Tag: crime rates

#MoreThanALabel

Recently, the good people at Simmons College asked me to take part in their blog carnival.

carnival-1

Well, how could I say no to anything with the word “carnival” in it? Will there be rides? Will there be virtual cotton candy? Can I get my picture taken next to the bearded lady? (Note: it is no longer socially acceptable to make fun of women with facial hair, so please mentally delete that last sentence).

In any case, it turns out that the blog carnival is part of the #MoreThanALabel campaign to shine a positive light on immigrant communities, defy labels, and combat the stigmas of being an immigrant.

Now, I am not an immigrant. I was born in New York City, which many conservatives will tell you is not part of the “real America,” but alas for them, it technically counts as the USA.

As I’ve stated many times, being born here is not an accomplishment. It is pure luck.

However, my mother is an immigrant. She came here from El Salvador in the late 1960s, and she has now been an American citizen for longer than she was a resident of her native land.

Many of my cousins are immigrants. They came here as kids and have become citizens, started careers, and raised their own children.

One of my cousins has done multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, really, how patriotic can you get?

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter how successful the immigrants in my family have been. Nor does it matter that immigrants have lower crime rates than native-born Americans. And it doesn’t even count that immigrants pay plenty of taxes and have a net positive impact on the economy.

That’s because a huge percentage of Americans are convinced that their lives suck because of all those people who were born south of Texas. And those Americans cannot be reasoned with.

So while it’s great that the #MoreThanALabel campaign is working to improve the image of immigrant communities, I’m just too cynical to contribute much of an uplifting narrative.

You see, I’m through with trying to convince xenophobes that immigrants belong in America. That is backward logic. It is the racists who represent the worst of the USA, and they always have.

And before everybody gets crazy, let me issue an obvious disclaimer: I’m not saying that everyone who has issues with immigration reform or is a conservative is a racist. Again, I’m not saying that. It would be absurd.

But the racial element is there, winding around the debate. It makes movements like #MoreThanALabel a necessity. No other group has to take such great efforts to convince a segment of the American population that they are human beings.

Still, the good news is that immigrants will persevere. Each new generation of arrivals struggles to its feet and establishes itself as part of American culture. It is an inevitable process, and it will go on and on.

So, if you need me, I’ll be hitting this blog carnival’s Tilt-a-Whirl. See you there.

 


Bang

A few weeks ago, the head of the NYPD criticized Latinos and blacks for tolerating gun violence. Commissioner Ray Kelly’s timing could not have been more exquisite, for as we all know, some nut in Colorado has decided to take part in that most American of activities: the mass shooting of strangers.

Although it’s true that “America’s Hispanic population suffers from firearm violence at rates far greater than the U.S. population overall,” the idea that Latinos are more accepting of violence is darkly hilarious. After all, most of the mass shootings that grab headlines have taken place in predominately white small towns and suburbs.

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Special

Remember that commencement speaker in Massachusetts? He told graduating students, “None of you is special. You are not special. You are not exceptional.”

The internet was ablaze with comments, most of them positively gleeful. Many people believe that the speaker revealed harsh truths and deflated the younger generation’s supersized egos.

Of course, a lot of the adults who cheered the speech are unhappy with how their own lives turned out, which is why they got off on a guy sticking it to a captive audience of teenagers. In any case, the graduates who most needed to hear such a message (i.e., the arrogant, haughty ones) are the kids most likely to dismiss it. When he was done, they flipped open their cell phones and said, “Some bitter old man tried to step on our day. Whatever, loser.”

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Muy Peligroso

I’ve written before about my family’s roots in El Salvador. I’ve also written about how I have never been there, but hope to go someday.

Well, it looks like I sure can pick lovely vacation spots. A recent report pegged my family’s homeland as the most dangerous country in the world. The homicide rate is 71 per 100,000 inhabitants — the highest rate on the planet.

For the sake of comparison, such terrifying places as Colombia (35 per 100,000), South Africa (34 per 100,000), and Haiti (22 per 100,000) all register at less than half the homicide rate of El Salvador.

I am less than thrilled to hear this, if for no other reason than Cousin #7 now lives there, and I am naturally concerned about him. But I also don’t like hearing that one of the few countries I really want to visit someday has so many murders that you have to wonder if the babies carry handguns.

The culprit, as it is in much of Latin America, is the out-of-control drug war. El Salvador had actually gotten on the right track after its gruesome civil war ended in the 1990s. But the cartels and their bloody business model have wiped out the nation’s meager improvements.

I suppose I can use this new information to create some kind of tough-guy origin myth. I mean, how many Americans can say that their family emigrated from the most dangerous country in the world? Come on, how badass are we?…

Actually, that’s not very satisfying, and nobody’s impressed anyway — so skip it.

By the way, the United States clocks in at 5 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, which is a pretty good number compared with the rest of the planet. But if you really want to feel safe, go to Iceland, which has the lowest crime rate in the world and a murder rate of zero.

Think about that — nobody gets killed in Reykjavik. The same cannot be said of El Salvador.


Weapon of Choice

In 1989, Charles Stuart murdered his pregnant wife. To cover up his crime, he told police that a black man had done it. The cops, and pretty much everybody else, believed him.

Then the lie unraveled, and Stuart killed himself by jumping off a bridge.

Stuart is perhaps the most infamous example of someone who commits a crime or indulges in bad behavior, and then pins the blame on a black man. In fact, there is a history of people who have embraced this very effective ploy.

However, the gambit seems to be played out. In 2010, making up some story that an African American jumped you is so cliché. Contemporary Americans have paid attention to the political zeitgeist, and thus informed, decided that the most logical scapegoat is a Latino male.

For example, Heidi Jones, a weather anchor for ABC’s New York City affiliate and an occasional forecaster on Good Morning America, has recently been suspended from her job and has been arrested for lying to the police.

Jones claimed that a man tried to rape her while she was jogging in Central Park a couple of months ago. After investigating her claims, however, “investigators found inconsistencies in her story and could find no witnesses or suspects” and eventually got Jones to admit that she had “spun the tale as a ‘plea for sympathy’ because of trouble in her personal life.”

Jones has been charged with two counts of filing a false police report, and she faces a year in jail or a thousand-dollar fine.

One’s first reaction to this is disgust. Jones’ actions are incredibly harmful to real rape victims, many of whom often face hostile accusations of making the whole thing up. Here we have a public figure who has fabricated a sexual assault, providing ammunition to misogynists everywhere.

Pity is also a common reaction. How messed up must this woman’s existence be to create such a grotesque tale “in a plea for sympathy to counter some unknown setback that she was experiencing in her personal life”?

Once we get past those responses, however, we see the modern twist on the Stuart trope. Jones knew that to have any credibility, her fictional rapist had to be Hispanic.

Saying the guy was black seems suspicious, because that’s what Stuart and other liars claimed. However, a white perpetrator strains credibility, because… well… you know.

So Hispanic it is. After all, we make handy targets in political ads, and we have been blamed for everything from skyrocketing crime rates to the housing collapse. As such, creating a Latino thug who jumps women in the dark is a logical choice for the imaginary crime victim.

Lisa Navarrete, a spokeswoman for La Raza, commented on Jones’ hoax. Navarrete said it “reflects the mindset of many more people who think that if you want to make up a story and you want people to believe it, you should blame an African American man or a Latino.”

Navarrete is mostly correct. However, she’s clearly stuck in the past when she claims African Americans are as likely to be the object of a false claim. I mean, it’s not 1989 anymore.


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