There is a vigil and protest tonight in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, to mark the gang of seven white teenage boys murdered Marcello Lucero, because they wanted to go get a “a mexican.” Marcello Lucero was, in fact, an immigrant from Ecuador. Lucero, 37, was a gifted athlete who moved to America 16 years ago seeking a better life.
The seven racist white boys drove around searching for victims and found Lucero and another Ecuadorian man near the Long Island Railroad station. The white boys jumped out of the car and cornered the two men on the street, stabbing Lucero to death in a brutal attack. The other man escaped and was able to idenfity the attackers.
The murder – lynching, even – of Lucero, follows months of racist, anti-immigration agitation by whites in Suffolk County. The teens accused of the attack were all from Farmingville, the epicenter of anti-immigrant organizing on Long Island. Farmingville first gained national attention in 2000 when two young men abducted a pair of Mexican day laborers and beat them nearly to death. Farmingville made headlines again a few years later when five high school students burned down the house of a Mexican family, who barely escaped with their lives. That racists are unable to, or perhaps unwilling to, distinguish between someone who is Mexican and someone who is Ecuadoran, speaks to the vast well of ignorance that fuels white supremacy. Yet, I wonder if it’s not time to revisit the acceptably white-liberal terms of “Latino” and “Hispanic” as they perhaps provide cover for better-educated versions of the same inability and unwillingness to distinguish between people of different cultural backgrounds (as the photo of this man’s t-shirt suggests).
The New York Times reports on this story today and does a decent job of describing some of the social context for this murder. According to the Times, the attack against Mr. Lucero, if not his murder, was foretold:
Some report being threatened and physically harassed in the streets, with bottles thrown at them and their car windows smashed during the night. Anti-immigrant epithets and racially motivated bullying are common in the hallways of the schools, children say. “They tell us to go get a green card, ‘Go back to your community!’ ” said Pamela Guncay, 14, an Ecuadorean-American born in the United States.
From my perspective, what’s most telling in the Times article are a couple of lines near the bottom, which read:
Since Mr. Lucero’s death, local officials have almost universally played down any suggestion that ethnic and racial tension had been prevalent in the community. Nonetheless, local, county and state officials have responded to the killing with various plans, including the introduction of sensitivity task forces, outreach programs in the Latino community and community forums.
This cognitive dissonance – and the actual distance – between these two points of approaches to a racist murder suggest a great deal about where we are at this moment socially and culturally around racism. In this instance, there is, in the present tense, a racist murder committed by young white boys in the affluent, suburban, north-eastern U.S. In response, “local officials” play down the idea that there is persistent racism in the community; one community leader even called it a “reminder” of the “saddest page in our history.” At the same time, activists are pushing those same officials to respond to the racist murder in various ways. This conflicted mix – of murderous, overt racism, along side denial of racism on the one hand, and pressure to act on the other hand – is characteristic of what we are faced with at this particular moment in the U.S. if we wish to address racism.
If you want to do something to get involved in the action in support of Lucero’s family and in solidarity against the racist murderers, organizers are asking that you do the following:
Please send this to everyone you know far and wide, including those in New York. Tell them you’re taking a stand with us. The second thing I ask is to visit our blog, www.longislandwins.com and leave messages of support for Marcello Lucero’s family and the people in New York who are coming to support them in this difficult time. Take pictures with signs of support. Show the Lucero family that there are loving and caring strangers in this world. Show Suffolk County politicians that the whole world is watching.
Racism, as it turns out, is not over.