A New Hobby of Hate: Beaner Hopping

>> Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Note: All events are alleged and accused are innocent until proven guilty.

There are some things i fail to understand. Random acts of violence against minorities being one of them. Its hard for me to understand the motivation behind, say, driving around with your friends and assaulting hispanic people. What on earth does that gain anyone? Sadly this appears to be what happened in Long Island.

Here are the events as alleged by the prosecution in the case,

Mr. Spota said three defendants, Anthony Hartford, Kevin Shea and Jose Pacheco, all 17, went out driving five days before Mr. Lucero was killed with the intent of, in their words, “beaner hopping.”

They found a Hispanic man that day whom Mr. Pacheco admitted to punching and knocking out cold, Mr. Spota said. That victim has not stepped forward. Mr. Pacheco later told the police, “I don’t go out and do this very often, maybe once a week,” Mr. Spota said.

About 5 a.m. on Nov. 8, Nicholas Hausch and Jordan Dasch, both 17, fired a BB gun at Marlon Garcia, hitting him several times. In the evening, the seven friends got together and, after failing to find potential victims in Medford, set off for Patchogue, where they saw Hector Sierra walking downtown. They caught up to him and punched him before he ran away.

Shortly before midnight, the teens saw Mr. Lucero and his friend, Angel Loja. They got out of their car and taunted the men with racist slurs. Mr. Loja fled, but the group surrounded Mr. Lucero and punched him in the face. Trying to defend himself, Mr. Lucero removed his belt and swung it, striking Mr. Conroy in the head. Enraged, Mr. Conroy rushed at Mr. Lucero and plunged a knife into his chest. The youths fled, but were soon caught by the police.

Mr. Conroy was the only one charged with murder, Mr. Spota said, because the other six defendants were initially unaware that he had stabbed Mr. Lucero.


There are several important things in this story. The first is that the boys are being charged with hate crimes. Hate crimes are an interesting idea because they essentially make some murders worse than others. That strikes me as a strange concept. Do we really value human life more based on certain thought process? Are people going to be less inclined to commit hate based offenses because we make the penalties harsher? I really doubt that those who act out of hate are going to be deterred by increased penalties.

The second thing that strikes me as strange here is that one of the accused, Chris Kirby, is of hispanic decent. That makes his alleged hate crime a hispanic person attacking a hispanic person out of hate. Maybe that right but to me it seems odd. It makes me wonder whether what was happening here is a "hate" crime or merely a crime of bullies picking on people considered less powerful in society. By picking on hispanics they had the increased probability that the people they attacked would not report them. This is in fact what occurred,

Every now and then, perhaps once a week, seven young friends got together in their hamlet of Medford, on eastern Long Island, to hunt down, and hurt, Hispanic men. They made a sport of it, calling their victims “beaners,” a reference to the staple Hispanic dish of rice and beans, prosecutors said on Thursday.
...
“We know for sure that there are more victims out there.”


It just happened that this time they killed a man. Not only that but the man they killed had family, family he worked hard to support. Specifically this man was a 16 year resident of the united states who worked at a dry cleaners to send money to his ailing mother in Ecuador.

Tragically the role of hate crimes charges are likely to become increasingly relevant. In times of economic hardship as jobs become more scarce those at the bottom end of the income spectrum are placed in greater and greater economic competition. In the past this has led to increases in violence against minorities and other groups viewed as outsiders.

I doubt that there is a way to eliminate crimes based on hate as long as that hate exists generally in society. Until that happens we need to make sure that those who commit crimes against people due to race, gender, sexual identity, disability etc are brought to justice. We should do this because these people need to be brought to justice for their crimes, hate based or not. If what is alleged is true these kids did something pretty sick and the penalties should be severe whether it was against all hispanics or all whites.

There is a question about whether it is justified to aggravate a crime based on thought as i discussed earlier in the post. I will concede that that is not the justification for why hate crimes are punished more severely. The idea behind it is that the crime is against not the sole person or society in general but the select historically oppressed group. Due to this other dynamics come into play like the possibility of racial strife breaking out. To minimize this the justice system highlights the fact that those communities can feel like they gt justice by adding punishment on top of the crimes as a signal to the victimized group that the power structure is paying attention.

I am not sure that truly washes in practice, that punishing someone for the killing because they did it in hate and punishing them because killing is wrong brings any more justice. However in general if society feels that aggravating punishment because of hate is morally right and necessary it is hard to argue against it.

One thing that hate crime legislation has the potential to do that i am in complete agreement with is allow for the Federal Government to step in and prosecute and assist in cases where the local government is unable an unwilling to act. That i think is something that would increase the justice for those who commit crimes based on hate. Unfortunately, the legislation that would have made a great step forward in this area failed to make it out of the senate this last congress. Bush's veto threat and the fact it was attached to the Department of Defense (DoD) Authorization bill are blamed for the failure of the legislation.

Enacting legislation that allows for the federal government to step in when locals are incapable of prosecuting hate crimes is just one more task left to president obama. Just imagine if the alleged events that took place in long island where overlooked because the victims were hispanic. No one could claim that is justice for Mr. Lucero.

3 comments:

David Schraub November 28, 2008 at 1:59 PM  

I think this prior post of mine helps explain why "hate crimes" laws make sense. We take into account motive all the time in determining the culpability of certain acts. Killing someone because the abused you is less bad than killing someone in a drunken rage, is less bad than killing in cold blood to get an inheritance. Motive matters; state of mind matters. This isn't controversial.

Alejandra October 21, 2009 at 4:44 PM  

This is horrible! I hope those & younr boys get a fair sentence to prison.. Not 2 years but for life.. I see racism everyday and everywhere and I honestly think that white people are just feeling very little or in better words they are feeling left behind- other minority groups growing.. WHITE people need to respect everyone- I bet anyone that if those white people would tract their roots the majority are of some latino heritage.. Ignorence=== shame!

Anonymous April 26, 2010 at 4:30 PM  

Hate crimes deserve additional punishment as being premeditated and with intent to intimidate, not the direct victim, but the entire community (diaspora, sexual orientation, whatever) that they target.

These kids didn't kill an Ecuadoran man for the purpose of killing that particular poor bloke. They killed him to terrorize the local Latino community.

The only problem with hate crime laws I see is that such charges may be filed, spuriously, when two men of different descent get in a fight over something totally unrelated - say, a girl. It's pretty stupid to put a white guy in jail not for punching his girlfriend's other (non-white) boyfriend, but for calling him some racial slur during the ensuing fight, especially if the other guy gave as good as he got, and doubly so if the other guy actually started the melee. Why? Because it's not about race at all, but about some chick with loosely defined morals.

That would be abusing hate crime law. This case isn't, because it's not about yelling slurs during a fight, it's about hunting down people for their ethnicity!

O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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