As I write this, I am waiting for the final body count of the El Paso Wal Mart Shootings.
The last I saw, there were forty injured and nineteen dead, and one man in custody. His identity has been confirmed as 21-year-old Patrick Cruisus, and he allegedly left a white supremacist manifesto. Somehow, the police managed to take him alive and uninjured.
I greatly respect people who say we mustn’t share pictures, or say the name, or discuss the motives of the killer. I wish I could stop thinking about the killer entirely. The killer is a despicable coward who challenges my opposition to the death penalty. I’d far rather spend my time commemorating the victims and the heroic people who rushed to stop this.
But the fact is, those innocent people became victims for a reason, and it is in our best interest to understand that reason– out of respect for the victims, and in order to prevent further victims.
And the fact is, the El Paso Wal Mart Shooter was a 21-year-old white man who allegedly left a white supremacist manifesto. The manifesto refers to immigrants as “invaders” and contains a line about a supposed “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” where Spanish-speaking people have lived since before there was an official state of Texas. Sure, it’s possible that this whole manifesto is made up. Maybe it was a different Patrick Cruisus. Maybe he really did write that, but something else set him off.
Less than a week ago, three people including a six-year-old child were murdered in cold blood at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The killer, Santino William Legan, a man of Italian descent, encouraged his followers on Instagram to read Might Makes Right, a book beloved by white supremacists, shortly before he started shooting children at a festival. And we’ve all been encouraged not to guess about his motive. Maybe the fact that he was into Might Makes Right was completely immaterial. Perhaps he just had a bad day.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League cautions us that white supremacists were responsible for “the great majority” of extremist killings last year, and that extremist killings are on the rise– 2018 was the fourth-worst year since 1970. Sure, we can choose to be relieved that it wasn’t the worst.
And meanwhile, in the realm of surely unrelated things that happened in our country this summer, we’ve seen a natural-born United States citizen detained for almost a month, kept in squalor, not permitted to shower, starved until he lost 26 pounds– even though immigration officials had seen his birth certificate. Surely a coincidence. A nine-year-old girl, also a United States citizen, was detained on the way to school and kept for 30 hours without her parents; they tried to get her fourteen-year-old brother to claim he was her pimp so they could deport them both. Both of these were “Hispanic–” they had Latino surnames, their parents came from Spanish-speaking countries, and they spoke Spanish. Of course, it’s always possible that’s a coincidence.
These detention centers, which I’m told I must not refer to as concentration camps, at the Southern Border– places where people are crammed together in squalid conditions, denied basic hygiene and starved to the tune of more than one pound weight loss per day– are for Hispanic and Latino immigrants, including the legal kind who apply for asylum in accordance with our laws, and also for the odd citizen who is also Latino or Hispanic and whom CPB decides they have to keep locked up for weeks while they examine their birth certificate. They’re not being used for any other kind of prisoner– not even illegal migrants who are from other parts of the world. Just this kind– the brown and tan kind who speak Spanish.
And meanwhile, on President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign trail, the president told non-white members of congress, including natural-born citizens one of whom grew up in the Bronx, that they should go back where they came from. And I’m told this wasn’t really racist at all in context and I should stop being so naive. Then, at one of his rallies, the president’s adoring fans chanted “send her back” about a United States citizen and a congresswoman who was black. I’m told this is reasonable because Representative Omar is “ungrateful.” I suppose I should be grateful that they didn’t just call her “uppity.”
All of this happened this summer.
Perhaps I’m just overreacting.
But after awhile, I’m forced to admit that it looks to me like my country is being overwhelmed by a dangerous wave of white supremacism. The United States has never been innocent of white supremacism, but it ebbs and flows, and it’s flowing now. It’s killing people, now. Immigrants are dying of preventable infectious diseases in those detention centers, children are being shot at summer festivals, at least nineteen people were shot to death while trying to do their weekend shopping just today, and white supremacism is the thread that weaves through all of this.
When large numbers of people in a given country are abused, locked up and killed because of white supremacism, that’s called a genocide.
What I see happening in the United States, is a white supremacist genocide that’s seeping in on several fronts– from young internet trolls who pick up rifles and drive to a shopping center, all the way up to the Oval Office. And I believe it’s going to get worse.
And I think that the worst thing we can possibly do right now, is be shy about calling a spade a spade.
Because white supremacism is not something that goes away if you ignore it. It only gets worse. Exposing it to light won’t make it go away automatically, but it gives us a fighting chance.
We must all be willing to identify and denounce white supremacism– white people like me most of all, and I do. I am not somehow more American than Hispanic or Latino people, or Jews, or Black people, or immigrants from anywhere in the world, and neither are you. No human is worth less than other humans. White supremacism is terrorism. Patrick Cruisus is a terrorist, and this form of terrorism presents an enormous threat to our country and our world.
My heart goes out to the victims and their families in El Paso today.
I pray for my country to be converted, before this happens again.
(image via Pixabay)