Jamiel Shaw’s parents’ fervent plea that their son’s death not be used as a tool for encouraging anti-Latino sentiment fell on deaf ears. The Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Order 40 was hijacked by anti-”Mexican” i.e., anti-illegal Latino immigrant advocates who are exploiting the parent’s grief to further their own agendas. They have little or no regard for the family’s plea.
Special Order 40 prohibits Los Angeles police officers (LAPD) questioning anyone for the sole purpose of determining the person’s immigration status. LA City Councilman Dennis Zine, an ex cop, is attempting to amend the Order to tighten relationships with immigration officials and require the police to report gang members who are in the country illegally. Zine’s proposal does not affect Special Order 40’s central provision prohibiting suspects being questioned solely to determine their immigration status.
Jamiel’s alleged killer is an illegal immigrant-smuggled into the country as a child- and anti-illegal Latino immigrant advocates, fronting as incensed victims of an encroaching, undeserving Latino population, are fanning the flames of racial divisiveness, linking the alleged killer’s status to an increase in Latino-on-Black violence. The following illustrates thinly disguised anti-illegal advocacy.
A local Black writer, author and self-ordained civil rights activist is clearly pandering to anti-Latino sentiment in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed column. It describes Blacks as “a community convinced that Latino-on-Black racial violence is on the up-swing,” the inference being that virtually all Blacks share the perception that there is an increase in Latino-on-Black violence. This is nonsense and exacerbates an already dangerously volatile situation.
The Op-ed also claims “it makes no difference that so few Blacks are killed by non-Blacks,” adding incredulously, “…in the South at the height of Jim Crow mob violence, only a tiny number of Blacks were physically assaulted by White mobs.” Not only were countless Blacks routinely assaulted, but many were brutally murdered by “White mobs”-rendering the description, “tiny number” all the more egregious.
The Op-Ed also asserts the following: “Any crime….committed by illegal immigrants is going to draw justifiable howls for authorities to do their jobs and remove from the streets those who commit violent offenses and are here illegally. People want to know that the authorities take seriously the issue of illegal immigration and its relation to street violence.” Aren’t cops entrusted with removing from the streets anyone who commits violent offenses?
The column encourages anti-illegal immigration hysteria that contributes to heightened racial tension and animosity. Suggesting that illegal immigrants caused the spike in violent killings in Black neighborhoods is as disingenuous as it is inflammatory. Most people realize Black-on-Black violence is far and away the cause of increased killings and in many Black neighborhoods such violence has become the horrific norm.
Strained emotions stemming from high-profile, senseless violence in predominantly Black areas often yields policy decisions that end up having devastating long-term consequences. The Polly Klaas case leading to the draconian Three-Strikes Rule is one such example, Jamiel Shaw’s murder, the most recent.
Councilman Zine’s proposed changes to Special Order 40 could well be an open invitation for police to racially profile, harass and arrest not only young Latinos, but arguably, more young Blacks, as well. Altering Special Order 40 will do nothing to change the fact that we are losing many, many young people on both sides to gangs, and like much of the city’s approach to the gang issue, it feels like another band-aid on a problem that requires much greater political will, attention and resources.
The reality is many Black neighborhoods are hurting badly from a tidal wave of gang violence. People are tired, angry and increasingly frustrated and want something done about it, now. Obviously we are not investing enough in creating conditions in our communities and schools that prevent youth from needing gangs. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact tha Latino-on-Black gang violence pales in comparison to Black-on-Black violence that continues to inflict immeasurable pain and suffering. And we must demand that Black leadership be more accountable-their silence on violence, gangs and immigration, together with the media’s patented sensationalism, contributes, in no small measure, to Black-on-Black violence as well as Black-Latino conflict.
Heartfelt grief and empathy with Jamiel Shaw’s family should not obscure systemic factors that underlie violence, especially growing gang violence, a breed unto itself. No one condones Latino-on-Black violence, gang-related or otherwise, but we must not fall into the trap of equating such violence with unabated Black-on-Black violence, the indisputable main cause of violent death among the Black population that claims scores of innocent lives as well.
Solutions must focus on prevention, changing social and economic conditions that breed gang violence, and provide tangible alternative opportunities for youth. This requires long-term commitment, focused investment of resources, and collaboration between schools, law enforcement and communities.
This daunting but indispensible task is prerequisite for creating new realities that ensure safe communities and constitutional protection for everyone.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.