Prof: Hate Crimes Against Migrants Masquerade as Reader Comments

Tuesday, 15 Jul 2014 05:02 PM

By Joe Schaeffer

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A University of Arizona professor says reader commenters of newspaper articles and letters-to-the-editor writers are using a posture of opposing illegal immigration to promote violence against people of Mexican ancestry, and are thus committing hate crimes.

In a provocative column headlined "Newspaper Comment Sections Become Cordoned-Off Hate Crime Scenes," which appeared on the progressive website Truthout, Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, an assistant professor of Mexican American Studies at the state university in Tucson, equates reader reaction to the border crisis currently dominating the news with infamous Ku Klux Klan actions of the past.

"Hate-crime scenes are dehumanizing places of revulsion. They shock the conscience and psyche of entire communities and leave searing memories," Rodriguez writes.

"One normally associates hate crimes with cross burnings and lynchings or something equally heinous; however, the shocking and unexpected new locations for hate crime scenes in the 21st century appear to be the editorial pages of the nation's leading newspapers, where calls to violence have also become routine."

Rodriguez sees opposition to "illegal aliens" as window dressing for racial hostility against Mexicans and other Hispanic groups.

"In Arizona, exposure to constant hate is a daily occurrence in the letters to the editor or comments section of media," he writes. "Within these contexts, communities are subjected to vicious anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant hate disguised as discourse against 'illegals,' or 'illegal aliens.' This hate can be found in not just the daily newspapers, but also in most of the mainstream media and their websites and, of course, right-wing talk radio."

He then proceeds to give a few examples of "vitriol that was not permitted in newspapers until very recently."

From caretaker: "FOKES THIS IS GOING TO LEAD TO US'' THE PEOPLE PROTECTING OUR COUNTRY OUR SELVES . . . THERE'S NO CHOICE, THIS IS WHAT OUR FORE FATHERS MEANT IN OUR CONSTITUTION ..."

From Fastfreddy: "Would you rather see the citizens of Arizona use the 2nd amendment as a solution to the illegal problem or rather see the courts try to solve the problem."

Rodriguez cites another example that he says illustrates how "hate germinates" via these forums:

From wkieupwarriors: "The party is over illegals. No more protection and no more government handouts you love so much. Get all of your (inappropriate term) babies and head south!"

Rodriguez adamantly rejects the argument that these writers merely support upholding the rule of law.

"Without question, many of the letters are not simply readers opposing 'illegal immigration,' but exhibiting a deeply ingrained disdain for Mexico, its culture, its history and especially its peoples, including Mexican-Americans."

In an October 2013 radio interview on the Generation Justice website,  Rodriguez pointed to what he does not believe is a crime: unauthorized entry into the U.S.

"The vast majority [of undocumented immigrants] are not criminals. They confuse being a migrant with being a criminal," Rodriguez says in the interview.

"[T]hese are people not being charged with violence. They're not being charged with drug running. None of that. The crime is simply entry and re-entry."

The bio for the professor on the University of Arizona's website notes that his "Column of the Americas" has been syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate.

"Many of his awards have come about in the area of defense of the First Amendment," the bio reports.


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