Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, Regarding Hate Crimes Against Latinos: “Oops. My Bad.”

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published at Guanabee

You might recall our recent look at the murder of Long Island resident Marcelo Lucero and his community’s reaction to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation. Levy said the murder of Lucero was a “one-day story” that was receiving “undue” media coverage. Well, Levy has since apologized for those remarks:

“It was absolutely the wrong time for me to suggest that coverage of events in Suffolk is treated differently by the media,” Levy said in a letter to Newsday. “The horrible incident is indeed more than a one-day story. It was a reminder of how far we as a society still have to go.”

We understand that murderers commit murder, and that the seven teen boys charged with carrying out the actual beating and slaying of Lucero are the ones who most need to pay for their crime. But, while they are the ones who need to carry the bulk of the burden of culpability in this case, their guilt is shared by people like Steve Levy. Some people commit murder with bullets and blades, some do it with their words and examples. Steve Levy is not a murderer, but he worked to perpetuate a culture of murder, an allegation echoed by activist Tony Asion and Dean Kevin Johnson in their recent interview with NPR concerning hate crimes against Latinos.

The “one-day story” made its way into the New York Times. The NYT article quoted Levy as calling the seven murders “white supremacists.” Which, we think, is a step back.

See, by further villainizing the defendants as monstrous members of a small, fringe group, one takes away from the reality that hate exists anywhere and everywhere and that it doesn’t take a monster, necessarily, to perpetuate hate. It merely takes ignorance. People we love, people we freely label as being “good folks” who lead “decent lives” are also guilty of perpetuating hatred. It’s important to deal with xenophobia against Latinos as a reality, not as some fantastic story in the media that does not touch our own lives or exists somewhere beyond the television screen, never fully reaching into our own living rooms.

This is why it’s important to educate people. Not that murder is wrong — if one doesn’t sense that simply by being a member of society, one is probably beyond hope — but that Latinos are human. It’s the dehumanization of a group that gives otherwise “good folks” the freedom to treat them as subhuman. Many loving mothers and fathers and best friends shared culpability in lynchings, in the Holocaust, in civil wars that tear villages apart. Many good people did terrible things because they were under the impression that they were not slaying people, but animals. Parasites. Vermin. This wasn’t murder, it was extermination. This, then, should be the goal of educating against hatred and intolerance – lending a human face and a beating heart to a name on a page or an anonymous figure on your block. And county executives? Are not exempt.

Levy: I was wrong about hate-crime coverage in media [Newsday]
A Killing in a Town Where Latinos Sense Hate [NY Times]