Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bushwick attack: Were anti-gay slurs shouted by assailants? Does it make it less of a heinous crime if the answer is 'no'?

Google the words "José Sucuzhañay gay" under news or blogs and you might get some sense of the media attention and online outrage that has erupted over the vicious attack against two Ecuadorean brothers which took place last week in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and left José Sucuzhañay braind dead and on life support.

Early reports described assailants shouting anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs at the two men as they were assaulted but a third brother is now denying that any gay slurs were shouted.

"My brother Romel told me that they shouted insults against Latinos, that they shouted 'Hispanics, sons of bitches,' but not anti-gay insults" said Diego Sucuzhañay describing a conversation with the brother who escaped with lesser injuries ("Hispanic hit with a bat in vegetative state", El Diario La Prensa, Dec. 12, 2008).

The crime struck a nerve with me because the circumstances were so similar to the murder of my friend Edgar Garzón back in 2001. He too was attacked blocks away from home as he was walking down a peaceful street very early in the morning and he too was left with traumatic head injuries with his family half way around the world (while the Sucuzhañay brothers have family in the country, they are trying to have the US government grant their parents a special visa so that they can be by their son's side).

It is also similar in that, even though the Sucuzhañays are not gay, the attack has drawn wide attention in gay circles from the allegations that homophobic slurs were used during the attack. There is a lot of empathy out there from members of the LGBT community who understand that the brothers might have been mistaken for a gay couple by the assailants but that this could have easily been them.

But what if anti-gay slurs were not shouted during the attack as one brother who was not a witness to the attacks now says?

Just a month earlier, on November 8, a number of young men in Long Island decided to go out and look for Hispanic men to scare and taunt as they apparently often did. The night would end with 37 year-old Marcelo Lucero stabbed to death in yet another crime against an Ecuadorean immigrant that is being investigated as a bias crime.

You might be aware of the Lucero murder, particularly if you live in New York, but probably not from blogs who write about LGBT rights - including Blabbeando. I have certainly been aware of it and I have followed developments in the case closely but there wasn't necessarily a gay angle to the story which is why I did not write about it.

The Sucuzhañays are in the eye of a media storm at the moment which probably makes dealing with the tragedy of what happened to their brother that much more difficult. I have seen some members of the Latino community express indignation at some outside the Latino community using the attack for political gain. I have also seen a Qeens-based Ecuadorean community organization put out a call for a vigil highlighting the xenophobic nature of the crime while not mentioning that it might have also been a homophobic crime. And I wonder if there is some similar denial going on in the statements that his brother made to El Diario La Prensa today.

But I also wonder if a similar sense of empathy will remain from members of the LGBT community if allegations that homophobia was one of the reasons for the attack are dismissed or proven false.

There is a sense of a real opportunity here to build bridges between immigrant communities and the LGBT community and to stand together in common repudiation of hate crimes against any individual. But this might also prove to be elusive considering that there are differences in how I see the Latino community reacting to the attack to the way that the online LGBT community seems to be reacting to it based on their respective vantage-points.



Anonymous said...

I've been asking myself the same questions. This has been a terrible tragedy. However, Latin machismo may be getting in the way of fully understanding this crime. On the other hand, the LGBT community may have been too quick to call this out as a crime against gays. My own attack several years ago risked being labeled. Unfortunately, in this case, we may never know the truth. Even less fortunate, two minority communities may remain at a distance.

Unknown said...

I think especially given the finger pointing (towards Blacks and Latinos)for the passage of prop 8 is related to this. So many people still don't understand the concept of where anti-gay hate and anti-latino hate intersect and how they work together.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that we have here is yet another case of revisionism?

Blabbeando said...

Today's comments in El Diario are the only place I have seen any denials that any anti-gay slurs were shouted. There were two witnesses - José's brother and a bystander - who I assume were the ones who probably gave their version of events to the police from with the allegations stemmed. I would be personally surprised if those allegations were retracted and have a feeling there is some revisionism going on. Then again I wasn't there so don't know what happened exactly.

I do have a feeling that there might me members of the Sucuzhanay family or those surrounding them that might feel less than comfortable with the media attention on the vrime being a homophobic attack or of LGBT activists or organizations expressing outrage about it. We'll see.