Report: Hate Violence and Rhetoric on the Rise against Latinos
Feature Story by Tyler Lewis - 5/17/2006On April 22, two white teens brutally beat and sodomized Texas teen, David Ritcheson, with a pipe. They screamed racial epithets and doused Ritcheson with bleach in an attempt to hide their fingerprints.
Ritcheson is Latino.
The attack on Ritcheson is the latest, and most highly publicized, hate crime against Latinos. "We are shocked at the brutality of this attack, but we are not surprised that hatred could lead to such unbridled violence," said Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Southwest regional director Martin B. Cominsky after the incident. "Hatred may begin with words, but unchecked, it can lead to attacks like this one.
Hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise, according to a two recent reports.
Mark Potok, editor of the The Southern Poverty Law Center's quarterly report on extremist organizations, told USA Today that immigration "has been critical to the growth of the hate movement." SPLC reports that the number of hate groups has risen 30 percent since 2000.
ADL's report, released on April 24, states that white supremacists, skinheads, and other extremist groups are using the immigration debate to incite violence against Latinos, regardless of status, around the country.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, said that the report shows "a direct connection between the national policy debate and the atmosphere surrounding the daily lives of immigrants."
According to ALD's report, immigration reform "is being co-opted and exploited" by some extreme anti-immigration proponents who are using white supremacists rhetoric to drum up support. "Politicians and civic leaders have a responsibility not to engage in divisive appeals based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion," said Michael Lieberman, director of the ADL's Civil Rights Policy Planning Center.
Hate groups have held a number of anti-immigrant rallies, many in direct response to the rallies by humane immigration reform supporters, according to ADL's report. In addition, hate-filled rhetoric against the "invasion" of Latinos has risen on websites and on the radio.
The ADL report also documents several examples of hate violence by white supremacists against Latinos that have occurred in the past three years. The Ritcheson incident occurred after the release of the report.
ADL and the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Latino civil rights organization, have created a public policy action agenda to combat the growing hate violence against Latinos. It includes: a call for law enforcement to investigate threats of violence; implementation of anti-bias education programs in schools; termination of divisive rhetoric based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion; and comprehensive, humane immigration reform legislation.
"In any policy debate political leaders must set the tone for civil national discourse and play a productive role in shaping attitudes in opposition to all forms of stereotyping and bigotry," said ADL's Lieberman.