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With David Folkenflik
A roundtable of Latina analysts on the shooting in El Paso, racism and domestic terrorism in America now.
Esmeralda Bermudez, writes narrative stories about the lives of Latinos for the Los Angeles Times. In 2016, she was part of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the San Bernardino terrorist attack. (@LATBermudez)
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Texas Tribune reporter Alexa Ura, who reported on the El Paso shooting this week, said the shooting in El Paso had instilled fear among those in Texas' large Latinx community.
"Talking to Hispanic leaders and community members throughout the state, there is this idea that, 'Are we actually safe?'" Ura said. "'Is the rhetoric that is confined to this manifesto actually something that’s shared pretty broadly?' In Texas, where there has been a long stream of anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic rhetoric the last couple of years, there’s a real fear from people, more so because they truly cannot make sense of it. In the absence of being able to make sense of it, there is some fear in the community.
"What this shooting did more than anything is throw down the façade that this was 'anti-immigrant rhetoric.' The shooter didn’t stop and ask people whether they were born in the U.S., or whether they were immigrants. He targeted them based on the color of their skin. And I think that is a real thing that we have to consider when we think of how people are regarded, how far this sort of rhetoric goes. The idea that it is only linked to immigrants is not true. It expands to anyone with brown skin at this point."
"There’s a real fear from people, more so because they truly cannot make sense of it. In the absence of being able to make sense of it, there is some fear in the community."Alexa Ura, Texas Tribune reporter
Janet Murguía is the President of UnidosUS, an advocacy group for Latinxs in the United States. Recent polling by the organization uncovered dread among American Latinxs about rhetoric from President Trump — 70% of participants responded saying they were frustrated with how President Trump and his allies treat immigrants and Latinos, and are worried it will get worse if Trump is re-elected.
"As a Latina born in Kansas, I’m often told to go back to where I came from. And I think people would be upset if they knew they were sending me home to Kansas," she said, laughing. "Right now we’re feeling, as a community, under attack. And there is a reason behind that. And this poll was done before El Paso. I can only imagine now, post-El Paso, how our community feels under assault."
Murguía said while the violence was directed at immigrants, the rhetoric was transcending immigration status, occurring along racial lines.
"There are 50 million Hispanics in the United States. 80% of those are United States citizens. And under the age of 18, that number jumps to 93%. One out of every four American children is Hispanic. I want to be clear that as President Trump and others would have us focus uniquely on immigrants … we’ve had a history and legacy in this country of having to combat discrimination and racism and bigotry based on color. What I worry, and what I see, is what we saw in El Paso is directly connected to the hate-driven rhetoric and policies coming out of the White House. Violence is a terrifying, but not an unexpected outcome, when our leader tries to normalize hate."
Los Angeles Times writer Esmeralda Bermudez has long written about issues faced by America’s Latinx community. However, it was a personal experience last year that made her further reflect on discrimination.
“Last spring I was at a playground," she said. "Everywhere I go, I only speak Spanish to my daughter. I’ve never spoken to her in English on purpose, because we are raising trilingual kids — they speak English, Spanish, and Armenian. The woman on the playground obviously didn’t know any of this. She just heard the Spanish, and it obviously disturbed her, and she scolded me. She said that I need to speak English and that I’m basically ruining my daughter by speaking Spanish to her. I told her that she was trilingual, and she told me, 'How well can she speak any of those languages anyway, speaking that many languages.'
"There was this huge fault line between her understanding and my understanding, and in that moment, as empowered as I felt about the truth of my life and the gifts I have been given by my daughter, I also really felt cut down. As a 38-year-old professional, I instantly felt like a 7-year-old being called a 'beaner' or a 'wetback' back in second grade.
"Language to me, in our lives, has been one of the greatest gifts. It holds on to so much of our history — the poetry, the music, all this beauty that lies in our culture. I cannot let it go. And neither can my husband let his Armenian culture go. A year and a half later, I find myself actually being grateful to that woman, because she really reminded me that the road that I’m on is the best road to continue walking down. It really gave me a lot of insight, not just about myself, but also about people who can’t speak up the way I speak up, maybe those who hardly speak English. There’s a lot of positivity that grew out of that very dark moment."
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Los Angeles Times: "For Latinos, El Paso is a devastating new low in a Trump era" — "Working with immigrants for 30 years, Pablo Alvarado has lived through decades of antagonism toward Latinos. It came in political waves that washed over California, Arizona and other states. There was Proposition 187 in the 1990s, the Minuteman protests, 'America’s toughest sheriff' Joe Arpaio and his hard-line policing tactics.
"Nothing compares to the reality Latinos are facing today, Alvarado said.
"'It’s a destructive moment for this country,' said the executive director of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network. 'This is the first time when I feel as if our adversaries have declared war against our immigrant community.'
"The massacre of 20 people Saturday by a man who traveled 650 miles to a Walmart in El Paso, reportedly with the intention of shooting 'as many Mexicans as possible,' marks what appears to be one of the deadliest hate crimes ever against Latinos."
The Texas Tribune: "A racist manifesto and a shooter terrorize Hispanics in El Paso and beyond" — "On Sunday night, as the sun dipped behind the blue-hued Franklin Mountains, this grieving border city telegraphed a message.
"The community had been violently knocked down by an act of what federal law enforcement has catalogued as domestic terrorism. As El Pasoans gathered by the thousands a day later over the brown dirt of a baseball diamond and out onto the adjoining football field for a community vigil, they were distraught and shaken.
"But they also spoke words of hope, of defiance in the face of hate and of a determination to write their own manifesto.
"'One of love, of tenderness, of inclusivity, of generosity, of compassion, of hope, of justice — all that makes El Paso and the borderlands truly great,' Dylan Corbett, director of the Hope Border Institute, proclaimed in a combination of Spanish and English to cheers from the crowd at Ponder Park, just a few blocks from the site where 20 people were massacred and more than two dozen others were injured at the hands of a white gunman. Two of them died Monday at local hospitals."
Vox: "Trump described an imaginary 'invasion' at the border 2 dozen times in the past year" — "A man drove more than 10 hours to a Walmart in the Texas border city of El Paso Saturday, reportedly intending to kill Latinx people and immigrants. Minutes before he shot dozens of people, a racist, xenophobic manifesto appeared on the 8chan online forum, warning readers of a 'Hispanic invasion' of Texas. Federal officials believe the shooter wrote it.
"The language used to describe Mexican Americans and Latinx immigrants was shocking — not just because of the hatred and racism it revealed, but because it was similar to the language repeated by the president of the United States.
"Lawmakers and critics have pointed out that the shooter may have been imitating Trump’s rhetoric about an 'invasion' of 'people' and 'illegal immigrants.' During a recent campaign rally in the Florida panhandle, for example, Trump used the word 'invasion' seven times in less than a minute."
Adam Waller produced this hour for broadcast.
This program aired on August 9, 2019.
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