My heart is heavy. This is a column that I never imagined that I would ever have to write. In the span of minutes on Aug. 3, a deranged gunman with white supremacist beliefs went into the Walmart at the Cielo Vista Mall in nearby El Paso and murdered 22 people with an AK-47-style assault rifle. Apparently, he traveled from the Dallas region to El Paso to murder Mexicans, whom he referred to in an online manifesto as “invading” the U.S. and impinging on white America. Several hours later, another deranged killer murdered nine people on a busy street in Dayton, Ohio.
According to a City of El Paso January 2019 news release, this city of nearly 700,000 has averaged 19.4 murders per year during the past five years. This violent act of murdering 22 innocent people in a day exceeds the entire annual murder average. Violent homicides, and especially hate crimes, are very uncommon in El Paso. As a comparison to other similarly-sized cities in the Southwest, in 2018 Albuquerque had 66 homicides, Tucson 53, and Colorado Springs 49 – note that each of these cities has a smaller population than El Paso.
I don’t know much about Dayton, Ohio, but I do know that El Paso is one of the most gentle, welcoming, and kind cities in our nation. I live in Santa Teresa, located in southern New Mexico, a western suburb of El Paso. I shop at Cielo Vista Mall with both Americans and Mexicans. If such a vile act can occur in this community, no community in the U.S. is safe.
I am tired of having ill-intentioned parties from other parts of the country trying to make the border be a piñata for all things evil ranging from xenophobia to fear mongering, and now to racist violence. The border is a place where we are not separated – rather it is a place where we come together to integrate the best aspects of our different cultures to form something truly unique. The El Paso border region is a melting pot of Mexican, Native American, Lebanese, White, Korean, African American, and other races/ethnicities. We are all accepting of each other. The border is truly a region where anybody who is different will have no problem fitting in. It is a place where people routinely cross the border to shop and visit families, and where Spanish and English are equally heard. It is this diversity that makes it strong, and makes people want to live here and raise their families.