Calling the Ridgewood attack a hate crime, after it had surfaced that the perpetrator said, “I’m going to kill you white boy” - reportedly in Spanish - assigns a narrative and a motive to the crime.
Before the detectives can investigate, before the suspect is taken into custody, it states that we know why the perpetrator committed the act of slashing his victim.
That motive is hatred. A deep-seeded, personal hatred of something the victim represented. In this case the color of the victim’s skin.
Gentrification is a hot-button, divisive issue and there’s a fear that by moving into a neighborhood with a different ethnic makeup, you can be a target. That’s the narrative being pushed, fairly or unfairly, with the reporting of this crime.
The facts: a man had his throat cut by an unknown object sometime around 2 a.m. on a Thursday morning, less than a block away from three different bars. The perpetrator made a threat and a comment about the victim’s race. The victim was injured and taken to the hospital and the suspect fled.
What we don’t know: if alcohol was a motivating factor, if race was a motivating factor, if gentrification was a motivating factor, if the woman accompanying the victim or the perpetrator had anything to do with the violent act.
There’s grainy security footage that provides very little insight to the general public about the crime.
The onus to choose language carefully is on both the police officers charged with keeping the streets safe and the general public. We need to keep the level of vigilance high as always, but fear cannot be the real motivating factor to that vigilance.