Se habla español?
January 16, 2002 4:08 PM   Subscribe

Se habla español? Not in Connecticut you don't. Or maybe the media shouldn't try reading so deeply into bar room brawls.
posted by insomnyuk (39 comments total)
What did I miss? I read the article and it seems fairly straightforward. Two guys speaking Spanish, Another guy tells them they need to speak English in America, situation devolves when two others get involved and apparently help start a fight. It ends with each attacker "fac(ing) two counts of third-degree assault, single counts of intimidation based on bigotry or bias, and breach of peace."
How is "the media reading so deeply" into the issue?
posted by mattee at 4:32 PM on January 16, 2002

I don't know, just trying to represent a possible alternative. Didn't want to seem as one sided as the article, sometimes there's another side to the story, and the media doesn't cover it. I mean, the guys could have been seriously drunk (the english speaking ones).
posted by insomnyuk at 4:50 PM on January 16, 2002

Not to mention that the defendants face counts of "intimidation based on bigotry or bias". How can you tell the story without including the language angle?
posted by jpoulos at 4:55 PM on January 16, 2002

Yeah, no shit. How is the media "reading so deeply" into this? It's a blurb you posted to, covering the story with common crime-beat brevity.

More interesting for me, is why one would post a link to a story so short and then load the lead-in in such a way that it cheapens the millions of struggles waged everyday by people who do not speak primary English in the US.
posted by crasspastor at 5:06 PM on January 16, 2002

Doesn't the charge that jpoulos brings up bother anyone? Does it matter what the intimidation was based on? Is intimidation, bigotry or bias even a crime? I think assault and breach of the peace are just fine without having to worry about why he assaulted them and breached the peace.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:09 PM on January 16, 2002

Crash: Hate crimes become hate crimes precisely because of what the assault was based on. Intimdation, bigotry, and bias are, in a collective way, a crime.
posted by bloggboy at 5:33 PM on January 16, 2002

Sorry, bloggboy, I'm not buying it. The guys were assaulted. The rationale behind the assault should have no bearing on the charge.

Let's say the victims were short, and the guys picking the fight did so because they figured short guys are easier to beat up. While they're beating them up, they sing Randy Newman's Short People. Would it be a hate crime because they were singled out due to their stature? What if they were fat, and their attackers figured fat guys were easy targets because they can't move too fast? Would we have a hate crime if the attackers kept calling out "Sooo-EEE!" while they beat them up?

No, because short people and fat people don't have an organized political lobby, so they're not "special". I believe that no one should be any more or any less protected under our system of law than anyone else. A beating is a beating is a beating.

These guys got beat up for a stupid reason. There's no excuse for the guys who did the beating. They should face the full brunt of the law for assault. But I don't care why they did it. Assault is ugly regardless of what your attacker is thinking while he's caving your head in. I guarantee he's not praising your ancestors, regardless of who they were.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:01 PM on January 16, 2002

I'd just like to speak up for the Constitution State for a moment. I live in Bridgeport(about 30% Hispanic) and most of us have no problem with people Spanish, Portugese, or Ubbie Dubbie if you want to. Just wanted to make sure noone got the wrong idea about us nutmeggers.
That said mr crash davis is correct. Just jail 'em for assault, which is wrong no matter what caused it.
posted by jonmc at 6:05 PM on January 16, 2002

Poor poor jonmc! Bridgeport! there they dream of the recently departed Jai Lai, the dog track and wait anxiously for the Golden Hill tribe--now occupying the smallest reservation in America--1/4 acre--to bring a casino to town to bail out the forlorn city of "parks." Ah, even mayor Ganim, now up on more federal counts than even I can count says he wants the trial to be moved from nearby New Haven to Bridgeport, the city that he is alleged to have pillaged along with numerous cronies.
But back to the topic: The U.S. does not have any law that declares English to be our official language. Many would like there to be such a law. And in the future, given birthrates etc. more and more Spanish will be used. It is odd though that so many people think English is "the language to use." Historically so but....
posted by Postroad at 6:24 PM on January 16, 2002

No, because short people and fat people don't have an organized political lobby, so they're not "special".

Yeah, minorities in this country are treated so much better than everyone else.

I believe that no one should be any more or any less protected under our system of law than anyone else.

No one is more protected. If I get beaten up by a bunch of black guys (or asian guys, or hispanic guys) because I'm white, they could be charged with the same offense.
posted by jpoulos at 6:36 PM on January 16, 2002


If the "hate crime" law protects everyone, what's the point? The existing assault law already does that.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:53 PM on January 16, 2002

I hate those damned Ubbie Dubbie bastards.
posted by rodii at 6:56 PM on January 16, 2002

postroad-oh now you've done it! do not disrespect the gritty park city, my man. We may not be have Yale like New Haven, but we also don't have the pretentious Yalies to deal with(I used to work on Chapel Street so I know what I'm talking about) but we have our unpretentious grimy blue-collar appeal.
That's not to mention the world's best chili-dogs at the Merritt Canteen, a great new baseball team in the Bluefish, a great record store in Moonie's, and considering the broad mix of ethnic groups in town, a remarlably harmonious racial climate. And with the(by CT standards)cheap rents a lot of young people from the nearby suburbs have moved in. Bridgeport is actually a great example of the front-stoop and corner diner atmosphere that lots of cities used to have before the gated-communities and gentrification era, we now live in.

So there.
posted by jonmc at 6:57 PM on January 16, 2002

If the "hate crime" law protects everyone, what's the point? The existing assault law already does that.

Apparently, in Connecticut, there are two separate laws. One says you can't assault people. The other says you can't intimidate someone based on your personal biases. I imagine that, if they hadn't physically attacked the Spanish-speakers, they still could have been charged with "intimidation".

In some states, I think, you have "Hate-based Assault" (or something) which you are charged with instead of (and carries a tougher penalty than) plain-vanilla "Assault". IMO, and in the opinion of many, beating someone up is a bad thing, but targeting someone for a beating because of his race is worse. Hence the law.
posted by jpoulos at 7:28 PM on January 16, 2002

"but targeting someone for a beating because of his race is worse"

Why? Has a person just chosen at random for a beating been injured any less?

I'm having a hard time comprehending this argument. If I get the crap beat out of me, I can be pretty confident that there was something about me that my attacker didn't like. What should it matter what that thing was? Maybe it was the witty saying on my shirt, or the length of my hair, or the fact that I sometimes wear one red shoe and one green one. Have I been somehow harmed more because of that reason? And who decides that? Why doesn't my preference for non-matching shoes deserve as much status as the color of someone's skin, if it's what got me beat up?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:15 PM on January 16, 2002

An assault is an assault is an assault. Bullshit. From whatever it is I'm gleaning so far from this story, these men were singled out because of a difference they could not conceal. And as if they should! If this is a case of a garden variety "assault" then obviously the perpetrators could have chosen from anybody to assail. They chose Spanish speaking victims because they were speaking Spanish. That's a crime of prejudice and racial discrimination. In other words, a hate crime.
posted by crasspastor at 8:21 PM on January 16, 2002


Define for me, please, exactly why it is any worse that these men were beaten for being Hispanic than if they were beaten for any other reason.

Let me start you off:

"It's worse to be beaten for your race than to be beaten randomly because..."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:33 PM on January 16, 2002

In a nearby city a clown was arrested for a hate-crime assault: He called a guy a nigger, jumped him and got the hell beat out of himself. Funny thing was, the victim was an Indian, but because this genius thought he was black, he was convicted of the hate crime because it revolved around his intent.
posted by Mack Twain at 8:46 PM on January 16, 2002

Mack, thank you for pointing out the absolute craziness of hate crime laws. The guy was convicted because he thought the other man was black, not because he was black.

So we're now convicting people based on what they think.

Doesn't this make any of you the least bit concerned?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:54 PM on January 16, 2002

Crash: I totally agree with you except for one thing. The reason why this story is important is because of the language issue and the rationale behind the assualt. While it may not be important legally, it is, however, reflective of our society.
posted by bloggboy at 9:08 PM on January 16, 2002

bloggboy, we're on the same page. I'm disgusted that this kind of thing happens in 21st century America. However, I don't think that we can make it go away by punishing people for what they think. I believe if we demand that everyone be treated fairly and equally under the law (which sadly does not happen all the time, or perhaps even most of the time) it will do more for race relations than sanctioning people for their beliefs, as abhorrent as they may be.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:22 PM on January 16, 2002

So we're now convicting people based on what they think.

We've always prosecuted people based on their "intent."

And these guys aren't being punished for what they think, they're being punished for what they did. They (a)beat someone up and (b) intimidated based on their bigotry. They aren't charged with "hating people who speak spanish". People can be as racist as they want in this country, but if you act on those beliefs with violence, you're going to be punished.

And what's this talk of "random" beatings? How often do random beatings take place? If I attack you because you screwed me on a drug deal, or because I'm trying to take your wallet, or because you looked at my girlfriend, that's one thing. But if all you've done is be black (or hispanic or Cherokee) in my presence, then my attacking you is, yes, worse.
posted by jpoulos at 9:36 PM on January 16, 2002

jpoulos, I offer you the same challenge, and I'll even modify it for you since you don't like the idea of random beatings:

"It's worse to be beaten for your race than to be beaten for being screwed on a drug deal because..."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:39 PM on January 16, 2002

Wait, that's wrong.

"It's worse to be beaten for your race than to be beaten for screwing someone on a drug deal because..."

No sense having the poor guy get screwed and beat up.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:41 PM on January 16, 2002

Oh come on, Crash. I don't even believe in hate crime legislation, but you're being ridiculous.

You wouldn't think it'd be worse to be beaten because you're whatever race you are then if you screwed somebody on a drug deal?

And if you say, "No, I'd feel the same way in either situation," then you're lying. Cause I know you aren't dumb.
posted by Doug at 10:40 PM on January 16, 2002

jonmc - being a fellow nutmegger I beg to differ about the attitudes towards the non-English speaking people of our least here in Danbury, the forlorn Hat City. There's a constant barrage of letters to the editor and bits in the paper's call-in column about how the "immigrants need to learn English" and "signs should be in English only." Then the arguments degenerate into how long it should take someone to learn English. And people here threw a fit when Brazil won some big soccer game and local Brazillians (of which there are many) had a little parade downtown. They were not mad about traffic being held up, but that people were routing for Brazil and they were living in the USA. And the men who wait outside the Labor Ready office...special contempt is reserved for them. What the complainers don't realize, of course, that if it were'nt for the influx of Hispanics to the area, downtown Danbury would be a ghost town. The mall sucked all business out and boutique shops were unable to attract the foot traffic needed to stay afloat for long. I would guess that 80% of the shops downtown are Hispanic, with a couple of Asian groceries. Of course, there may just be a vocal crank minority, like Wallingford.
posted by kittyloop at 11:14 PM on January 16, 2002

Perhaps the difference lies in the fact that you can choose to screw someone in a drug deal, you can choose to wear a shirt that incites some people to violence, or you can choose to look at someone's girlfriend, but there's no way you can choose your native tongue or skin color?

If you take the view that one of the aspects of punishment is preventing certain behavior in the future as one of the reasons for seperate laws for seperate reasons and intent, this might make sense in that people might think twice about singling out people of a certain race for assault.

It could be that the people who made the laws didn't see the need to protect people who wear offensive T-shirts or mismatched shoes because those people didn't tend to be singled out for assault. It probably just wasn't as big a problem and therefore doesn't seem to require seperate punishments, whereas if you have abnormally high numbers of people being assaulted because of their skin color or native tongue and you wanted to prevent it, you would legislate accordingly, which is apparently what happened.

Whether such laws actually reduce such instances is another argument, however.
posted by Poagao at 1:56 AM on January 17, 2002

The reason the law distinguishes between race or language or religion-based violence and other types of violence is because hate crimes scare and intimidate whole groups of people.

If some guys get beaten up in a bar, I figure it's just an incident. If Portuguese-speaking guys get beaten up because of the language they speak then I, as a Portuguese-speaker would think twice before going there.

If you follow the "law is the law" argument to its natural conclusion, then the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews one by one and so should be tried for 6 million murders, as murder is punishable by law.

Hate crimes scare minorities; they affect social behaviour; they create atmospheres of inequality and discrimination.

That's why they should be treated and punished differently - so that the State is seen to be conscious od them and against them, in particular.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:07 AM on January 17, 2002

One of these things is logically flawed. You find the winner!

1. The U. S. government has passed laws that treat hate crimes differently from other crimes and I love America. One shouldn't question the outcome of a beautiful and perfect democracy. United We Stand!

2. If something is against the law, it is wrong. Therefore, hatecrimes are wrong.

3. The charge of murder is different from the charge of manslaughter because courts and juries look at the *state of mind of the defendant* when he or she commits the crime. That is what we do with hate crimes. We do not punish someone for 1st degree murder who has inadequate provocation and lack of planning because we look at motivation. It takes willful, premeditaded thought to garner a murder charge. If an a*hole plans a murder (1st degree) and bases it upon certain criteria (special hate crime circumstances), then we can evaluate the motivation of the criminal to determine the seriousness of a crime. Duh.
posted by Sr_Cluba at 3:24 AM on January 17, 2002

Hate Crime in Massachusetts 1998 Annual Report [excerpt]:
"Hate crimes are unlike random violence: The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld hate crimes laws like those of Massachusetts in the landmark 1993 case of Wisconsin v. Mitchell. The Supreme Court explained in its opinion the policy rationale for treating hate crimes as unique: First, hate crimes are more likely to cause retaliatory crimes. Second, hate crimes inflict distinctive emotional harms on their victims. Third, hate crimes can trigger social instability, as past incidents in Brooklyn and Queens, NY illustrated. Hate crimes target a class of victims—the gaybasher who thrashes a gay man is acting out of hatred against gays generally, and often intends to "send a message" through the violence, e.g. go back in the closet, get out of this neighborhood. Given these differences, it is fallacious to equate hate violence with a simple assault. The wider social import of hate crimes makes them more analogous to acts of terrorism than a barroom brawl."
posted by Carol Anne at 5:53 AM on January 17, 2002

It's worse to be beaten for your race than to be beaten for screwing someone on a drug deal because we care about why things happen. If I screw someone on a drug deal I am making a decision for which a likely outcome is to get beaten up. If I am beaten up because of my first language or the colour of my skin, it's harder to understand what led to it and that feels worse because I don't know how to avoid it next time.
posted by walrus at 6:30 AM on January 17, 2002

jnnc: Hartford had Insurance; New Haven had Yale; Bridgeport had manufacturing and all were great. Hartford has lost much of the insurance industry; Yale is still there but the city has fallen apart; Bgpt has lost manufacturing and now has minor minor baseball and hockey.
But I am just twitting you. I spent many years in New Haven and owned a home in Bgpt. Screw Hartford!
posted by Postroad at 7:08 AM on January 17, 2002

What Miguel (and Carol Anne and walrus) said. A hate crime does more damage to society than other crimes.
posted by jpoulos at 7:11 AM on January 17, 2002

For those who are arguing that a crime is a crime is a crime...

Why is it that the U.S., when it is indicting people involved in either the 11 September attacks or subsequent terrorist activities, needs to charge suspects with such crimes as "attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction" and "using a destructive device?"

And why is John Walker charged with "conspiring to kill Americans abroad and aiding terrorists" rather than simply murder, attempted murder or aiding and abetting?

What about Moussaoui? Why is he charged with "six counts of conspiring with Osama bin Laden" and "conspiracy to commit international terrorism" and "conspiracy to murder federal employees?" Why not conspiracy? Why not attempted murder? Why does it matter that Federal employees were targeted?

My point is that special circumstances are made for special reasons and special people all the time. I am adamantly opposed to hate and bigotry, and would love it if all crimes could be treated equally just like people are supposed to be treated. But the point is that people are not treated equally, and until they are perhaps those who espouse hate should see that a civil society will not tolerate it. The United States frequently uses deterrents in order to curb unseemly behavior. Why not in the criminal justice system?
posted by terrapin at 10:09 AM on January 17, 2002

Of course, there may just be a vocal crank minority, like Wallingford.

Kittyloop-I think that's the case. I work in Danbury and for the most part, it's a great city(although, its no Bridgeport ;) ). My Hat City native co workers, both white and Hispanic, feel that Danbury is no more racist than any other ethnically mixed city. I've certainly felt more racial tension during my time in Miami and New Haven.
Actually, I'm of the opinion that the media focus on racial incidents involving urban whites(or rural rednecks, for that matter) is at least partly driven by the need to give suburban whites a convienient scapegoat and a false feeling of moral superiority. It may not seem so on the surface, but I believe the country-clubbers in Westport perpetrate far more racism than the car salesmen and construction workers in Bridgeport's North End.

BTW, are you, me, and Postroad the only Nutmeggers on MeFi?
posted by jonmc at 3:39 PM on January 17, 2002

Oh god, Westport. Shudder. A friend of mine was pulled over there because his car wasn't quite as pretty as everyone else's.

I think you're probably right about there just being a vocal bunch of cranks here...I mean, I'm talking about the Whaddya Say column in the News Times. But I am surprised at the vitriol expressed there towards immigrants. People were pissed about that Brazillian parade, and it made the column for a week or so. But I must say that having worked in the Hispanic community here, I think that immigrants take the most crap from other immigrants. I taught a bunch of Argentinians who hated Brazillians...I mean went on and on about them. They worked in the same woodshop, and they wouldn't even take classes together.

And I guess we're the only admitted Nutmeggers here. C'mon fellow Connecticuties, out of the closet!
posted by kittyloop at 9:01 PM on January 17, 2002

OK. I was born in Manchester, but I had to leave before I was 1.

Do I count?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:11 PM on January 17, 2002

That depends on the terms of your extradition agreement.
posted by rodii at 10:13 PM on January 17, 2002

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