Monday, March 12, 2001

Ethnic slurs rattle family

'Got to be really dumb to do this kind of thing'

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Sunday seemed like a beautiful day to the Lopez family — until they discovered ethnically charged graffiti scrawled on their garage and fence.

        Alfonso and Mary Lopez of Mount Lookout were headed to the grocery at 9 a.m. when they found “Go Back to Mexico” spray-painted in green on their garage door.

[photo] Mount Lookout's Dr. Alfonso Lopez and one of his sons work Sunday to remove ethnic slurs painted on their garage and fence.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        Someone also painted a slur in red on the wooden fence in front of the house in the 700 block of Kroger Valley.

        “I think they have to realize this is criminal vandalism and ethnic intimidation,” Mrs. Lopez said. “This isn't a prank like (toilet-papering) somebody's house.”

        Although racial tension here has been focused on black-white relations recently, the Mount Lookout incident is another reminder that Hispanics and people of other ethnic backgrounds experience prejudice, too.

        The Tristate's Hispanic population is estimated to have grown more than 42 percent from 1990 to 2000. The eight-county Hispanic population in 1997 was 12,365, U.S. Census Bureau estimates say.

        Late last month, two white boys were arrested in Hamilton for spray-painting slurs on property that groups of Hispanics have rented. Tires were also slashed and windows were broken.

        The incident in Mount Lookout is unusual because it occurred in what Cincinnati police describe as a calm neighborhood.

        Dr. Lopez, 47, a Good Samaritan Hospital physician, and his wife, a 45-year-old University of Cincinnati law student, live there with their two teen-aged sons.

        The home is fairly secluded off a dead-end street, so they suspect whoever vandalized the property knows the family. That's what's so worrisome, Mrs. Lopez said, that someone would take the trouble to find their home. She said vandals painted with green and red, colors of the Mexican flag, but she doubts they knew that.

        Dr. Lopez was born in Mexico. At age 3, his family moved to the Tristate while his father did his medical residency at University Hospital. The family later moved to Portland, Ind., where he spent most of his childhood.

        When he saw the slurs, Dr. Lopez said, “I was kind of disappointed and dumbfounded. I thought I'd really be mad. I'm thinking somebody has got to be really dumb to do this kind of thing.”

        They reported the incident to Cincinnati police. Dr. Lopez then spent about two hours painting over the graffiti.

        The Lopezes suspect the slurs were aimed at one of their sons, given the singular nature of one of the slurs.

        Their 19-year-old son attends Cincinnati State Technical & Community College and the 16-year-old goes to Purcell Marian High School, an East Walnut Hills school the Lopezes chose because of its diversity.

        “I think they were very shocked,” Mrs. Lopez said of her sons. “Our kids don't have experience with this kind of thing. It's so unexpected. ... It's a hard lesson, but it reminds you there are people out there who have these strong hate feelings because of your origin.”


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