigrant on Long Island by a group of teenagers who had been looking for a Latino to attack. The attacks have jolted nerves in the city's Latino communities and have drawn wide condemnation from city officials and Ecuadorean community leaders, many of whom joined relatives of the Brooklyn beating victim on Tuesday.

At a press conference outside Elmhurst Hospital Center, where the man, Jose O. Sucuzhanay, was being treated, his brother Diego Sucuzhanay said he was alive but in critical condition. Family members were waiting for Mr. Sucuzhanay's parents to arrive from Ecuador before making any medical decisions.

…Speaking outside the hospital, Diego Sucuzhanay said his brother had been singled out for his "skin color" and sounded a warning to other immigrants. "Today my brother is the victim, but tomorrow it could be your brother, your mother, your father," Mr. Sucuzhanay said.

…The brothers were walking home from a bar, arms around each other, the police said. At the corner of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place, three men riding in what a witness described as a maroon or red sport utility vehicle spied the brothers and shouted anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs.

One of the men hit Jose over the head with a bottle, and the driver of the car swung an aluminum baseball bat at his head, the police said. He fell to the floor as the three attackers, who were black, continued kicking and punching him, the police said. The beating ended only when Romel held up his cellphone and said he was calling the police.

Reading about what happened to Jose Sucuzhanay and his brother brought my mind back to the LGBT Hate Crimes Project. I posted an udpate about Duanna Johnson’s murder a while back, and there are other updates including sentences in the murders of Edgar Garzon and Steve Domer.

But I’ve spent a lot of time away from it, I have to admit, because the work requires spending a lot of time with the details of the crimes, which --even from a distance -- tend to stay with me. I think about the victim’s last moments, and their life leading up to the crime against them. I think about the survivors and families who have to deal with the physical, psychological and emotional aftermath. I think about the communities where people wonder afterwards if they might be next, because they are not (as these crimes serve to illustrate) safe due to who they are.

So, I want to look away at times. But the lesson of this election, and hatreds witnessed in its wake, is that we can’t turn away. We can’t turn away when “Change we can believe in,” have believed in, hoped for, fought for, hoped for, prayed for, etc., comes to pass, because it unleashes hatred we can’t ignore.

I’m planning to write up up Sucuzhanay’s story, if only because the anti-gay slurs could make it an LGBT-related hate crime, and I’m updating a few that I researched earlier as well as planning to research some newer stories.

I’ll post them here, of course, if only so the information is gathered somewhere.

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This tragic incident reminds me of two people who were killed because of the PERCEPTION that they were gay, Barry Winchell and Willie Houston.

Thank for posting it.

That is why I never go to DOR events or vigils anymore. It is too much to take except in small doses.

I am fairly 'new' to the whole minority sort of thing. Though I was picked on when I was young, I pretty much forgot all about it and lived a 'straight' and fairly normal life for 40 years, give or take a decade. I blended in like a chameleon until I started transition in 2003.

I guess people who have dealt with prejudice and being hated for what, as well as who, you are for most of their life have an advantage over me when it comes to dealing with it. I am busy trying to play catch up when it comes to the mental and emotional toughness that is needed to deal with it constantly.

You reap what you sow. McCain tried to grow a bumper crop of classism, racism, and homophobia.