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Creating A Culture Of Respect

LongIsland.com

On Election Day, voters across the country affirmed that the color of one s skin will never again prevent a supremely qualified person from becoming President of the United States. That historic election was a ...

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On Election Day, voters across the country affirmed that the color of one s skin will never again prevent a supremely qualified person from becoming President of the United States. That historic election was a reminder that change is possible in America and that every American has the opportunity to make his or her dream come true.


Unfortunately, on the Saturday after that historical Tuesday night, seven high school students from the Patchogue-Medford community with a mob mentality decided to set out to assault some Mexicans.


Marcello Lucero was not a Mexican, but rather part of the Ecuadorian community that has long been woven into the fabric of community life in Patchogue. The larger Latino community in Patchogue is a vibrant part of Patchogue life. They have been active participants in the community for generations.


This misguided group of high school students who decided to impose pain and torture on some Mexicans in the person of Mr. Lucero that Saturday night only saw hate!


What would possess a group of high school teenagers who, with the exception of one, had never been in trouble before, to want to purposely inflict violent harm on someone, leading to that person s senseless death based on what the man looked like?


No one is born with a hate gene. People learn to hate. What a sad commentary on our schools, our churches, our parents and our political leaders. We seem to live in a larger community that tolerates violence, hate and discrimination.


What are we doing in our schools to confront bigotry on every front, not just the color front? What are the consequences when students are guilty of racism and discrimination? How many times have students used inappropriate language or made racist remarks without any consequence?


How aggressive are our communities in addressing intolerance, both in our racially diverse communities and those communities where there is little or no diversity?


This reprehensible tragedy is only the tip of the iceberg. We should be prepared for more and more outbursts of racial and social intolerance, hopefully not ending in death!


We need to take our heads out of the sand. Young people today are angry and troubled. If you need to be convinced, look at the escalation of teenage violence in our schools, in our neighborhoods and on our ball fields. Too many teenagers seem to enjoy posting videos of beatings on YouTube. Look at your children s MySpace and Facebook accounts. Some of the postings are shocking and appalling.


The death of Marcello Lucero is not only an attack on a Hispanic community, but it is also an assault on every caring, respectful American.


This terrible tragedy was painfully predictable, but also preventable. It exposes our profound failure to create a culture of respect and tolerance.


Seven young men responsible for violently taking an innocent man s life have destroyed his family forever and wounded the Hispanic community beyond words. These troubled high school students have begun to walk a nightmare road to prison that will leave them forever scarred and damaged. Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be wasted on incarceration and legal fees. In the final analysis, what will be achieved?


At the end of this journey, a few painful facts will remain. An innocent man was violently and senselessly killed because of his look. A community was further scarred because of hate and discrimination. The rehabilitation of the misguided seven clearly is in doubt, since our criminal justice system is not focused on rehabilitation and change, but rather on punishment and confinement.


The tragic death of Mr. Lucero is a painful reminder that our work regarding hate and discrimination is not done. Hatred does not just emerge from the wilderness. It is born out of ignorance, which is learned and fueled by ignorance.


Since the hateful killing in Patchogue, Mastic residents discovered graffiti with racist references painted on their cars. In Islip Terrace, the Ku Klux Klan dropped their racist propaganda on driveways and in peoples front yards. Their literature burdened a neighborhood with four public schools within a radius of a few blocks. In late October, the Klan placed a newsletter on parked cars at the Deer Park and Babylon Long Island Railroad stations.


Disrespectful rhetoric inflames hate everywhere. The undocumented immigrants in our county have been unfairly victimized by a barrage of hateful rhetoric that some people in power have condoned and justified by their silence.


It is not enough for us to condemn hateful and intolerant behavior from our pulpits and our political platforms. We must transcend our political and religious differences and work together to build bridges of compassion, understanding and respect that lead to a new tolerance and acceptance of difference on every front that we face as a community.


The real tragedy of the Misguided Seven will be if nothing changes and hate and intolerance continue to infect our community.