In a strange and disturbing turn, much of the emotion aroused over a fatal Vineyard traffic accident in late January has shifted from grief over the young woman who died to an outpouring of anger and resentment against the Island’s Brazilian community.
A Brazilian native, Francellyo Dias, was driving a delivery van when it was struck by a car driven by Brandy Marie Gibson. She was killed. Mr. Dias and a passenger in the van, Keila Lessa, were injured and airlifted to Boston.
Mr. Dias, who was driving without a license, previously had been charged with driving without a license on two occasions. Each time he paid a fine and performed community service.
News that the fatality involved an unlicensed Brazilian driver set off an angry wave of abuse and bitter complaints against the Vineyard Brazilian community, most of it on anonymous newspaper Web forums.
It is as if ill feelings had been building for years toward a group of people who live and work among native Islanders, but who also stand apart in their language and culture. A slowdown in the economy and a tightening of the Island job market has added to the tension and unease. For some, the accident opened scapegoat season.
But rushing to judgment is never a good idea. The accident reconstruction team released preliminary information this week that shows Ms. Gibson was traveling at eighty-two miles per hour before she hit her brakes, striking the delivery van at an estimated speed of seventy-three miles per hour. Mr. Dias’s van was traveling at nine miles per hour when struck.
The issue of illegal immigrants driving without licenses is a national issue and one that will not be resolved easily or overnight. There is no question that Mr. Dias should not have been driving that evening.
But the hateful backlash against Brazilians that has poured out in the last two weeks has no place in the discussion, here or anywhere.