Living in Fear in the United States

HPzvJxmxQIWAulXZGMoitwIf you want to know how the El Paso massacre and the hate speech spewing from Trump’s Washington and his thousands of Facebook ads targeting immigrants affects U.S. citizens and immigrants, check out journalist Aura Bogado’s Twitter account. Yesterday, she asked: “Latinxs: how do you feel in public right now? What do you think about? Is there anything you’ve visibly or verbally changed, and if so, why?” The answers are still pouring in: 

  • “I carry my passport with me everywhere just in case, cause I don’t want to end up like that guy who was a natural born citizen and still got taken by ICE. Also witnessed some dude yelling at an Asian guy to go back to his country at a bus stop. I’m in Los Angeles.”
  • “I work at a latinx org in dc — everyone is terrified, I cried at my desk all day monday, & a co-worker and I made our escape plan if there is ever an active shooter. this is exhausting”
  • “Terrified. I live in a blue dot (Tampa), but work in a red dot. I’m a U.S. born citizen, but my parents are naturalized. My mother begged me and my brothers to carry our full U.S. passports and long form birth certificates at all times.”
  • “I work in the community, I have mix feeling, but I don’t feel safe and I am worry for my daughter mostly. She will be a senior this year in her High school and has been a tough ride since the election. I live in Eastern KY.”
  • “I immigrated to the US with my family from Latin America when I was 4. I’m 42 now. I’m now scared to speak Spanish in public places. I never thought I’d feel that.”
  • “I placed my passport card in my wallet in event ICE targets me for just looking like what they consider “illegal”.

These are just a few of the many, many responses. Are undocumented immigrants afraid? Of course. Are documented immigrants with all their papers in order also afraid? Yes. Are U.S. citizens who “look like” immigrants or who are naturalized citizens afraid? Yes. Is this the America that the administration wants? Probably. This is the America their hate speech has created. 

Writing in The New Republic, journalist Adrian Carrasquillo explains

The immigration narrative in this country has traditionally distinguished between people in the country illegally (bad) and people of the same ethnicity or background who immigrate legally or were born here (good). But one consequence of the heinous, racist, cowardly shooting targeting Mexicans and immigrants in the majority-Hispanic border town of El Paso Saturday is how it burst the bubble anyone may still be trying to live in—that this isn’t ultimately about white supremacists doing what it takes, including brutal violence, to stop the country from changing….

“The shooter didn’t ask people to see their papers, or if they did it the ‘right way,’ or if they came here legally,” she wrote, posting that many Latino families in Texas never crossed the border. “This has never been about legality, it has always been about race. It has always been about our brown skin in this country.”

Vox traces the history of anti-immigrant and racist terrorism in the United States. It is long. It is ugly. It is accelerating right now:

“The El Paso shooter is not a fluke or an anomaly. He is part of a resurgence of white nationalist violence in the United States, a wave of killings that are themselves part of a very long history of political violence by American racists and white nationalists.

“In the years after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan and other terrorist groups launched a wave of killings aimed at intimidating newly freed black people and restoring the antebellum racial order. Around the same time, an increase in immigration from East Asia and Mexico in the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to a wave of lynchings and mob violence targeting migrants, including large-scale race riots in Los Angeles in 1871 and in El Paso in 1916….

Looking at the attacks as discrete events is a mistake, one akin to treating every lynching or anti-Chinese riot as a separate and disconnected incident. The overarching goal, the thing these attacks have in common and that connects them to a legacy of racial violence in America, is the aim of creating a climate of fear and anger — one in which minority groups are scared and more whites are won over to the racist cause.” 

Do not let this continue. Call out racist and anti-immigrant hate speech. Does it make your friends and family uncomfortable? Go back and read the responses at the beginning of this post. Think about the difference between being uncomfortable talking about racism and the daily experience of feeling fear and terror for your children, parents, yourself. 

From a letter in the Washington Post cosigned by 39 Latino leaders:

“Many will not want to hear or believe this: Hispanics in this country are under attack. Black and brown people in this country are under attack. Immigrants in this country are under attack. And President Trump is fanning the flames of hate, division and bigotry directed at us all — immigrants and U.S. citizens alike. Though the attack has been pervasive for many people in this country for years, it is becoming an epidemic that is quickly infecting more communities and posing a real threat to our country. The president is also providing cover for white nationalists, explicitly endorsing hate speech and tacitly endorsing violence….

“Domestic violent extremism perpetuated by white nationalists affects Americans from all backgrounds. On Saturday, it was a Latino community; not long ago it was a Jewish congregation worshiping at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Muslims at a mosque in California. African Americans at Bible study in Charleston, S.C. Our gun violence epidemic is further fueling hate crimes.”

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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