Commentary: The LGBTQ community knows all too well what it’s like to be in the crosshairs of a deranged person filled with hate. When the killer (we will not publish the his name) drove more than 650 miles from Allen, Texas to El Paso for the sole purpose to “kill as many Mexicans” as he could, we know that his and other hate-filled whack jobs’ target could have just as easily been us.
In an El Paso Walmart, 22 people were gunned down and dozens of others wounded by a young man intent on carrying out his manifesto inspired by Donald Trump. It is the deadliest incident of violence against Hispanic people in U.S. history.
The New York Times wrote, “At campaign rallies before last year’s midterm elections, President Trump repeatedly warned that America was under attack by immigrants heading for the border. “You look at what is marching up. That is an invasion!” he declared at one rally. “That is an invasion!”
Nine months later, a 21-year-old white man is accused of opening fire in his twisted effort to carry out the President’s command. This attack was a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas Donald Trump spoke of.
My first visit to a Walmart after the El Paso attack came a few days later. It was mid-morning and the store on Galveston’s seawall wasn’t too crowded. I just needed a few items so I pushed my mostly empty cart from aisle to aisle trying to remember what I came into the store for and not think about the recent rash of Walmart attacks.
I came upon a Hispanic family, parents and two children, probably between 6 and 10 years old. They were speaking Spanish. My first thought was, “I wonder if they feel safe.” Surely they were aware of what happened at the other end of Texas just a few days before.
They seemed happy enough as they tried to decide which soft drinks to put in their basket. I carried on and minded my own business. As I turned the aisle a thought crossed my mind.
So what is it like to walk around knowing you have a target on your back? Most people fortunately will never have to answer that question. Then I realized, I’ve been there.
While seeing that innocent family, I felt a sudden sensation of empathy. That, of course, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another and to walk in someone else’s shoes, a quality lacking in the president. That caused me to realize that I and all other LGBTQ individuals have walked in their shoes.
We walked in the shoes of Orlando, where a hate-filled homophobe entered Pulse nightclub with the intent to kill as many queers as he could. Like El Paso is the deadliest act of violence against Hispanics, Orlando is the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history.
In the wake of the horrific massacre in Orlando, a makeshift memorial was erected in the median near the corner of Westheimer Road and Montrose Boulevard in Houston. It was vandalized repeatedly until a permanent structure was dedicated in April at Tony’s Corner Pocket.
The flag at the memorial is emblazoned with the words, “With Love, Houston.”
Hate crimes are on the rise since Trump took office and we cannot expect that to change as long as he remains there and continues his hateful rhetoric. Under Trump, the GOP is attracting the support of the KKK and other right wing extremist organizations, as he embodies their values.
Trump has been a racist for years, and is pretty public about it. Heck, his father was a card-carrying member of the KKK. Take a look at the birther thing, or the racist attacks on a Federal Judge of Hispanic heritage, wanting to ban Muslims from entering the country or even his presidential candidacy announcement. Racists and bigots have embraced Trump and he, them. After all, they all hate the same people. Do not look for Republicans to call Trump out for his racist remarks. They fear retaliation and/or agree with him. Their silence speaks for itself.
We cannot change the hearts of racists and bigots but we can outnumber them. All minorities and oppressed groups must stand together. Adopt the phrase, “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” and mean it. Your silence is complicity. Call out your racist friends when they make racist comments.
Years ago, Republicans tried to make the word “liberal” a dirty word. We chose to wear it as a badge of honor. Let’s see if they can do the same with the word “racist.”
The attacks in Orlando and El Paso were a direct assault on a specific community. It could have been us. It could have been you.
We are El Paso! With Love, Houston.