Editor's letter - 8/7/19
On Saturday, a white supremacist walked into a Walmart Supercenter on the east side of El Paso and shot 22 people to death with an AK-47-style assault rifle. In his manifesto, the terrorist said his killing spree was “a response to the hispanic invasion of Texas.”
If that language sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve heard it from the President of the United States. The former host of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice, who accused our first black president of being a foreign-born enemy of state, built his political career stoking the fears and grievances of alienated white men.
“You look at what is marching up—that is an invasion,” the billionaire barked to cheers from a frenzied crowd before last year’s midterms. “They don’t like it when I say it,” he later nudged. “But we’re being invaded.”
The president cribs the blood-and-soil rhetoric of white nationalists, like the “very fine people” who marched on Charlottesville in 2017, because keeping his coalition intact means keeping white men angry and afraid.
“We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump,” former KKK grand wizard David Duke threatened at the aforementioned neo-Nazi rally in Virginia. “That’s why we voted for [him]: because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
This is why the president uses words like “invasion” when talking about non-white migration. It’s why he describes Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals,” despite the fact that they commit crimes at lower rates than people born in the United States. It’s why his administration instituted a policy of snatching children from their families—the youngest, baby Constantin, was four months old—and caging them like animals in squalid border camps.
“I’m not part of some invading army fighting against America. I’m here fighting for the American ideals I know we can live up to.” That’s Cristian Solano-Córdova, who was brought to this country by his mom when he was just three years old. You can read his story about living undocumented on page 14.
We’ve also got a photo essay on the July 20 demonstration against migrant detention at Fort Sill in southwestern Oklahoma, part two of our dispatch series from Jessica Vazquez (pg. 10). You’ll also find Barry Friedman’s take on the tepid reaction to the president’s racism from Oklahoma lawmakers, whose responses range from blasé to bizarre (pg. 8).
As we reckon again with the American ritual of bloodshed, I’m thinking today of Cristian’s mother—not a criminal, not an invader, but an inspiration: “I’ve never forgotten the look on my mom’s face, as she walked into the darkness of an unknown country. That is when I first realized that the meaning of courage is not to pretend to be immune from fear, but rather to calmly and steadily take action in spite of it.”