Words not bricks

By Maureen Foley 05/03/2007

On Monday morning, at approximately 4:30 am, a local mother who lives in Ventura woke up to the jarring sound of broken glass. Near her head, a brick rested. After checking to make sure her children were safe and unharmed, she waded through a sea of dangerous shards to call the police. “God forbid one of us had been killed,” she said.

The woman, a disabled nurse and city college student, did not see who threw the brick. When the police arrived, they spotted a few vehicles on the street. Although no one was caught in the act, the woman said she has a sick feeling about who committed it. The woman suspects that it is one of the Latino drug dealers who has been operating near her house for weeks.

After first realizing that they were selling drugs in front of her house, the mother tried talking to the men. She asked them to leave because she didn’t want her children to get shot or injured during a drug deal. She said that the men seemed understanding and agreed to move.

Unfortunately, they just re-located to her backyard. That’s when the woman’s ex-husband, who is African American, got involved. While visiting his children at the woman’s house, he saw the men in the backyard. A few days before the brick incident, he told them that they needed to leave. That’s when the men threatened him, told him not to call the cops and called him a racial epithet, according to the woman.

The woman thinks that the thrown brick is meant as a warning message. She sees it as retaliation for calling the police on the group. And the woman, who is Caucasian, now considers the brick incident a hate crime. “We’ve got race issues here,” she said.

Was this actually a hate crime? According to “Hate Crime: The Violence of Intolerance,” an essay published on the Department of Justice’s web site, a hate crime “is the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious, sexual orientation, or disability.”

Was the brick that broke this Ventura woman’s sleep, peace of mind and window thrown because of her (or her ex-husband’s) “race, ethnicity, national origin” or other social marker? Or was it simply thrown to intimidate her because she dared to try to protect her children from crime?

The true reason why the brick was lobbed into the window may never be known. However, the incident itself raises the specter of race-related violence and it points to the possibility of a much larger problem related to race. Groups of Latino men are selling drugs. Why? The Latino drug dealers throw out a racial epithet at an African American man. Why? A woman is the victim of violence and assumes that it is racially motivated. Why?

Why aren’t more people asking and trying to answer these, and other, difficult race-related questions? In Ventura County, people of different racial backgrounds are becoming increasingly isolated from each other. People have stopped talking. “Immigrant” and “Mexican” have become code words for the new racially dictated underclass.

In the future, like the rest of California, Ventura County is not going to become less racially diverse. Tensions and violence between people of different backgrounds will continue to grow unless steps are taken to start a collective conversation.

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