It’s a question that’s really been bothering me: What makes a person want to kill other people whose skin color is different, or who speak a different language, or were born in another country? That’s exactly what happened in El Paso, Texas. The gunman — racist, terrorist, whatever you want to call him — specifically targeted Latinos because they were different.
Sylvia Saucedo was one of the survivors. She was with her mother at Walmart that morning when suddenly she heard the gunshots. They took refuge underneath a table. With her left hand, Sylvia clung to her mother. With her right, she recorded the attack with her phone. (You can watch her video here.) Sylvia thinks the murderer was only 20 feet away.
“I thought he was going to shoot us because we’re Mexicans,” Sylvia told me. “And he was here for that purpose: to kill Mexicans. Very horrifying. We need to do something to stop racism. Why are people hating us? We’re not supposed to be labeled as criminals or drug dealers.”
One can’t help but note that Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015 by describing Mexican immigrants as rapists, criminals and drug dealers. And that he has repeatedly described the flow of immigrants into the United States as an invasion.
“Invasion” happens to be one of the words the suspected gunman, Patrick Crusius, used to justify his actions in a 2,300-word manifesto he posted online before the shooting. His bitter complaint was over the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Too bad he hadn’t learned in school that Texas was actually part of Mexico before the state declared its independence in 1836, and only eventually joined the United States later.
Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso-born presidential candidate, was unsparing in describing the connection between Trump and Crusius. “When you read his manifesto, he is using much the same language that President Trump has used in his speeches,” O’Rourke told me after the shooting. “And you remember very well in May of this year in Florida, President Trump is talking about this ‘invasion,’ and he says: ‘How are we going to stop these people?’ And somebody in the crowd says: ‘We shoot them.’ And President Trump smiles in response. So yes, he sent an unambiguous signal to the kind of white nationalist terrorist that we saw come to El Paso on Saturday, that it was OK to meet this invasion, this infestation … and that’s exactly what happened.”
Maybe it’s just my immigrant mindset, but I wish I lived in a country where most people didn’t agree with Trump, and don’t want to emulate him.
In the Trump era, two fundamental questions remain unanswered: Who are these people who hate us? And why do they feel this way? Whoever they are, most of them aren’t about to run outside with a gun and start shooting people. Still, racism is everywhere and it’s expressed in multiple ways: From almost imperceptible snubs and insults to outright discrimination, beatings and coldblooded murder (as was the case in El Paso).
As for why these people hate us, the answers are pretty clear. They hate us because we look different, and because sometimes we speak a language they don’t understand. They hate us because we’re growing in numbers and clout. They hate us because they see us as a threat to a country where, by the middle of this century, white people may no longer be a majority.
They hate us because they’ve been brainwashed into believing we are criminals intent on harming their families, and that we want what is rightfully theirs. They hate us because they think — wrongly — that immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans. They hate us because they think we don’t help the economy or contribute positively to American culture. They hate us because they don’t know us and don’t want to know us.
In short, they hate us because, to them, we are The Other.
The irony, of course, is that the United States is a country full of Others. I’m one of them. Almost all Americans have ancestors who were born in another country. And therein lies the magic and the strength of this nation: Different people have come together to make something new. The more diverse we are, the stronger we become.
Nobody should be targeted simply because they are different. Sadly, that’s what occurred in El Paso: It was the worst shooting targeting Latinos in modern American history.
And all because one person hated us.