Three years ago today, on August 3, 2019, Mexicans were targeted by a white supremacist. Mexicans have always been targeted by others for our skin color, our language, our culture and just because we are different. Many will deny it and many others will pretend it’s not true, but the reality is that Mexicans are regularly targeted. To understand what it means to be targeted we first need to address how to define the term “Mexican”. Mexican, as used in America, can mean many things to many people. In its most basic use, Mexican is the term for a citizen of México. But that’s just the truest definition. In America the term is used to define many types of people, culture and food.
Most have heard Mexican used to define a type of food. There is Cal-Mex, Tex-Mex and New Mexican food. But it does not stop there when it comes to food. Food foodies know that there are different variations of Mexican food in México depending on where one finds themselves savoring the food du jour. This is where one may be thinking they are ordering a menudo only to be served a pozole, or better yet getting ready to eat what they believe will be delicious traditional enchiladas only to discover that an even better variation is gracing their plate that day. Instead of the three neatly rolled enchiladas dripping with green tomatillo sauce there is a stack of flat tortillas neatly piled on top of each other dripping with savory red salsa topped with an egg. It looks and tastes different but delicious, nonetheless. But food variations not only exist in México because America has its own versions of Mexican food. Many look at Mexican food as crispy tortillas filled with ground meat calling them tacos. Many others swear by the red enchiladas found in New Mexican cuisine. Still many others look forward to the heaping plate of nachos, which is an American thing but still Mexican enough to clearly blend two cultures together that many fear.
It is the nachos that succinctly proves what many fear, that Mexican-Americans are an identity, a culture and a people that prove that two ideals can come together to form a unique way of life with its own world view of reality. In other words, we are a heaping helping of nachos oozing with flavors that come together to form a perfect union – each distinct but together making something great. This brings us to the other definitions of Mexican, as used in America. Mexican is a word used to define a language, mistakenly so but used nonetheless, a people, a skin color, a way of life and even used to marginalize those that are different. Often, the individuals that fear change, those that fear a different skin color or a different language, or simply those who lose their jobs to others will often use the word Mexican to define anyone that is not American, Asian or of European descent; basically, anyone south of the border. They could be referring to an Argentinian, a Cuban or even a Puerto Rican, who is also an American citizen, as Mexican. Mexican to some, simply means someone that they fear regardless of culture, nationality or how American they may or may not be.
On September 3, 2019, a murderer showed what many Mexicans already knew, that for some people – some secretly and others not so much – that to be Mexican is to be targeted for being, well Mexican. Although we frequently say we’ve been targeted, many scoff at the suggestion. Targeting Mexicans is background noise where the abuse is practiced behind closed doors, through whisper campaigns and even openly but secretly like treating Spanish-speaking laborers as second-class citizens or simply castigating a Spanish speaker for simply speaking Spanish in public. Many reading this last statement will scoff at the idea that speaking Spanish in public can be cause for punishment or public humiliation in today’s America, an exaggeration they will argue.
But it happens.
Take for example, Border Patrol agent Patrick O’Neill detaining two U.S. citizens in Montana for 45 minutes simply for speaking Spanish in 2018. This did not happen near the U.S.-México border that some will assume, it happened about 35 miles from the Canadian border where Canadians speak either English or French but not Spanish. Thus, profiling by language cannot be true as undocumented immigrants near the Canadian border are more likely to be speaking another language besides Spanish, unless the assumption is that speaking Spanish equates to being undocumented in America, where Spanish is the second-most spoken language in the country. (see note below)
To argue that O’Neill profiled the two American women as likely undocumented because they were speaking Spanish in a country where Spanish is the second most spoken language betrays the reality that they were targeted simply because they looked, you got it, Mexican.
The two women sued the Border Patrol after the incident because they were singled by “proxy for race”. The Border Patrol settled the lawsuit in 2020. Ana Suda, one of the two women was born in El Paso and the other woman was born in California.
Yet, many scoff at the suggestion that Mexicans are targeted even today.
According to the U.S Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Texas (press release, July 9, 2020) Patrick Wood Crusius drove 659 miles to a Walmart in El Paso Texas and opened fire with a GP WASR-10 rifle and killed 23 people. It was not a random case of murder; it was the targeted killing of Mexicans.
Crusius himself clearly tells us that he targeted Mexicans.
In the Manifesto that Crusius published online before starting his murder rampage, which officials believe to be his words, he clearly tells us his reason when he wrote: “Even if other non-immigrant targets would have a greater impact, I can’t bring myself to kill fellow Americans.” Crusius added in his manifesto that “Hispanics will take control of the local and state government of my beloved Texas,” adding that “race mixing…destroys genetic diversity and creates identity problems.”
It is this language that many believe in. Only openly uttering it around like-minded individuals but acting on the belief through inaction, oppression, coercion or even under the color of the law like Border Patrol agent O’Neill did in Montana.
On September 3, 2019, the façade of targeting Mexicans – for simply being Mexican – was unveiled to the shock of many. No sooner than the gunman started killing that the spin machine started to spin the narrative away from killing Mexicans towards gun control. You see gun control is more palatable to the average American than the fact that Mexicans were targeted for being Mexican. When children are killed, its not about killing children, its about gun control, according to the narrative when in fact children were murdered. Whether gun control will solve the problem is immaterial because the topic is why are so many lives taken?
There is simply no excuse to go on killing sprees. Whether it is a gun, a knife or a bomb, the issue is the act of murder. The bomb, the knife, the gun, or even bare hands are part of the equation, but the underlining problem is the hatred.
When Mexicans were targeted three years ago the assault rifle was the means, but the underlining hatred is the reason.
Today, we are still waiting for the reason to be publicly detailed, not about guns, psychology or ideology, but the hate that targets Mexicans. Three years later, we, as Mexicans, are still waiting for the court system to stop playing judicial and political games to start the process of calling the murder of Mexicans for what it is – the targeted killing of Mexicans for simply being Mexican.
As a Mexican, I demand that the time has come to stop pretending that Patrick Wood Crusius targeting Mexicans is “domestic terrorism,” a problem about assault rifles, or a case of insanity and of due process and just simply call it for what it is – a manifestation of what we, as Mexicans, in all of our colorful variations know to be true – being targeted for simply being Mexican.
Note: According to the United States Census Bureau, since 1980, the most used language in America, besides English is Spanish.