The Power of Words and the El Paso Massacre

I have felt absolutely numb the last 24 hours. I arrived in El Paso Friday night to celebrate a dear friend’s baby shower – an occasion for joy - and was met Saturday afternoon by the largest mass shooting of Hispanics in U.S. history. 

It is a wild feeling to know that your mere existence is hated. It is a wild feeling to know that there are people in this world who want to terminate your existence because of things that are intrinsic to your identity. 

Regardless of how much I “assimilate” - how many degrees I have, if I speak with or without an accent, if I am the most patriotic American in the country - to some people my existence and the existence of my community in the United States is not wanted and is a justification for senseless violence. 

Yesterday’s shooting in El Paso is the culmination of national aggressions towards the Latino community and continuous assertions from people in positions of power that the Latino community is evil, that we are invading, and we are taking over.

During the 2016 campaign cycle, Trump made Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant, the scapegoat for the murder of Kathryn Steinlein, a young woman in California. When Garcia Zarate was found not guilty of these charges, I remember sharing on social media that I was happy that he had been acquitted. A white friend of mine commented asking why I would be happy given that someone was killed. Trump used Garcia Zarate to galvanize anti-immigration rhetoric and create fear in the US against the Latino community. I had to explain that what I was celebrating was that Trump could no longer pin these charges on the Latino community and grow his message of hate against my community. 

Hate has been at the foundation for the President’s message from the genesis, right from launching his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and killers. That hateful rhetoric has only grown and has now resulted in devastating violence against our community.  

Many people said these words did not matter. They said these words were just words. But these words were and continue to be affirmations from the most powerful person in the world that my community is somehow threatening our safety and taking our American values by simply existing. There has been rampant hate from this administration towards the Latino community, from publicly questioning the fitness of a judge because of his Latino heritage, to the caging of our children and families, to disseminating racist and hateful rhetoric.  In the words of Mehdi Hasan: “The president may not be pulling the trigger or planting the bomb, but he is enabling much of the hatred behind those acts. He is giving aid and comfort to angry white men by offering them clear targets — and then failing to fully denounce their violence.” 

The President’s transparent disdain towards the Latino community throughout his administration has enabled and encouraged these white supremacists and racists, and when you add our senseless gun laws in the U.S., the result is yesterday’s massacre.

To end, I will share with you a story of resiliency and absolute love. After a night of rains in El Paso, the sun rose high in the sky this morning and with it rose a young Latina woman getting ready for the day ahead. After showering, she intentionally choose her outfit of light colors to exert a calming energy and joined other therapists as they entered the halls of hospitals that had been filled by victims from yesterday’s massacre to start the healing process for the trauma of this community. This is America. People that come together in a time of crisis to give love, to heal, and to empower communities. 

Our community matters. We matter. We are part of this country. We are teachers, business leaders, construction workers, social workers, and POLITICIANS. We are intertwined into the DNA of America. We will continue to exist and thrive. 

This is the power of words that will turn into action - The America I know is loving, welcoming, and kind. Trump, you are not my America and your message of hate, division, and racism is not our America. We are coming for you and 2020 is here.