Hispanic Voices: Is the Press Listening?
Twenty-three year old Marisol Abreu peered out her living-room window and could hardly believe her eyes. There, in the front courtyard to her apartment a five-foot wooden cross had been set on fire.
"They make me feel like I don't have the right to live here," she said. None of the racial slurs, the hateful stares she'd endured during the time she'd lived in Charlestown hurt as much or seemed as threatening "as the powerful symbol of the burning cross, which is usually associated with the Ku Klux Klan." 1
That hardened symbol of hate was hardly anonymous. At 7:30 P.M. a crowd of a hundred white teenagers shamelessly gathered around the burning cross. Insults, taunts and racial slurs were directed at Abreu and other Hispanic residents in the public housing projects where she and her three-year-old daughter lived. No, this wasn't the 1950's in the deep South, nor was it the 1970's when court ordered bussing stirred deep racial animosity in many Northern cities. This ugly scene took place in 1993, on a raw damp October evening in Boston, a city with its share of unhealed racial scars.
How the city's newspapers and TV news covered this troubling episode reveals much about the media's detached relationship with Hispanics in the city and the profound degree to which Hispanic leaders perceive themselves alienated by the press.
In Boston, the cross-burning incident capped a night of violence following the stabbing of three white youths by a Hispanic teenager as retaliation for alleged harassment. Several hundred angry white residents chased the 18-year-old Hispanic sus