This Sunday at 5:30 PM when WLIW Channel 21 broadcasts Deputized, the documentary about the 2008 hate crime killing of Marcelo Lucero, tens of thousands of Long Islanders will have a new opportunity to talk with their children about the deadly dangers of hatred. We think of lynching as something associated with the South, but we had a lynching right here on Long Island just five years ago. And like most lynchings, it was carried out by just a few, but the sentiment behind it was shared by many.
Long Island parents need to encourage their kids to watch this film together, as a family. When they see it they will discover that the young men who attacked Marcelo Lucero and who had participated in many other attacks, were not Neo-Nazi freaks and outsiders, they were ordinary high school students who listened to anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from within their own communities. They came from families that were economically and demographically similar to two-out-of-three Long Island households. Some came from families of haters, other families claim that they were free from prejudice against Latinos. In watching the film, families can discuss just who deputized these teenagers to kill Marcelo Lucero.
It is clear that the attackers felt deputized by the police. Since their earlier crimes had not been prosecuted, even when some of the young men were caught, the attacks escalated. Politicians, particularly disgraced former County Executive Steve Levy, played a major role in creating the climate of fear that enabled these attacks. Parents can discuss with their children who else was morally responsible for the violence, and who should have acted to take steps to defuse the hatred, but did not.
As a professor, I am always looking for teachable moments to engage my students in understanding the world they live in. As we approach the fifth anniversary of the killing of Marcelo Lucero, this film gives us an opportunity to talk to the young people in our lives about how we can build a welcoming Long Island.