Thursday, July 31, 2008

CNN and the Framing of Luis Ramirez's Murder

H/T my cousin Trin and Sylvia for her thoughts tweeted via twitter. Emphasis mine, throughout this post.

25-year-old Luis Ramirez, a young man from Guanajuato, Mexico, was killed July 14 by a group of white teens in Shenandoah, PA. CNN has a write up of the events and the aftermath. I do not mean any disrespect towards Mr. Ramirez or his family, but I want to shift focus for a moment.

I cannot believe how the article at CNN.com, by Emanuella Grinberg, is written.

I just refreshed the page to see if someone had checked the rampant bias/idiocy/unbelievableness. No. the second line of the article reads:
Blows had struck the 25-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant with such force that they left a clotted, bruised impression of Jesus Christ on the skin of his chest from the religious medal he wore.
Way to be passive, Ms. Grinberg. Blows didn't just strike of their own accord. Someone, some people, beat this young man.

And he was just that, a young man, a human being. Why does his citizenship status matter?

The story highlights at the top of the page included:
4 teens, all good students and athletes, charged with hate crime
That the accused were athletic and smart does not any way mitigate the severity of these charges or their actions or the fact that Luis Ramirez is dead.

Ramirez's status as an undocumented immigrant is brought up again a couple of paragraphs later. And then there is this gem, presented without comment from Ms. Grinberg
Defense attorneys for two of the teens say Ramirez responded to the name-calling with his own insults, which escalated the confrontation into a fight that got out of hand.
The man had the gall to respond and thus caused his own death?

Then we have the typical, "This had nothing to do with race," argument.
Residents question whether the attack was racially motivated or just an alcohol-fueled confrontation among kids.
Mm-hmm. They question despite the fact that the smart athletic teens told the girl, whom Ramirez was accompanying:
Get your Mexican boyfriend out of here.
Despite the fact that these same angels used racial slurs.

Despite the fact that a witness heard them yell:
You effin bitch, tell your effin Mexican friends get the eff out of Shenandoah or you're gonna be laying effin next to him.
Despite the fact that some residents acknowledge that
[V]iolence has been brewing between the races for some time.
I'm not sure what, exactly, would erase any questions.

Further evidence that the attack wasn't racially motivated? These kids grew up in a historically diverse area!
While Schuylkill County is 96 percent white, Shenandoah has taken pride in its ethnic diversity. European immigrants came to work anthracite mines in the late 19th century. Pizza joints, German bakeries and Polish grocers on Main Street serve as reminders of that time.
Wherein diversity means... gradations of whiteness, I guess?


The article then lays out exactly how the attorneys plan to continue their victim-blaming and tarnishing of Luis Ramirez's name.
Frederick Fanelli, who represents [Brandon] Piekarsky [one of the accused]... told CNN he plans to investigate whether Ramirez has a criminal background. He also questions why the engaged father of three was walking on the street with the girl, and the nature of their relationship. Ramirez's fiancee says he was walking her younger sister home.

A lawyer for [Colin] Walsh said he is equally skeptical about the ethnic intimidation charge. "They called each other names. The victim was calling them obscenities, vulgar names, and they said things back to him that would hurt him," Roger Laguna said. "It just means it was a foul-mouthed argument, not ethnic intimidation."
Yes, because 1) If he was a criminal, why then the attack is somehow justifiable and 2) in any interracial argument, people must logically hurl racial epithets at each other.

Angelic-ness arises again shortly thereafter:
"You would be proud to have any of these kids in your classroom, and any of them as your children," said Fanelli, Piekarsky's lawyer. "To this point in their lives, they have done everything right."

Besides his academic achievement, Piekarsky worked part-time at Sears and made the varsity football team as a sophomore. He is a National Honors student.

His mother postponed her wedding to a Shenandoah police officer because of the incident.

[snip]

Donchak was the team's quarterback last year and graduated in May. He planned to attend Bloomsburg University in the fall. He is out on bail.
Postponed marriage, postponed college. That damned illegal immigrant went out and got himself killed and disrupted everyone's perfect lives! There's even a link to Colin Walsh's father talking about his family's nightmare. I don't doubt that this is devastating for the Walsh family, but if we shift focus to Mr. Ramirez's loved ones...

I don't meant to be unnecessarily flippant. I am too angry about this. Shame on MS. Grinberg and CNN for not questioning the erroneous assumption that
white children, who live in the same racially coded and stratified society as children of color, do not construct notions of race and hierarchy, cannot knowingly use symbols and language of racism
Shame on them for not challenging the idea that Luis Ramirez's life was somehow worth less, that he deserved less than humane treatment, because of his immigration status.

13 comments:

heidi said...

Hi, I found your blog when I was googling for the cnn article about Ramirez's death. It seems it has rotated off cnn's frontpage and is impossible to find again.

Your entry is very well written and I agree completely with the issues you raised. I was just as angry when I read this article this afternoon. I couldn't believe how many times they had to remind us that Ramirez was undocumented. The video with Colin's father was pretty disgusting. I can't believe they made it seem like these boys are the victims of the incident. Ramirez had a fiancee, and he was probably a better father and role model to his kids than those athletes will ever be.

Katie said...

GRRR.

I read that at work today, wondering why it took CNN so long to pick up this story and FURIOUS that their way of introducing it was ASKING whether or not this murder was racially based.

And I am left, again, with OF COURSE IT WAS. Alcohol may alter peoples' mind states, but it doesn't magically give them a vocabulary filled with racial slurs and the drive to kill. But fiercely violent racist beliefs - those do that whether you're sober or intoxicated.

(And I'm not shocked that it's hard to find the link to the article on CNN either. When they posted the article about Baron Pikes, it was on the front page around noon, and took me ten minutes to find that evening.)

- Katie

Mommy to Ander and Wife to Box said...

I'm with you on CNN's crap reporting.

As an attorney, I don't believe "hate crimes" should be a different crime. I believe that murder, for example, is a hate crime no matter the race of the perp and the victim. You have a right to hate (as horrible as hating is) under the First Amendment. You don't have a right to beat up, maim, rape, or kill.

But maybe if the media actually reported the "hate" part of the crime, people would realize how bad hate can be and start teaching their children to love, instead. That something should not be illegal does not mean is should not be wrong.

partsnpieces said...

Thanks for writing this, Elle. I read this article on CNN yesterday, and I was jus horrified at their choice of words and their "spin" on this entire tragedy. I don't know about you, but I'm fed up to here [hand above my head] with these white young men (frat boy types?) having their wrongdoings (and that's so the wrong word here, but you get my meaning) glossed over.

I appreciate what you have written here.

Kimberly said...

Elle, great post. Disgusting article. CNN should be ashamed of themselves. I wish I could say I was surprised.

Renee said...

Yes, I also blogged about this tragic murder. I found that they were more than ready to dehumanize him based on his race and his nationality. They specifically paint his murderers who accidentally got a little carried away one night. If Ramierz hadn't been out with the white mans pride in the first place this never would have happened attitude. What they don't realize is if Luis had been the murderer instead of looking at the positives in his life they would be screaming for blood and increased border control.

elle said...

Sorry, y'all, I've been out all day!

Welcome, Heidi and Katie!

MtAWtB, I'd like to talk to you more about our views on hate crimes, but I'm just so tired right now. I'm going to try to revisit this thread.

Renee, I read your piece and couldn't stop nodding.

Hey, Kim. I'm moving Friday... I need to call you.

Jeremy Young said...

"Violence has been brewing between the races"

Yeah, right. And "Mistakes were made," right? This wasn't the fault of the men who beat Ramirez to death, any more than Iran-Contra was Reagan's fault.

It's never the fault of the people in charge.

latinas for self defense said...

I love your take on the issue. My name is Tanya I am a pert of an organization/ campaign called Somos Latinas for Self- Defense. Me and 50 others traveled to preliminary court hearin of the murder of our brother Luis all the way from chicago. If people want to say that this is not a hate-crime they are blind. We got a chance to speak with crystal (luis' Wife) and she said, these boys didn't even know he was undocumented because she didn't even know he was undocumented. So these white boys beat him to death for the simple fact that he LOOKED mexican. The whole time we were shueykill we were receiving looks of hate. We went there and stood at attention not saying a word, but recieving tons of negativity from two white people. I ask, where is the hate comming from?? Boycott Lou Dobbs and CNN for the sin of spreading this movement of hate against the Latino and Immigrant community!

elle said...

tanya, if you happen to stop back by, could you e-mail me?

QuakerDave said...

The message that this verdict sends is clear: it's open season on immigrants in America.

We are going to see more of this, cheered on by the Corporate Media and the Far Right.

Here's hoping the new Justice Department under Obama will do what is right and g after these killers on civil rights violations.

Here's HOPING...

Irene said...

This was a disgusting, cold-blooded hate murder. Media silence is even more disgusting. I'm so ashamed and upset, I kept flipping channels in hope to find any talk shows discussing the horrible matter and found none. I'm sure you can imagine that squawking voice of Nancy Grace, who feeds off the poor Cayley Anthony's death for months now, screaming over a similar picture of a white boy in the hospital after beating. Where is that big lawyer Greta Van Susteren? L. Dobbs, Glenn Beck et al, you might be raising some valid issues regarding illegal immigration in general but you've also raised so much hate towards Mexican people that a few drops of Mr. Ramirez's blood in on your hands too. Where are you now? Hiding? Cowards. You should be educated enough to understand that in tough economic times ethnic and racial differences grow tenfold and one tiny match is enough to ignite flocks of self-proclaimed "superior human" morons who will start their own "cleansing missions". I wonder what will happen to our cities and residential suburbs if Mexican workers and nannies will stop cleaning, maintaining and nose-wiping for just 1 month? I bet that little all-white town does not prepare its kids for lawn-mowing jobs. I am a white American female, I do not approve of illegal immigration from any country but today I spit in your faces, you lousy media cowards and hate-mongers.

erika said...

I've been following this trial and I just read that those boys only got 6- 23 months. this infuriates me - is there anything we can do? Or just stand by and let this crime be brushed under a ruge.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...