Latino Lives Matter Too! Why Isn’t The Media Talking About Latinos & Other Non-Whites Killed By Police?

Bay Area street artist Oree Originol honors the lives of unarmed people of color who've been killed by pasting their portraits onto building walls

While the national outrage and protest grow for African-Americans killed by law enforcement in America, the media seems to forget to inform the public about all the Latinos Killed By The Police. With groups like Black Lives Matter making mainstream news is it co-incidental, purposefully done or just sheer ignorance on the part of mainstream media or could it be they just do not care?  Like black Americans, Latinos face disproportionate rates of police violence, could it be it’s not as sexy a topic to talk about or our brown brothers and sisters even more likely to be forgotten about in the media? Are the lives of our Latino brethren any less important? If not why isn’t the media talking about the lost lives of Latinos who are killed at the hands of the police?

The issue of police criminality and how police use force is sometimes outside the lens of black and white, The Hispanic and Indian-American communities are rarely discussed by suffer the same deadly consequences as African-Americans when it comes to police encounters. While Blacks Killed By Police has dominated the headlines, African-Americans are not the only non-whites being killed by the police. Take a look at the PBS NewsHour video below.

Let’s just take the month of July 2016, as videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two African-American men shot and killed by police went viral and their names became hashtags, many called out a lack of media attention for Latinos who were killed by officers that same week. Organizations like the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), Voto Latino and even Black Lives Matter, are raising awareness of police use-of-force in Latino communities. Police killings of brown people often go underreported, says Eric Rodriquez, vice president of the NCLR’s office of research, advocacy, and legislation.

cm9yn__vmaac52iOn July 3, two undercover California Highway Patrol officers, dressed in plain clothes, chased an unarmed, 19-year-old man named Pedro Villanueva. Their unmarked car pursued his pickup truck for 5 miles to a dead-end street. As Villanueva hit the dead-end, he turned his truck around and proceeded in the direction toward the car that had been chasing him. Two plainclothes officers who had followed Villanueva in an unmarked car opened fire, leaving the 19-year-old man dead and a passenger injured. According to the Los Angeles Times, Villanueva was shot several times and died at the scene. A passenger was shot in the arm but survived.

Although he was part of a larger surveillance sting aimed at cracking down on illegal street racing, authorities acknowledge Villanueva may not have known he was being followed by police officers. As the patrol moved in, Villanueva fled and was then followed by the unmarked patrol car. Shooting a moving vehicle is permissible under California Highway Patrol’s use-of-force policy, but is banned by many law enforcement agencies nationwide and is largely considered ineffective and dangerous by law enforcement experts.

After speeding down a road at nearly 90 mph,

Villanueva was unarmed. The officers who shot him on July 4 in Fullerton, California, had been investigating an illicit car rally where participants raced and did tricks. The passenger, 18, has not been charged with a crime, according to the Fullerton Police Department. Officials declined to release his name, saying the case was still under criminal investigation.

At a time when police killings have dominated national media attention, one might have expected Villanueva’s death at the hands of police to become a major story. It didn’t.

“In American history, racial conflict has largely played out in black and white. But the history is much more complicated, [leaving] out Native Americans, as well as Asians and Hispanics,” Aaron Fountain, historian of youth activism at Indiana University tells PBS digital reporter and producer for Race Matters and education, Kenya Downs. “Americans don’t see any kind of historical context when Latinos are victims of state violence, despite the fact that there is historical context there.”

While blacks and Hispanics have interactions with police at rates proportional to their population, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, both groups are over-represented when it comes to traffic searches and arrests. Hispanics, for example, make up 17.6 percent of the U.S. population but represent 23 percent of all searches and nearly 30 percent of arrests.

A 2014 study published by Columbia University found that less than 1 percent of national news stories focused on Latinos. A majority of those stories covered a Hispanic who was breaking the law.

Others say the Latino community needs more powerful institutions and leaders to attract media attention to Hispanic issues. Rick Rios, a co-founder of the Pasco-based civic group Consejo Latino, praised the work of civil rights leaders and Black Lives Matter, saying Hispanic activists should follow their lead.

“I always go back to the same thing: lack of leadership,” Rios, who played a leading role in publicizing the Montes-Zambrano case, told HuffPost. “We’re not going to legislate discrimination away, we need leadership … That’s what you see with groups like Black Lives Matter. They’re organized. They’re powerful. That’s what the Latino community needs to do.”

According to the Counted, a database from the Guardian that tracks officer-involved deaths across the United states, Latinos were killed by police at a rate of 3.51 per 100 million in 2015, compared to 2.93 for white Americans. In this context, Villanueva’s case is yet another stark reminder of the state violence faced by people of color across the U.S.

While Villanueva is just one case, he was one of five Latinos killed by police that week. Let us also not forget, Melissa Ventura. On July 5, Melissa Ventura, a mother of three, was shot by two sheriff’s deputies responding to a domestic disturbance at her home in Yuma, Arizona. The Arizona Republic reports the woman opened the door holding a knife as authorities arrived. She was then shot by both deputies and died en route to the hospital. According to the Yuma Sun, Ventura had a history of mental illness and prior domestic violence related arrests. The officers remain on administrative leave pending an investigation.

On July 4, officers in San Jose, California, responded to a call about 18-year-old Anthony Nuñez, who had grazed his head with a bullet in an apparent suicide attempt. After Nuñez pointed the gun at police, police shot and killed him.

On July 3, police in Reno, Nevada, shot and killed Raul Saavedra-Vargas, 24, after he refused to pull over when an officer tried to stop his car. According to local reports, he then swerved and nearly hit a second officer, who was on foot, before veering into a crowd at downtown Reno’s Biggest Little City Wing Fest – a popular chicken-eating festival.

On July 7, Vinson Ramos, 37, was shot and killed by police outside of a 7-Eleven near Los Angeles, after officers responded to an incident involving Ramos and a woman. The pair had been arguing and Ramos was reportedly holding a folding knife, and when he refused to put it down, the officers opened fire. The woman had a child with her, according to reports.

Though the victims received scant national attention, the killings marked 100 Latinos killed by police this year, according to Killed by Police, a database that tracks killings by U.S. law enforcement. The Guardian’s The Counted database puts that number at 88, likely because local authorities don’t have the option of categorizing victims as Hispanic.

“The existence of police abuse and police killings has to be addressed collectively by Latinos,” says Juan Cartagena, a constitutional and civil rights attorney and the President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “From a national perspective, we don’t see the same intensity of attention. When something happens in a community people often see it as an isolated incident. But it’s not.”

Between 2007 and 2014, more than half of those killed by police in Los Angeles county were Latino, according to Youth 4 Justice. Last year, 195 Latinos were killed by police across the United States, according to the Guardian’s database The Counted, making them the group with the second largest number of victims per million (3.51) after African-Americans. That number is likely higher, because local authorities often don’t have the option to categorize victims as Hispanic when filing reports. Last year, 306 of those killed were black (7.27 per million), and 581 were white (2.93 per million).

BW takes this time to lift up and acknowledge the Latino lives lost at the hands of law enforcement and challengers all other media outlets to pay more attention. Martin Luther King Jr said An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere and I say to the African-American community, Police Brutality to anyone of color, affects all of us of color!