Tuesday, May 5, 2009

value white lives more than non-white ones

As many of you know (and as not enough Americans in general know), the trial of two white teenagers in Pennsylvania who were involved in last year's beating death of a Latino man, Luis Ramirez, ended last Friday. The verdicts, handed down by an all-white jury, were outrageously light.

Brandon Piekarsky, 17, and Derrick Donchak, 19, were acquitted of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, ethnic intimidation, murder, and manslaughter. Both were instead convicted of simple assault, with additional alcohol-related counts against Donchak.

The simple assault conviction entails a maximum penalty of two years in county jail; without criminal records, Donchak and Piekarsky may not face any imprisonment at all.

Here's the 25-year-old man who was beaten to death. Again, his name was Luis Ramirez. Does this photo remind you too of Emmett Till?

Ramirez died in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, a small, 96% white, blue-collar town. Latino residents live there as well, since it offers affordable housing and work in local factories and fields. Ramirez had been living there for seven years.

The precise facts of this racially charged case seem murky. According to one news account,

The fight began late July 12 when a half-dozen teens, all Shenandoah residents who played football at Shenandoah Valley High School, were walking home from a block party and came across Ramirez and his 15-year-old girlfriend in a park.

Brian Scully, 18, asked the girl, "Isn't it a little late for you to be out?" That enraged Ramirez, who began yelling in Spanish and dialing friends on his cell phone. Scully admitted shouting ethnic slurs. The verbal sparring soon turned into a physical altercation as Ramirez and Piekarsky traded blows, though prosecutors and defense attorneys disputed who threw the first punch.

Donchak then entered the fray and wound up on top of Ramirez. Prosecutors said he pummeled Ramirez, holding a small piece of metal in his fist to give his punches more power. Defense attorneys said Donchak tried to break up the fight between Piekarsky and Ramirez and denied he had a weapon.

The two sides eventually went their separate ways. But Scully kept yelling at Ramirez, leading the immigrant to charge after the group.

Colin Walsh, 17, then hit Ramirez, knocking him out.

An autopsy later revealed that Ramirez died from blows to his head. He was severely beaten, and then kicked to death. But two of his assailants got off with "simple assault." A third, Colin Walsh, pleaded guilty earlier in the week to violating Ramirez's civil rights, in exchange for the dropping of third-degree murder charges.

Why isn't the corporate media all over this racist travesty of justice?

Never mind, that's a rhetorical question, since we all know why. It's just another death, for one thing, and John Edwards' affair or another cute-and-missing white girl are presented to us as if they're much more interesting and important.

But it's also more than that--Luis Ramirez was not white.

In their reports on his death, CNN and the Associated Press did mention that the jury that let off some of his assailants last week consisted entirely of white people. However, beyond merely mentioning that fact, such news outlets did nothing to question the power of whiteness in this case.

Doesn't the similar, widespread lack of interest in such facts among white Americans represent a sort of mass psychosis? A general white state of delusion? Ramirez was human, just like them, but he wasn't white. So he was, in the minds of most white people who have even heard about him, less than human.

To better illustrate how this is so, flip the script and imagine how much attention an opposite situation would get:

A white couple's car breaks down as they're driving along an urban interstate. They stop near an exit, then walk into a largely Latino neighborhood. A similar fight ensues, and the man's partner says that the teenagers who beat him to death shouted anti-white slurs as they did so.

Somehow, an all-Latino jury is assembled, and despite charges of ethnic intimidation, assault with a deadly weapon, and murder, it passes down similarly lenient convictions of "simple assault" to the Latino defendants. No one gets convicted for the white man's murder.

Would the corporate media, and much of white America, be all over this story, demanding a retrial and stoking the flames of anti-immigration, anti-Latino sentiment?

Of course they would.

And since the white-framed corporate media, and white people who have heard about the Ramirez case, are not all up in arms about it, that can only lead to this conclusion--white Americans generally value non-white lives less than they do white ones.

The death of Luis Ramirez may seem tragic to white folks who actually hear about it and listen to the details. But they're just as likely to think that in a way, Ramirez had it coming. After all, he was an "illegal alien," the thinking goes, and this incident never would've happened if he had stayed in his own country, instead of breaking the law by coming here.

Actually, that's exactly how one supporter of his teenage killers put it last December, a minute or so into this video:

This woman's callous reaction to the beating death of another human being is a specific example of the common white tendency to value non-white lives less than white ones. Her focus on his residential status is a diversion from the fact that he was beaten to death. This diversion was undoubtedly made easier in her mind by the degrading associations she's absorbed from her surrounding culture about Latino immigrants.

Most white people are quick to agree that "we're all human." But they rarely see how, deep inside themselves, they actually consider people who are supposedly different from themselves, in large part because of their skin color, as less than human. As less than fully deserving of fundamental "human rights."

Obviously, other people don't see things that way. The Mexican Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) had a representative present at the trial, Gladys Limon. Like other supporters of Ramirez and his family, she was shocked by the verdict, and openly identified Ramirez's death as murder.

''It's a complete outrage. . . . This was murder. Luis Ramirez was murdered. A father, a son, a brother, a partner was murdered. The message the verdict sends is you can kill a person, you can stomp on their head until the person dies, based on their national heritage."

Nevertheless, if white America ever did pay much attention to the death of Luis Ramirez, it's already turned away. After all, there's yet another cute missing girl to worry about; this time, her name is Brittanee Drexel.

I don't mean to make light of Brittanee's disappearance, nor those of the others who make up the steady parade of pretty missing white girls. I'm just dismayed and enraged that cases like hers get so much more attention than the disappearances and deaths of people of color.

Unlike the death of Luis Ramirez, Brittanee Drexel's possible death is deemed especially worthy of attention in part because she's white. Her whiteness makes her all that much more compelling to a largely white audience, and all that much more human.

And the non-whiteness of people like Luis Ramirez makes them seem, to that largely white audience, all that much less than human.

And so it is that non-white people like Luis Ramirez remain all that much more likely to suffer racist abuse, including murder.


  1. Really, most white people only care about other white people?! Really?! A girl (now young woman) from my hometown (Attica IN) was nearly beaten to death and is now brain damaged and cannot live on her own. The town is all of 3500 people and no one has been caught (5 years later). It never even got past the local news.

  2. macon have you seen this?

    The Most Racist Comments About Mexicans Ever Allowed On-Air

    you should post...

  3. This is certainly awful, and I wholly agree that there was without a doubt an element of racism in the proceedings, but I think there is almost certainly also an element of cultural backlash/indirect condemnation of a 25-year-old man
    with a 15-year-old girlfriend.

    Which I'm not "trying to make a statement" about either way, but I think to put it wholly on the racist element and ignore that is a little myopic.

  4. Deb, I have seen that, though not that particular take on it--thank you, and I'll consider a post on it.

    Anonymous, I assume the girl you're talking about is white? I didn't mean to say in my post that ALL white victims gets national attention--that would be impossible.

    Rob, regarding your concerns about Ramirez's relationship with a 15 year old, another reader just sent me an email containing this information:

    I just wanted to let you know that according to two articles I've read (and maybe more that I've forgotten), the 15-year-old girl with Ramirez was not his girlfriend. One article says she was his friend, and another specifies that she was his fiancee's sister. Others simply refer to her as the girl he was with, with no relationship specified. He was engaged to Crystal Dillman, who is 24, and had two children with her.

    The guys who attacked him apparently said "Get your Mexican boyfriend out of here" and such things to the girl because they assumed they were dating. The Huffington Post article calls her his girlfriend, but I haven't seen that anywhere else, and multiple other articles talk about his fiancee.

    I just wanted to tell you that because while it is a small detail, I feel like it makes it sound like he was being sketchy to say he was dating a 15-year-old, and it seems to be untrue. . .

    Here are the articles I read--


  5. From http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090427/ap_on_re_us/us_immigrant_killing_students_6

    Among the witnesses Monday was a 15-year-old girl who told jurors that she began dating Ramirez when she was barely 14. She said she had a sexual relationship with him and that he had proposed marriage to her a few days before the altercation.
    The girl is the half-sister of Crystal Dillman, 25, who has two children with Ramirez and who has called herself Ramirez's fiancee.

    So, yes, she was Ramirez's fiance's half-sister, whom he had a sexual relationship with.

    Please note that I am not at all saying that the attackers should not have been convicted of something harsher (they should have), or that it wouldn't have been different if the races were flipped (it still would have, I agree). But I'm willing to bet this detail gave the jury a lot of bias, as well as the race issue.

  6. The girl he was walking home was his sister in law apparently. This case is particularly troubling me because I cannot help but ask how many MOC must die so that white men make the claim that they are protecting the innocence of white womanhood. This is even about protection this is about how gets to possess. There is an element of sexism in this along with racism.

    I also have to say the commentary of that woman in the video was beyond disgusting. Clearly the only lives she values are white lives. She is more worried about the future of these murderers. What she is forgetting is that should these criminals go free they will be living in her neighborhood and next time their target may not be a so-called illegal immigrant.

  7. Haha, that's news, Macon!

    Seriously, nothing new. It just adds to the disgusting view of many whites in this country by others.

  8. that's disgusting! you'd think they'd want the criminals to be locked up longer for the safety of everyone. how about the future of the dead man's friends and family?

  9. This story makes my stomach turn. And Anonymous...of course there are a few exceptions to this, but YES, most white folks but a higher value on white lives than non-white lives. It really isn't even disputable if you look at the MANY incidents just like this post. Very sad to me that you even question this.

  10. This post just made me sick to my stomach, being a person of Mexican heritage. Even though this man was newer to the country, I feel like we will never be fully accepted here, no matter how many generations are born here (at least 6 in my case).

  11. On a similar note, check out this link from a recent article in the LA Times. Pretty young white girl gets the media attention, but the same story of an older Latino man gets barely a peep.


  12. Mr. Macon,
    This is a very thorough and thought provoking blog. I thank you very much!

    Hmmmm.......interesting spin on the 14, now 15 year old girl. Your source? I can definitely see how the story would "color" the minds of an all white jury. No pun intended either.

    Pitiful any way you put it.

  13. One could argue that from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that we care about those in our circle more than those who are outside of it. Family first, tribal group, and so on. That would boil down in wider circles to people who look like us, and that would often mean other people who share our "racial" markers.

    So this title is not, of course, unique to White people.

    Where it gets problematic is when this holdover from a different evolutionary environment seeps into institutions. So, for example, the legal system cannot work the way it is supposed to-fairly and impartially-because of this. Media reports crimes, victims and suspects differently because of it. And even when a country becomes so "multicultural" that our wider circle of nationality includes many who do not share our racial markers, we still hold onto that older tendency.

    The ultimate sign that something has gone wrong is when many people--not just those who are within a racial circle--adopt this value. So "White lives" are seen as more valuable even by members of other racial groups.

    All of this is not to excuse the callousness you bring to light in your post. But I do think that we will continue to be frustrated if we focus on individual acts of injustice instead of dealing with how this injustice has become endemic and systematic.

  14. How do you get from the footage of that woman to "most white people," Macon? I certainly don't think in such terms as hers, and I'm white. Am in in the minority? And if so, how would I know that?

  15. Anonymous, if you reply to this comment, please choose a name for yourself.

    I didn't write that most white people think in such terms as that woman. Instead, I wrote that her "callous reaction to the beating death of another human being is a specific example of the common white tendency to value non-white lives less than white ones."

    "Common" does not necessarily mean "most." What I did write about most white people is this:

    Most white people are quick to agree that "we're all human." But they rarely see how, deep inside themselves, they actually consider people who are supposedly different from themselves, in large part because of their skin color, as less than human. As less than fully deserving of fundamental "human rights."|

    You say that you don't think this way, but maybe that depends on what you mean by "think." Are you including your subconscious/unconscious mind in that term? If so, I have little doubt that you're like most white Americans, me included, in that you've been trained, indoctrinated, by your immersion in a white supremacist cultural ether, to think and feel less of non-white people than of white people. A person raised in such a culture has to work consciously against such training to become truly resistant to it, to the point where he or she doesn't sometimes enact it, even unconsciously.

  16. Re: Whitney, I posted the source in my most recent comment. I'm not good enough with computers to make it a link, so you'll have to copy-paste.

  17. Hello macon d.

    I'm a newbie here. This is so true that White lives are much more valued than lives of people of Color in general. I want you to read this crime article story on serial killer Henry Louis Wallace and the lack of media and police attention for the victims and their families. Here's the link below:


    While White males are an overwhelming majority of serial killers in America, Henry L. Wallace is a Black man who killed at least 9 beautiful young Black women whose deaths were barely got any report from mainstream media.

    As you see, mainstream media and society place far less value on Black and Brown lives and overly valued White lives as if they're the only ones who mattered in the whole wide world.

    La Reyna

  18. Great post and blog!

    As people we automatically separate ourselves into groups (tribes) based on many factors (Raiders vs Chargers, MySpace vs Facebook... White vs Brown, Yellow vs Pink and so on), we can't NOT separate, it goes against nature, it's what we do.

    Try being gay in Iran, the two "tribes" don't mix and it will buy you a public hanging, in 2009.

    As language evolves, so do we.

    The moment you call yourself "white" you have separated yourself from all other colors, YOU do it to yourself, the other person does not do it to you.

    The moment you call yourself a Mexican you have separated yourself from all other nationalities and again, YOU do it to yourself.

    Changing the "value" system starts with you yourself creating your own language of relatedness and following it up with the actions that match your declarations.

    You can not change that woman in the video - you CAN change (transform is a better word) how you create her to be for you.

    Thanks for this blog!

  19. Hello - Thank you for a challenging and provocative blog.

    Visibly I am a "white" person, although it's more complex than that - English, Scottish & Cree by blood, but - more importantly - brought up to regard race as an unimportant aspect of myself or others.

    Who a person is culturally or their morals and beliefs is way more important, and I was brought up to accept this as a simple "matter of fact" and am backwards enough to still find it strange that so many other people don't.

    In any case, I am not an American, but have travelled in your country and have often been shocked by the overt racism there. Racism certainly exists where I am from (Canada & Australia). But I have never in my life seen it in action like I have many many times in the US. The first time I ever heard someone use the word "Nigger" was at a dinner in the US. Anyhow, what really shocked me is that everyone else at the table just let it pass.

    America certainly does have a different attitude towards matters of race - and it's one I can't quite understand. My family and upbringing make it difficult to wrap my mind around it. So to be in a culture and surrounded by media that overtly and coverly pushes racist stereotypes through images, language and subtle socialisation makes an outsider feel...a certain peculiar tension.

    It must certainly have occured to you that as a white person living in America, your ability to judge and observe objectively is compromised. A certain level of internalized racism is unavoidable, I expect.

    And I am distressed to see you yourself use language which is itself racist and overly generalized. Racism is racism. If there are stereotypes about "whites" that are true, is that not also the case about other ethnicities?

    Someone else raised the issue of your choice of words in "the common white tendency to value non-white lives less than white ones," and your semantic response to their point.

    "Common" might not mean "most", but it does mean "widespread; general; ordinary; of frequent occurrence; usual" and given the title of your blog, I think the previous poster can be forgiven for taking you to mean "most" if not "all".

    The world is not America. There are "white" people all over the world who haven't been exposed to the American mindset. Maybe you should say "White Americans"?

    At the end of the day, people hate people, and people love people. We generalize out of haste and laziness, and we are naurally predisposed towards making judgments based upon appearance, out of our experience and expectations.

    There is something in our nature that requires an "other". The important thing is to identify "other" by things that matter - beliefs about human rights and dignity, belief about our role as family members, friends, citizens and human beings identify us much more than does the random chance of birth.

    At the end of the day, every time you or anyone else writes "white people do this" or anything like that, you aren't moving ahead. It's the same thing as people thinking ironic racism is ok - it's "justified" in their minds.

    The truth is, there is no behavioural generalization that fits any racial profile that isn't a result of socialization - or at least none that I can think of. And this goes for everybody.

    I would prefer to see an obviously intelligent and concerned individual use their voice to prod change and self-reflection in those who need it, whatever their identity, rather than contribute to stereotypes which are as artificial as they are unhelpful.

  20. James White,

    Your argument is very interesting. It can be said that historically, white people value their lives more than non-white ones. This can be plainly stated as fact, citing many instances of imperialism to make the point.

    Are you saying that their is no racism in either Australia or Canada? I call BS. If that was the case, the Australian government wouldn't have made an apology to Aboriginal tribes whom they victimized over the years. Because taking the "savage" children away from their "savage" parents in order to lessen their "savagery" is really an act of gratitude, and not racism. Immigrants of all colors are welcomed into all countries in which white people (the collective, of course) are the majority. There is no sense of "othering". Nope, none

    Slavery and imperialism did not happen. I was mistaken. White Europeans did not invade Africa for gold and diamonds without regard for African lives, or, for that matter, they didn't enslave them and send them to the New World. They did not displace/kill/torture/enslave native tribes when they were colonizing. Of course not. Oh, and there is no police brutality towards non-whites.

    America may have a different view towards race, oh but the similarities are stifling. Racist intention is not a white American thing. It's a white thing. Sorry, but it is what it is.

    At the end of the day, Macon is not self-loathing or being racist to point out some COMMON WHITE TENDENCIES. By acknowledging his whiteness and, thus, his white privilege, he is moving ahead. By not acknowledging some aspects of your identity that may be privileged or hurtful, you are choosing to be comfortable and unhelpful. Sometimes, all one needs is a mirror.

    (Sorry Macon for the post being so damn long. I had to prove my point)

  21. Yellow ConservativeMay 15, 2009 at 11:29 AM

    I think this behavior is wrong, but I don't think all white people act that way.

  22. A belated thank you for your comment, Kara s.

    Well yes, yellow conservative, let's hope not all white people act that way. Did the post say somewhere that they do?

    Please note also the subtitle of this blog. I doubt that I ever write about stuff that ALL white people do.

  23. The flipped scenario was a great way to put things into a different perspective. There would be an uproar if a bunch of Latino kids did this to a white guy. Was Ramerez even an immigrant? (Sorry if you stated it, and I missed it.)

  24. It is perfectly natural that Obama attended Reverend Wright's Church.

    He was probably sleeping during his sermons or making political calculations and adding votes.

    Obama probably knew that Reverend Wright was angry at slavery and at Genocides against Vietnam and Islamic Nations that are also Human Beings and should also be counted as victims of War.

    Reverend Wright acknowledged the Humanity of all "darkies" and "brownies", Islamic or not, and he understood the imbecile fallacy or "Terrorism" for all people in pajamas.

    If my ancestors had been slaves, eaten by dogs, castrated, leashed, beaten and whipped, and chained, then I would be angrier and madder than Mr Wright.

    Mr Wright is inocous and can do no harm. He does not kick people in the head while they are unconscious on the floor.

    The Wright Congregation : Black people dancing and singing and somewhat hysteric or frenetic, with wonderful beautiful music, those Blacks represents zero danger for American Society.

    Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld or Idiot George W. Bush are one million times more dangerous.

    Or the Racist Rednecks that are killing "darkies" and "brownies" as sport, fun and entertainment.

    Politics is a tough business, and Mr Obama learned a lot form Chicago then I applaud.

    He needs to be somewhat shrewd to resist the charges of People so mean and debased morally as Dick Cheney, the businessman of War and Genocide, getting richer with every bomb that falls on a poor illiterate village killing children, women and the old.

    I still believe that Racist Rednecks have three powerful enemies : Demography, Science and Intelligence.

    Against their Imbecility use Intelligence :


    Vicente Duque

  25. No. I cannot believe this. This is so upsetting to me. And this is America? Of course, it is.

  26. There was a similar murder/lynching in Liverpool, England a couple of years ago. The press said it was because he was black. That the press led readers away from is the fact that the boy was with his white girlfriend, and the only crime he committed was walking past a pub/bar of drunk white men. Jeered, racially insulted, threatened, chased by a gang, held down, axe sunk in the head. charges? Lenient.

    Girl wasn't allowed to give her side of the story, as whites do not label each other racist over in the UK.

  27. America will not be great until it values ALL human lives over money no matter their circumstances or creed. American citizens value money over human lives, that is going against humanity and it is this insane and mentally ill thinking that was brought and propagated by white Americans today!

    Whites also give excuses as to why, knowing very well why yet turning a blind eye since they can because they benefit from white privledge,it doesn't affect them. If anything they are just as racist as a typical racist since they stand by and allow it to happen. If they really cared abouut non-whites they would do everything they can to stop the atrocities since they have power to do so, but they don't and the atrocities continue to happen to non-whites.It's like whites know they have superiority for being white and yet they also continue to report about crime only happening within the communities of the poverty stricken which is disproportionately non-white. They themselves hold a belief that they can do no wrong, so whites can get away with crime. It's the same ideology that the white colonists had when they shot the Native Americans when the Native Americans greeted them with open arms! All the whites wanted was the land and saw non-whites as animals. That what they were doing was their 'God' given right because they wanted them dead and in the ground so they can walk on the ground they stood on for centuries before they ever showed the f*** up!

    It IS a mental illnes that has been passed down from generation to generation and eventually it WILL doom America.

    The civil war was fought to have only a white face victor in the end and was never about slavery. They knew that blacks would over encompass them in population if continued, so they tried delaying the eventual freedom of blacks and black leadership. Now it has caught up, but only a bit and now blacks have illegals to contend with in getting jobs. It is exactly what whites want, they want blacks poor, dead and gone. They see latinos a little better because they can see some resemblance to themselves but also they can make a profit off of non-whites lives!

  28. [Dear DESMADROSA_13, I agree with much of what you're saying; however, I'm not going to publish death threats here, nor claims that Obama's not an American. ~macon]


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