By Sandra De Anda, Guest Columnist
Until junior high, my summers in August always ended at the McFadden Wal-Mart in SanTana where my siblings and I would go back-to-school shopping in search of the perfect pencil case and binders. We felt free to grab everything in sight as if it was Christmas morning. That’s the precise memory that came flooding back to me on Saturday when I saw El Paso trending on Twitter–for all the wrong reasons.
Last Saturday, a 21-year-old out of town white supremacist killed 22 innocent people and left more than two dozen wounded at a Wal-mart in El Paso, Texas. A majority of the customers were Latinx, many were back-to-school shopping. The shooter disturbed this community’s way of life and the spaces they inhabit with a weapon often used to address enemy invasions. The “Hispanic Invasion of Texas,” which is the fear the shooter cites in his purported manifesto, is no invasion at all.
The real invasion occurred in 1836, when white settlers declared a Republic of Texas on land that used to belong to Mexico and brought enslaved Africans in tow. The colonization that took place back then is happening again through emboldened young white men whose passions are not fueled by facts but by fear. These fears have been televised and normalized through President Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric against immigrants, asylum seekers and even congresswomen of color who he scolded to go back to their country.
According to the New York Times, “There are now about 56.5 million Latinos in the United States, accounting for 18 percent of the population — nearly one in five people in the country.” The US is also the second largest Spanish speaking country, right behind Mexico. These two facts alone are enough to prove that white supremacists are losing their stronghold in the American imagination and influence. Terror shootings like the one in El Paso allows white supremacy to pierce into these two spheres and has our communities asking if we have targets on our backs. It leads us to ask if the Latinx community being hunted and to what ends?
The actions of this white supremacist mimics those of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in some ways. He barged into a place that is familiar and comfortable and determined the fates of many Latinx people. The shooter came all the way from east Texas to El Paso where he would be able to kill Mexicans en masse. The Gilroy shooter carried out this similar sentiment by going to Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California to kill the “mestizos” his own writing loathed the presence of.
The violence that our imaginations once believed was only happening on the border is now happening wherever our communities are. It accompanies an already ever-present fear, one that surfaced in El Paso.
According to several news reports, people affected by the El Paso shooting didn’t seek medical treatment or ask authorities for help locating family members because they were afraid that they would come across ICE or Border Patrol. An organization named Hope Border Institute put out a call to the fearful to reach out to them.
Now our community knows all too well the dread of being caught between the terror of a mass shooting and fear of deportation.