Recently, a tragic story, has come to epitomize the need to find common ground and solutions for comprehensive immigration reform. There has been talk on AntiBVBL, round and round, about what constitutes hate, how racism is defined, and how words contribute to hate and a growing sense of anger and resentment toward Latinos as an immigrant population. This editorial from the New York Times sheds some light on a community, enveloped by fear and anger until the final culmination, an innocent man’s death, requires us all to acknowledge the truth.  There is a dangerous outcome that lurks beneath the surface of misleading people believe that Hispanics are somehow deserving of punishment.

I am sad to say the description below of Suffolk County executive Steve Levy reminds me of our own Corey Stewart and his rhetoric — rhetoric I urged him numerous times to alter, and bring some healing to our community. He ignored me, as he ignored many others during the most volatile times in Prince William County.

Words have consequences. Steve Levy, the Suffolk County executive, is learning that the hard way during a horrible week. Seven teenagers were arrested and charged in the fatal stabbing last Saturday of Marcello Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, on a street in the Long Island village of Patchogue.

Mr. Levy’s past harsh words and actions against undocumented workers have now left him cornered with a tragically limited ability to lead the county in confronting a brutal act that surely pains him as much as anyone.

Local lawmakers often complain about immigration, but Mr. Levy went much farther than most. He founded a national organization to lobby for crackdowns. He went on “Lou Dobbs.” He tried to deputize county police to make immigration arrests and to rid the county work force of employees without papers. He sought to drive day laborers from local streets, yet rigidly opposed efforts to create hiring sites. Even as tensions simmered in places like Farmingville, a hot spot for anti-immigrant resentment, Mr. Levy would not budge.

He parroted extremist talking points, going so far as to raise the alarm, utterly false, that illegal immigrants’ “anchor babies” were forcing Southampton Hospital to close its maternity ward. He denounces racist hatred, yet his words have made him a hero in pockets of Long Island where veins of racism run deep.

All that came back to haunt Mr. Levy this week, when an evil act underscored the need to draw together. Immigrant advocates assailed him for having poisoned the atmosphere. Some called for his resignation. With tactless self-pity, Mr. Levy complained to Newsday that the killing would have been a one-day story anywhere but his home turf. He laments that people overlook his recent, far more measured tone on the issue. He insists that people have a distorted picture of him. Mr. Levy needs to realize that distortions cut both ways.

26 Thoughts to ““The High Cost of Harsh Words” a NYTimes editorial”

  1. Thank you for sharing this article with us Elena. NYT expressed the tragedy of racially tainted scapegoating in a way that is irrefutable, but the politician himself went one further in his complaint to Newsday that it would have been a one day story anywhere but his own turf. That crystallizes the issue for me, and should for everyone. Mr. Levy was unknowingly acknowledging here that as the elected leader of his community, he had transformed it into a place where racial discord has been ratcheted up to a point where a horrible murder like this could happen.

    I am quite honestly shaken by this murder, and by a similar hate crimes in in the town of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

    As far as we know, we in Prince William County have witnessed the cause of such crimes, but not the irreversible effect. At least we can thank God for that.

  2. Elena

    Very astute observation. As ususal, your ability to share the big picture is invaluable.

  3. Slither Hither

    You sound like the bvbl “amen chorus”. How very telling.

  4. Alanna

    If words can inspire someone to do GOOD then it would make sense that they can inspire someone to do EVIL. This politician like others propogate hateful rhetoric that someone else then acts upon. It’s not hard to connect the dots.

  5. NotGregLeteicq

    I prefer the politician who is inspiring Americans to do good. My prediction is the new President is going to lead us through this national crisis of character. But I won’t sit on my hands and wait for it (since we know he has other equally big messes to clean up after). I have a new Congressman also as of Jan. 20th, and I am going to lobby him to push for Comprehensive Immigration Reform as a first priority.

  6. Mando

    Comprehensive Immigration Reform during an economic slump is ludicrous. My money is on the opposite.

    Illegal immigration in the form of black market labor is economic cocaine. The wizard behind the curtain knows this. And like all hard drugs, there are hazards to their use.

    This won’t come up as an issue until the economy has righted itself.

  7. –As far as we know, we in Prince William County have witnessed the cause of such crimes, but not the irreversible effect.–

    I would say the recent hate crime in Manassas speaks to this, WHWN.

    Even with all of this, we know our BOCS will not rid the county of people like Duecaster in an office like Human Services. Will we not learn from others’ mistakes? Hatred can only bring on violence. It’s a natural and sad progression.

  8. Elena, thanks for posting this, BTW.

  9. –complaint to Newsday that it would have been a one day story anywhere but his own turf–

    Here’s what got me–is not a killing a killing even if it only appears one day in the news? This guy is disgusting on so many levels. Heartless and destructive and useless.

  10. You know what is “ludicrous” during an economic downturn? Impractical and counterproductive policy disasters supported by ignorance, fear, and resentment … policy disasters that deepen economic downturns by destroying property values and chasing away business and investment.

    I don’t think someone who advocated for, and still makes apologies for, the “Immigration Resolution” in Prince William County is in any position to characterize what is “ludicrous” from an economic standpoint.

  11. NotGregLetiecq

    Mando, as John McCain and Sarah Palin used to say, “Change is coming.”

    CIR is enivitable. The Anti-Immigrant Congressional Caucus lost 20 seats on November 4th, including Virgil Goode in Virginia. The power of organized hysterics in the immigration polict debate is going bye-bye.

  12. Mando


    blah blah same old anti-immigrant rhetoric you spout every time

    Save some time and just cut and paste next time.

    My point was:

    @ the end of the day money talks

  13. NotGregLeteicq

    Aw, Mando, and here I thought you’d change your tune if I reminded you of the recent election. But if it will help you cope with reality, and possibly change your tune, the name of the caucus that lost 20 seats on Nov. 4th is The House Immigration Reform Caucus.

    But as with its parent company, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), it is more accurate to refer to them based on what they do, what they advocate for, and who forms their constituency base. In my opinion, Anti-Immigrant Congressional Caucus is a more accurate way to refer to the FAIR supported caucus that lost 20 seats on Nov. 4th.

    Did I mention they lost 20 seats on Nov. 4th?

  14. Notice Mando chose not to reply to my comment. That’s because money talks, yes, money talks indeed.

    With the piteous economic example Corey Stewart has set in Prince William County, there will not possibly be any support for similarly disastrous policy decisions in the new Congress facing real economic challenges.

    Culture war politics only work when there is enough prosperity and stability to allow us to focus on unrelated trivialities. In the 2008 election, Sarah Palin’s Culture War stump speeches were making headway until the economic crisis set it. Once we had real issues to deal with, we became sober and focused as a nation, and Palin’s screeching about plumbers and socialists sounded desperate, hallow, and absurd.

    That’s how immigration scare tactics sound to me today.

  15. NotGregLeteicq

    Back to the topic of the thread, I guess I don’t have the same concern that local officials are likely to cause hate crimes.

    Isn’t it just as possible that the prevailing national trend for talk radio hosts and Lou Dobbs types to scapegoat and hate-monger toward Latinos is responsible for these hate crimes?

    The kinds of people who are committing these murders and maulings are not the type to keep up with county politics, or read the Washington Post, or any newspaper. That would be my guess. Such people are being exposed to anti-immigrant sentiment though TV and radio if not through word-of-mouth cultural shifts that are bigger than a Corey Stewart or a Steve Levy.

  16. –I guess I don’t have the same concern that local officials are likely to cause hate crimes.–

    Even if locals aren’t listening to the BS spewed out by our local racists, they are getting it in other ways. Every time JS CLAN puts people like Duecaster in office, every time the sanction groups like HSM, every time they get in the newspaper and brag about ESOL students leaving, it leaks into the very core of our communities. It really is like a poison being strengthened by the other kind of media you mention, NGL.

    And if they are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem, some more so than others.

  17. NotGregLeteicq

    I know, Pink, all I’m saying is that it could be a coincidence that the graffiti happened in PWC and not in Fairfax. I really doubt these kids had any awareness of who Corey Stewart is or what he stands for. The same may have been true in Mr. Levy’s county. There is enough hate-mongering on the air waves that it is permeating the whole country. I’ve always said my main problem with Corey Stewart and HSM was the institutionalization of racial hatred into county policy.

  18. –my main problem with Corey Stewart and HSM was the institutionalization of racial hatred into county policy–

    YES! I can ignore a couple of vocal bigoted idiots, but when it makes its way into our government, someone has crossed a line that needs to be protected more.

  19. Elena

    Do you remember when the KKK dropped off flyers in Manassas? Well it happened during the most heated time of the first immigration resolution. John S also said it was merely a coincidence. I found that hypothesis very unlikely. I believe that you are correct, in that, there is enough hatred over the airways to fill any void anywhere in this country when it comes to scapegoating “illegals”/lantino immigrants. However, Corey and his rhetoric, along with John and his membership to HSM, certainly feed into an unhealthy environment. I doubt that teenagers are paying attention, but I imagine that their parents are being fed misinformation and talking about it in their homes. I still would not call Corey a racist, I don’t believe he is, I believe he is just a political opportunist.

  20. Moon-howler

    The KKK has been around in Manassas long before that flyer drop off. There used to be a local number you could call and hear all sorts of crap. A well known, self-professed klansman used to go act out on the old court house steps. Several of us know him by name.

    I am not excusing Corey or John but this crap was around long before they were. They are newcomers to the area.

  21. Picayune

    Some thumpin’ going on over on the dark screen about county employees blogging from work on their tax dollars. shudder shiver. I wonder how some non-county employers feel about that blogging from their computers. I can think of a lAw firm or 2 to call and asK.

  22. NotGregLeteicq

    I guess if they don’t want people blogging from work on their tax dollars, they should understand why their hero Sarah Palin is being hit with ethics violations for holding press junkets in her Governor’s office during work hours.

  23. NotGregLeteicq

    Elena, yes, I do remember that well, and I think we all had the same thought. The KKK was lured to Manassas by Corey Stewart, Greg Leteicq, and John Stirrup. There is no doubt about that. It was during the height of the madness.

    But it also proves my point in a way. The flyers had an Arkansas address on them. How else would the Arkansas KKK know about the three hate-mongers of PWC other than through the air waves. In many ways, Corey Stewart and Greg Letiecq, who were appearing on hate programs on cable TV at the time, were props for those who were looking to push the hate to politically advantageous levels across the nation. It so happens that Corey and Greg had succeeded in PWC, and the right wing media pundits wanted to export that hate around the nation.

    Thank goodness America rejected that kind of politics this past November 4th.

    Did I mention that Anti-Immigrant Congressional Caucus lost 20 seats?

  24. Elena

    Yes NGL, I recall you mentioning the anti immigrant caucus lost 20 seats 🙂 Gotta love it!

  25. Elena, the most important thing you said in your originating post was this:

    There is a dangerous outcome that lurks beneath the surface of misleading people believe that Hispanics are somehow deserving of punishment.

    It was exactly two months ago that I made my very quick visit to PWC and delivered a brief and humble appeal to the BOCS on this very topic. And you hit the nail on the head: there are consequences to fostering racist sentiment.

    I had mentioned to the Board that night that the impact of the racism it incubates has an outward rippling effect. The influence of racism being sponsored by a governing body (via its outspoken Chairman) which receives such national attention as PWC does cannot be inconsequential. Especially among impressionable youth in other parts of the country whose upringing has already predisposed them to acting upon hateful rhetoric that assails them. We saw it recently in Pennsylvania. And now the murder of Marcello Lucero on Long Island.

    This is why my very simple appeal to the BOCS to “cut it out” is so vitally important. Because so long as the Board fosters and empowers public policies which, under the surface, are nothing but legislated racism, then they bear a serious portion of responsibility for every Marcello Lucero who is murdered just because he looks Hispanic.

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