Marcos Bretón, father / husband, son of Mexican immigrants, and columnist for the Sacramento Bee, published an opinion piece talkng about living in the USA as a Mexican American… I didn’t know how to write about the El Paso massacre because for two weeks I’ve been too angry at too many people. At the El Paso killer of 22 people who took aim and sprayed bullets inside a crowded department store because his expressed goal was to “kill Mexicans.”. At the president of the United States for demonizing Mexicans from the day he announced his candidacy. At my fellow journalists for framing El Paso as a gun control story when it’s about much more than that.
This one is personal:
But more than anything, I’ve been angry because the cultural hatred that made El Paso possible, and our obsession with using Mexico and Mexicans as convenient scapegoats for our societal ills, have been specters in my life.
They existed long before I was born in California to Mexican parents in 1962. As recently as a decade ago, I hoped we would move beyond our long-held hostility toward Mexico and Mexicans.
But El Paso and Donald Trump have convinced me that this specter will haunt me for the rest of my life. I am Mexican American with no hyphen and no apologies. You got a problem with that? Well, many people do.
Identifying strongly with my ancestral homeland has come with hassles big and small, annoying and hurtful. Of course, this is not unique in the immigrant experience in the U.S.
The Italians and the Irish were dumped on for generations. But the U.S. doesn’t share a border with Ireland or Italy. Italian and Irish workers aren’t currently propping up American and California industries dependent on cheap labor. Italian and Irish kids aren’t filling our schools and communities.
Denigrating Italy or Ireland doesn’t make for winning politics. Trump proved winning politics lies in denigrating Mexicans.
So did Gov. Pete Wilson in California in 1994. Does that mean that Trump and Wilson invented the art of hating Mexicans? Of course not. But each recognized the electoral gold in focusing public anger toward “dirty Mexicans.”
Trump has been a direct messenger of ethnic hatred on his Twitter feed and in campaign speeches. Wilson hitched his political star on demonizing the border, but the results are the results: Votes, wins and a trail of traumatized people whose ethnic backgrounds became wedge issues in heated electoral cycles.
I’ve lived through all this and I can tell you these campaigns made you feel like a target regardless of your legal status. Our love for our parents, our grandparents, our relatives and their customs placed us on the losing side of American culture and politics.
That’s been my experience living nearly all of my 56 years in “liberal” Northern California. For me, this has meant responding by sometimes doing things and saying things for which I am now ashamed.