Opinion

El Paso massacre shooter, driven by racism, targeted Americans like us

Protesters hold signs at a protest against President Donald J. Trump’s visit after the mass shooting that happened at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas that left 22 dead. Law enforcement officials say the shooter, who surrendered, drove 600 miles from near Dallas to target Mexicans/Latinos.
Protesters hold signs at a protest against President Donald J. Trump’s visit after the mass shooting that happened at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas that left 22 dead. Law enforcement officials say the shooter, who surrendered, drove 600 miles from near Dallas to target Mexicans/Latinos. Agencia EFE

It’s no secret, even hardened journalists who have witnessed gruesome crimes, had to interview white supremacists and been subjected vile diatribes of “Go back where you came from!” can break down emotionally.

I have even been threatened by the police chief of a rural city in Stanislaus County not to step foot in his jurisdiction in the 1980s over his dissatisfaction over coverage of a police shooting.

I apologize to those who took part in the Miguel Reyes 5k race the day after the killings because my heart was not in reporting the race until I posted the story and photos four days later.

I apologize to Teatro de la Tierra for not providing readers with a recap of its thought-provoking production ‘Who Is Responsible? The Immigrant Crisis at the Southern Border.’ Review and story were posted six days later.

I apologize to the Fresno FC for leaving at halftime of what would be the soccer club’s sixth win in seven USL Championship matches on Aug. 3.

I apologize my mind kept wandering to thoughts of El Paso; the scores of aunts, uncles and cousins who still live, work and contribute to that city; and, on the rise of hate crimes.

I probably spend too much time worrying about what comes next.

Will the followers of crazed leaders wreak more havoc on a community of Americans who are an interwoven part of this country.

I know one thing: I now have a bigger target on my back.

That has been me for several days following the Aug. 3 massacre of 22 people – including eight Mexican nationals and one German– trying to make sense out of a senseless act of violence by a young man intent on wiping out as many Mexicans as he could.

You can’t blame this on mental illness.

That is not insanity.

It is racism at its worse. And, last I checked, racism is not listed as a mental disorder in the psychiatric profession. Neither are bigotry or prejudice.

That El Paso – the country’s 22nd largest city with a population of 682,669 that is 83 percent Latino – ranked among the safest cities mattered little to the shooter.

How can an American have so much hate to gun down an Army veteran?

What drove him to travel 600 miles to carry out his sick mission?

Where is this invasion? Hell, many Latinos have lived in the Southwest for generations longer than those whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower.

For years, I have reported on the changing demographics in California and their positive impacts.

That is why I was drawn to a Twitter posted by Texas Tribune reporter Alexa Ura.

“As a reporter, I’m not supposed to say any of this. I’m not the story. But after El Paso was terrorized, I’m still reeling.

“It feels selfish to put this out there when there are children burying their parents and parents burying their children.

“But it feels so personal.”

Yes, it has become personal.

vida editor esparza loera

Like me, Ura is brown. We can’t change who we are.

Racists will target people like us because they have been led to think we are varmints. Criminals. Inferior. Takers.

They don’t care if you have a college degree, served in the military, attend church religiously, pay your taxes on time, or have invented a life-saving drug.

No, they go red when they see brown.

They’re the ones who will tell an elementary school student they won’t amount to much, and not spend time preparing them for college.

They’re the ones who will deliver a racist joke right in front of you, then expect you to laugh with them.

They’re the ones who think our contributions are limited to salsa (the dance, and the condiment) and little else.

They’re the ones who read this and think the writer had gone loco.

They’re the ones who believe there is no racism in this country.

They’re the ones who will support and make excuses for a racist leader.

They’re the ones who think white America was alone in winning the War for Independence, putting man on the moon, or making corporations rich.

Racism is ugly, whether it come from a white or brown mind.

I wish I could go on reporting about a Dreamer who is now researching for a cure for cancer at UCLA.

Or, about an immigrant from Argentina who started the first massive public health fair decades ago in Stockton.

Or, about the grandson of Mexican immigrants who, as president, has boldly shaped his university as one of the best in the nation.

Or, about the boy who grew up thinking of going into space and became an astronaut despite being rejected 11 times before he was selected.

Come to think of it. I will continue to write those stories.

People need to know that Mexicans/Latinos/Hispanics/Chicanos are not bad people. That they contribute mightily to a country they are willing to defend. That they are as American as a fourth-generation Asian or a newly coined U.S. citizen from Iraq who want a piece of the American dream.

Those stories are this country’s stories.

Racism, I hope your days are numbered.

Juan Esparza Loera has been editor of Vida en el Valle ever since it first published in August 1990. Send questions, sugggestions or comments to: jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

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