News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Monday, August 9, 2010

Exploiting a tragedy

The facts: Sister Denise Mosier was killed in an auto accident involving a man in the country illegally and accused of drunken driving.

The furor: Corey Stewart, chairman of Prince William County's Board of Supervisors, issued a public statement claiming President Obama and Homeland Security Director Janet Nepolitano and members of Congress "all have blood on their hands." This call comes despite the statement from the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia who have tried to discourage Mr. Steward from using the death a "forum of the illegal immigration agenda" and pleaded for a focus on "Christ's command to forgive."

This reaction by Mr. Stewart seems more about political opportunism than concern about a traffic death.Indeed, exploiting traffic deaths is a long-standing nativist practice used to tar all immigrants with the action of one person. Sadly, this tactic originated by wing nut haters is moving mainstream and finding traction. You'll find more about this sordid and grossly distorted smear job here.

For a comparison of how distorted this event has become, let's look at another recent traffic tragedy.

Jimmie Picklesimer was arrested in Dayton, Ohio following the hit and run death of a woman and her dog on August 1st and released. Picklesimer was then arrested again on August 5th on felony drug possession and DWI.

Jimmie is white and therefore the U.S. public assumes he is simply an aberrant individual. Were Jimmie a member of a minority, the xenophobes would conclude he represents an entire people. This is the short definition for prejudice.

When politicians and pundits seize on innocent deaths to further their agenda, what else can you call it except crass exploitation of public prejudices?

Raul Ramos y Sanchez