Disclaimer: This post is not in any way sticking up for the perpetrator in this awful story. This post is meant to call out the ignorance of far too many people.
Caution – this post discusses a horrible situation that could be triggering for some people.
So I’m sure you’ve all read the disgusting and horrific news story about three women who were held against their will in a Cleveland home. Yeah, it’s awful and makes me feel nauseous, horrified and helpless. But I felt frustrated for another reason as I read through the comments sections of the articles about this case (again, I don’t know why I so often allow myself to read the comments section – no good ever comes from it). Anyways, as I read through the comments sections, I saw several comments from people saying that the perpetrator, Ariel Castro, should be deported and/or comments referencing “illegals” and all the terrible ordeals they cause.
So, first of all, there is the undocumented issue, which I will not get into too much right now, but it makes my blood boil when people a) assume every Latino person in this country is undocumented and/or b) haven’t taken the time to understand why someone would risk coming here without documentation (hint: it usually ain’t pretty).
Second of all – WHAT?! This dude is from Puerto Rico so he’s a US citizen.
Okay, so why am I pointing this out when talking about some guy who committed unthinkable horrors? Because it’s not about him. It’s about Latinos and the way they are viewed in US society. It’s about the fact that so many Americans don’t understand that people from Puerto Rico are US citizens and/or that so many Americans see a Latino name and don’t take the time to learn where this individual is from or their immigration status but instead just label them “illegal” – which is a super demeaning way to describe someone.
I’m pointing this out also because of the fact that unless you’re White, if a member of your race/ethnicity commits a crime, you will automatically be judged, labeled and/or demonized because of this one person or group of individuals’ actions. Tim Wise wrote about this following the Boston Marathon bombings. And I think we see that same issue happening towards Latinos in this case.
And the fact of the matter is that all oppressions are linked. Racism, sexism, etc are all interdependent. So when you read a story about a misogynist who kidnaps and assaults women and your reaction is to spew all sorts of racist comments about the assailant then you’re only contributing to the notions that facilitate such violence. You’re contributing to the idea that someone’s race, religion, immigration status, etc makes them more or less bad, worthy or human. And when ideas like that are supported and purported then some people will likely (and unfortunately) grab onto them and use them to commit violence against others.