EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – A year into the aftermath of the August 3rd mass shooting at the Cielo Vista Walmart, the question remains: where do we go from here?
As El Paso continues to grapple with the racism and xenophobia that led to the tragedy, the city is also challenged to address white supremacy in unprecedented ways.
In 2019, for example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported the majority of domestic terrorism arrests were tied to white supremacy.
The mass shooting in El Paso is no exception.
According to FBI director Christopher Wray, domestic terrorism arrests match the number of international terrorism cases.
Confronting white supremacy is both a domestic and global issue that lawmakers, leaders, and advocates are working to address.
On Thursday, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar joined the Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, Mexican Ambassador to the United States Martha Barcena, and LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides to discuss how to continue to fight hatred at home.
“Preceding the attack, I had long feared we were going to be a target of attack,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “Immigrants have been an easy scapegoat. Immigrants have been identified as a ‘problem to be solved.’”
“This is the type of dehumanization that we thought was relegated to the dark pages of history, but are unfortunately occurring in my community,” said Escobar.
Escobar says its important to consider white supremacist rhetoric and ideologies that existed in the community prior to August 3, 2019.
The manifesto allegedly written by Patrick Crucius sometime prior to the shooting was rife with anti-immigrant rhetoric that also reflected white supremacist views.
One line from the manifesto that sticks out for its alignment to white supremacist language based upon historical inaccuracy is “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
(Texas was originally part of Mexico until colonized by Spain in the eighteenth century. Texas declared independence from Mexico in 1836.)
White supremacy is often thought of in terms of black and white photos of hood-wearing KKK members seeking to kill Black people in the South. The sentiments expressed in the images are not exclusive to the past.
The hatred of contemporary white supremacy knows no bounds but very much hates borders and those coming from it.
According to Linda Gordon, author of The Second Coming of the KKK, the Klan was fading into obscurity by the end of the nineteenth century but later underwent a resurgence that extended to hatred of other minorities to include Jews and immigrants.
The Anti-Defamation League analyzed the changing faces of hatred, and found that white supremacy rose in the last three years, and that the movement is overwhelmingly male and youth-oriented. Murders by white supremacists make up more than half of all domestic extremist-related killings.
As El Paso continues to reckon with white supremacy along the border, LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides stresses the importance of knowing how to recognize racist language, identify hate crimes, and encourage dialogue.
The ADL is currently petitioning Congress to support the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which is set to enhance the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism. The bill will require law enforcement agencies to routinely evaluate threats and provide training and resources to state, local and tribal law enforcement to mitigate such threats.
El Pasoans are responding to calls for more than solidarity and urging the community to integrate anti-racist language into our everyday lexicon.
One suggestion from the National Museum of African American History is to train ourselves to have a questioning frame of mind. Asking questions is an effective method to address racism:
- Seek clarity: “Tell me more about __________.”
- Offer an alternative perspective: “Have you ever considered __________.”
- Speak your truth: “I don’t see it the way you do. I see it as __________.”
- Find common ground: “We don’t agree on __________ but we can agree on __________.”
- Give yourself the time and space you need: “Could we revisit the conversation about __________ tomorrow.”
- Set boundaries. “Please do not say __________ again to me or around me.
Another method is to regularly confront your own biases.
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, utilizing social and emotional learning techniques helps develop skills like empathy and the ability to understand and manage emotions.
Social and emotional competencies include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making, which helps a person to examine, address, and correct biases.
For anti-bias education tools and resources, click here.
On Friday, August 6, Congresswoman Escobar will conduct a virtual town hall to honor victims and survivors of last year’s shooting and address the work Congress is doing to end gun violence and domestic terrorism.