Written by Maryann Sinclair Slutsky Friday, 22 March 2013 00:00
Four and a half years after the savage hate crime, we still struggle to understand how those involved in the attack could act with such horrific violence. And at the same time we struggle to understand the climate of anger towards immigrants from which this savagery emerged, a rising tide of hatred that clearly helped buoy the attackers to action. The attack was clearly a particularly brutal eruption of a very big problem and in a very real way, the angry teenagers who killed Marcelo Lucero are rightly serving prison sentences for the act, but they didn’t act alone.
Holding the guilty accountable while we account for the undeniable effects of the culture on them is a key theme of Susan Hagedorn’s compelling new documentary film Deputized. (Full disclosure: the foundation started by Susan’s late father has been a major funder to my employer, Long Island Wins).
Deputized – which you should go see the first chance you can, (a screening schedule is posted to www.deputizedmovie.com) — provides a much-needed reckoning, giving voice to countless perspectives on the attack (including the attackers and their families) while letting precisely no one off the hook for the attack and for the toxic culture that led to it.
What’s clear from this movie is that this debate is as alive today in this time and place as it’s ever been. The movie shows that the line between bullying and criminality, between provocation and action, is thinner than any of us would like to admit.
Nassau County hasn’t faced the strife on this issue that Suffolk has. And with comprehensive immigration reform receiving its most respectful hearing in ages in Washington these days, it seems like we might have already passed our moment of “peak hatred,” if you will, on immigration issues.
But the movie reminds us that the attacks took place at a moment of optimism as well – just days after the 2008 election of President Obama led many to believe that America had entered a new era of tolerance. The truth is that ugly facts present themselves even during hopeful times, and it’s up to us to take notice.
As Long Island Wins’ own Pat Young points out in the movie, one of the assailants said in his confession that the recurring recreational assaults on immigrants known as “beaner hopping” was a regular occurrence, even a banal one for the students in question. Specifically he said, “I don’t go out doing this very often, maybe only once a week.”
That so much violence was taking place with so little notice should shake our complacency about our new and supposedly better circumstances. See the movie. Join us in recognizing the depth of the challenges we face. And let’s get to work.
Maryann Sinclair Slutsky is the executive director of Long Island Wins, a nonprofit communications organization promoting commonsense policy solutions to local immigration issues. longislandwins.com.