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Guest Editorial

By MARIA ESTRADA-RAMSAY and ANGELINA CASTAGNO

This is in response to the recently publicized Park City Police’s "most dangerous known criminal suspects" list. We have chosen to expose the omissions from both the list and the response from the public we have seen so far in order to illustrate that there is always another side to the story. The story that white powerful members of the community chose to tell is the most often told story; the one that perpetuates myths of Latino people as violent and white people as blameless. We want to ask, why is it that only particular people get to name this issue of crime and safety? Why is it that only they get to frame it as being about Latinos? And most disturbingly, why are they the ones with easy access to the technologies that work to build our collective ideas of "the way things are?" As a Latina woman and a white woman, we are choosing to talk back and break the silence because our families and friends and their well being in this community are at stake. Also, by talking back we want to undermine the picture being painted that we are "problems" in the community. By standing up and letting our voices be heard we are also saying that we won’t sit back and take it anymore. Yes, there might be a small percentage of the Latino population involved in crime. The silence here is that the majority of Latinos in the community (Salt Lake and surrounding areas) are not only law-abiding and hard-working, they are quite frankly overworked, and they provide the underpaid labor that allows the community to function and affords it most of its amenities. The list is long: Latinos have helped in building the state’s infrastructure; they keep constructing the beautiful houses in Park City and its landscaping; they cook the meals in most of the restaurants; make the beds and clean the bathrooms in luxurious hotels; and a few of us lucky ones have many times wrested precious opportunities from a selfish system to come to the university and become teachers, civil rights lawyers, social workers and the like. We read in frustration that seven of the top-10 most dangerous suspected criminals in Park City are wanted for drug distribution. We agree with the report in that this is indeed a dangerous crime. The silence here is that supply emerges to satisfy the voracious demand on the other side of this criminal equation. Why is it that only the suppliers are "top-10 criminals" and not the predominantly white consumers? Do either really belong in this "most wanted" category, or have choices been made to target crimes more often perpetrated by people of color? In this light, Park City Police Chief Lloyd Evans’ explanation that, "The only reason why certain segments of the population might end up on a list like this is the transient nature of their lifestyle" can only be interpreted as racist. What lifestyle then encourages insatiable and reckless appetites for drugs, we ask, and isn’t that one just as reprehensible? But we disagree with Evans. The transient lifestyle of many of the migrant workers that sustain the local economy is in part due to the tremendous demand in our economy for cheap labor. In this economic model the prevailing wages are ones people cannot live on. Within the logic of this model, workers have no access to benefits or social security. Perhaps the inherent cruelty of a system that benefits from exploitation and finds convenient ignoring the plight of the many it exploits might have something to do with that now-infamous, top-10 list. Finally, we find this tidbit telling; If out of the 705 people arrested in 2004 in Park City, 539 (76.4 percent) were Anglos, while 159 (22.5 percent) were Latinos, four were Asians and three were African-Americans, how in the world do whites end up unrepresented on the top-10 list and simply, again, as the victims?


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