Why isn’t the media talking about another 9-year-old girl killed by political violence in Arizona?


Well, here’s a story that should be getting more attention, but isn’t. In the spring of 2009, 9-year-old Brisenia Flores was shot and killed when a group of Minutemen raided her parents’ home in Arivaca, Arizona hoping to steal drugs and money to fund their vigilante border-policing. The Daily Beast reports (trigger warning):

Early on the morning of May 30, 2009, Raul Flores heard a knock at the door of his Arivaca, Arizona, home. When he opened it, he found a man and a woman claiming to be law-enforcement officers in search of fugitives. Minutes later, the man shot Flores to death. Then, authorities say, he pumped three bullets into Flores’ wife, Gina Gonzalez, who survived but played dead. “Why did you shoot my mom?” Gonzalez’s 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia Flores, asked the gunman, according to prosecutors. Those were her last words. The man put a gun to her head, fired off two rounds, and killed her.

Last week, the trial of the group’s alleged leader, Shawna Forde, began in Tuscon–the site of another recent political shooting that left another 9-year-old girl dead. But the media isn’t talking as much about this one.

Maybe it’s because the victims of this crime were Latino. Or because the story doesn’t square with the conservative narrative that Minutemen are just like a “neighborhood watch.” Or because right-wing rhetoric–in this case anti-immigration rhetoric–played such a clear and unequivocal role in this instance of violence. Will Bunch at Media Matters notes:

“While the seriously warped mind of Christina’s Tucson murderer, Jared Lee Loughner, is a muddled mess, the motives of one of Brisenia’s alleged killers– a woman named Shawna Forde — are pretty clear: She saw herself as the leader of an armed movement against undocumented immigrants, an idea that was energized by her exposure to the then-brand-new Tea Party Movement. But unlike the horrific spree that took Christina’s life, the political murder of Brisenia and her dad (while Brisenia’s mom survived only by pretending to be dead) has only received very sporadic coverage in the national media. That’s a shame, because it’s an important story that illustrates the potential for senseless violence when hateful rhetoric on the right — in this case about undocumented immigrants — falls on the ears of the unhinged.”

Or maybe it’s because this kind of violence has become so commonplace over the last few years, the media no longer finds it shocking. But I, for one, am still blown away by the fact that the Tea Party’s nativist rhetoric can lead to such a complete and total dehumanization of immigrants that people like Forde and her accomplices could shoot a 9-year-old girl in cold blood. Here’s hoping the trial brings justice for Brisenia’s family and greater awareness for the rest of us.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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