Mix the following ingredients:
"Former high school football stars"
"Small town of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania"
"The beating death of a Mexican immigrant"
It's hard sometimes to make sense of something like this. But lets go for the obvious--what does this story tell us?
To humans, to society the value of human life is variable. In Shenandoah, the death of a Mexican is worth less than the death of a white citizen. Simple assault charges were given for a gang beating that, according to the medical examiner, resulted in the "brain oozing from his skull." And even if Ramirez wasn't blameless, he was fatally kicked in the head after being knocked unconscious. I can hear the underlying the sentiment of the jury. It just doesn't make sense to punish these fine young men just because a Mexican died. Why inconvenience them? The DA probably thought the same thing.
Boys will be boys.
Now there is a statement that I've heard before. It's used to explain away a lot of mischief that boys find themselves into. But why have I felt that it hasn't and doesn't apply to me? As a black man (and very recently a black boy) I was never the recipient of this sort of grace. Not in the classroom and certainly not in a street fight.
Imagine for a moment if I, along with a few of my football playing black friends, beat up and killed a white man, I don't think things would've been explained away this easily. The resulting narrative would've certainly played out differently. Perhaps we were in some sort of defacto gang. Sure we were talented football players but we were always the selfish and egotistical, not the hardworking "lunch-pail" types that Piekarsky and Donchak were.
Subconcious racially tinged narratives are all around us. They bleed into many parts of our lives, regardless of race and affect both how our actions are perceived and how we are treated. For some it helps us and for others it constrains us. For Donchak and Piekarsky, I have a hunch that this dynamic played a role in jury deliberations. It probably helped them and I am certain that it didn't hurt them as it would've for me in the other scenario.
Regardless of the details of the story, the life of Luis Ramirez was brutally taken, and his family has not found justice. That is the profound tragedy in this story. Sadly, the justice system often fails to live up to its name and even in the age of Obama, we find no dearth of examples. Even sadder; we aren't surprised by stories like that of Ramirez.