GOP’s disregard for venomous Trump rhetoric against Latinos is inexcusable
When Donald Trump launched his campaign for the presidency, Latinxs across the country were outraged but not really concerned. Trump was a bombastic buffoon, a product of the New York media whose most famous utterance was developed for his vapid television show, “The Apprentice.” More portentous, however, had been his paid-for advertisements calling for the execution of five young boys of color wrongly accused of a Central Park assault and rape, and his role in the “birther” movement, which claimed President Obama was not an American.
As the 2015 campaign wore on, it became apparent that Trump had tapped into a vein of hatred and racism that allowed him to do or say whatever he wanted and still retain his base. His presidential campaign was built on one specific promise – to build a wall on the Southern border, a “big, beautiful wall” to stem the tide of what the soon-to-be president would increasingly claim was an “invasion” of Latinx immigrants, who were either drug dealers, sex traffickers or murderers.
Trump has unrelentingly continued to ratchet his invective to the point where his followers finally shouted, at a May rally in Florida, that immigrants should be shot. Rather than push back against the suggestion the president of the United States — the leader of the free world, the supposed moral leader of the most powerful country in the world — responded laughingly “That’s only in the Panhandle where you can get away with that.”
And, finally, just last week, a 21-year-old from Allen, Texas, took his words to horrifying reality by taking advantage of lax gun laws to arm himself, driving 660 miles to a Walmart in El Paso and seeking out Latinx shoppers to kill. Early that day the shooting suspect reportedly published an online manifesto specifically claiming he wanted to stem the “invasion” of Texas by Latinx immigrants, echoing the words the president had repeated at rallies and in his tweets.
A study published in January of 2018 reported “compelling evidence” that Trump’s election was associated with a surge in reported hate crimes across the United States, and that the counties that voted for him by the widest margins experienced the largest increases in reported hate crimes.
The increasing venom directed toward the Latinx community has awoken deeply buried memories of racial violence, especially in Texas. Historians William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb point out that between 1848 and 1928, at least 282 individuals of Mexican origin were lynched in Texas. Carrigan and Webb write that “the most systemic abuse of legal authority was by the Texas Rangers” and was “tantamount to state-sanctioned terrorism.”
Every day across the United States, many more communities must deal with the painful aftermath of what this escalating wave of white-supremacist terrorism continues to leave in its wake. And yet, no action is taken by those who have been entrusted with the leadership of this country.
Gun violence — from the mass murder epidemic to the kind we experience in our own communities every single day — is a destructive evil that has no place anywhere, let alone in the nation that touts itself as the “greatest country in the world.” Yet, it continues to be both implicitly and explicitly condoned by the Republican party, which is complicit by its silence and unwillingness to confront the president’s rhetoric. This cowardice is especially notable in Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, who lost the GOP nomination to Trump and stand silent as the president’s rhetoric fuels violence against the Latinx communities from which those men arose.
This blatant disregard for our community’s humanity is simply inexcusable, unjustifiable, and unworthy of the offices these individuals hold, including the Office of the President. We must strongly condemn the violence nourished by the words of the president, the white supremacists he refuses to personally disavow and the silence of the Republican leadership.
We must support Latinx communities targeted by this bigotry through advocacy efforts with anti-gun and human rights coalitions across the country. We must call out the lack of leadership on those who both abet and fan the fires of xenophobia this president continues to spout, and to step up on our efforts to remove his racist stain from the presidential office.
Jorge Renaud is the regional director for policy and advocacy for South West Region at LatinoJustice.
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