I’ve been a lot of things in my life. Among them are the following:
A quiet kid
An opinionated adult
A bad guitarist
An aspiring writer
A published author
A sullen Gen Xer
A Monty Python fan
And now, thanks to our current president, I can add the following:
You see, there can be no doubt — if there ever was — that Hispanics are not just objects of derision and scapegoats for America’s problems. In conservative circles, we’ve had those roles covered for decades now.
But in Trump’s America, we are also human bullseyes for paranoid racists with access to heavy firearms. And considering that there are thousands (perhaps millions) of paranoid racists storing up millions (perhaps tens of millions) of guns… well, it is not a time to sit back and get comfortable if your last name ends in Z or if you bear even a slight resemblance to Selma Hayek.
The gunman “drove more than 10 hours … specifically to find and kill Latinx people.” He wrote a racist, xenophobic manifesto “posted online minutes before the massacre, in which he warned about a ‘Hispanic invasion’ of Texas. “The document also bemoaned the increasing Latino population and included “a decision by its writer to target Hispanics after reading a right-wing conspiracy theory asserting Europe’s white population is being replaced with non-Europeans.”
But according to conservatives, this is just total coincidence. And also, Trump and Fox News have nothing to do with this despite their constant screeching about immigration and labeling Mexicans as “rapists” and throwing around the exact terms the gunman used and demonizing Latinos every single chance they get. And I am the real racist, say them, for pointing out these facts and why can’t we all just be nice to the president, so there.
However, back in reality, it is clear that right-wing hostility toward Latinos has moved beyond insults and physical assault and threats to deport everyone who is just a little too tan.
No, we now have white supremacists gunning us down during back-to-school shopping.
Indeed, it is “quite a transition from being invisible to being visible in a lethal way,” and hurtling past “the basic darkness of racism” into homicidal rage.
Yes, I know there are those Latino conservatives out there who will insist that this incident does not reflect upon the xenophobia of their cherished GOP. However, their self-loathing fidelity to bigots is no safety net. El Paso shows that in the eyes of rabid nationalists, “it doesn’t have to be you who crossed the border. It just has to be you who are not Anglo.”
Of course, our fumbling, incoherent president — who cannot even fake his way through a display of basic empathy — addressed the shooting by blaming “the internet, news media, mental health and video games, among others.” But at no point did he “take responsibility for the xenophobic rhetoric that he has frequently used to demonize and dehumanize Hispanic Americans and immigrants over the past four years.”
Hey, it’s not his problem. And his main supporters, the fabled Trump base, will likely never feel the existential stress of being targeted for extermination, for no other reason than the way one looks or speaks.
But for Latinos, “it’s really hard to be alive right now and to not be sick and exhausted.”
It feels like being hunted.
Featured image: Bridge on the El Paso-Juárez border (Jonathan McIntosh/Flickr)