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

Friday, August 20, 2010

What if the killers had been Black or Latino?

Another pair of violent criminals connected with the murder of a couple at a New Mexico campground were arrested in Arizona yesterday. The capture of John McCluskey and Casslyn Welch follows the arrest of Stacy Province, who is also believed tied to the campground slayings of Greg and Linda Haas. The burned bodies of the Tecumseh, Oklahoma couple were found in a travel trailer Aug. 4 on a remote ranch near Santa Rosa, N.M. 

John McCluskey
Arizona authorities apprehend John McCluskey, suspected of murdering a couple at a NM campground. His Arizona tattoo is an ironic note. 
McCluskey is also a suspect in a series of other violent crimes. This crime spree began when Welch helped McCluskey, Province and a third inmate, Daniel Renwick, escape from a Kingman, Arizona detention facility. 

Up to this point, this seems like a tragic story of violent crime. But stop and ask yourself: What if the people committing these crimes had been Black or Latino? I think we all know the answer to that. Race and ethnicity would be the centerpiece of the story. Call in radio shows and websites would be flooded with hate-filled comments. Politicians and pundits would use the tragedy to further agendas.

This was precisely the case with the death of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz. Last March, Mr. Krentz was found murdered and the footprints of his apparent assailant led south across the Mexican border. On this evidence alone, began the outrage that helped propel Arizona's SB 1070 from the brainchild of nativist crackpots into a law that is dividing the nation along ethnic lines. 

The murders of Greg and Linda Haas are a tragedy, a testament to the depths of callousness human nature can sink. Had they been killed by members of a minority, however, we would have seen another human shortcoming: the depths of our prejudice. 

Raul Ramos y Sanchez