When Silence is Deadly

Texas welcome center in Denton, TX

For many Texas-Mexicans (Tejanos), it’s the silence of our friends and our neighbors that are Trump supporters that is killing us.  Tragically, until last Saturday, it was figurative – how can they stay silent? How can they believe this bullshit? Then, everything changed in a moment, when a white man drove 11 hours from North Texas to murder people just like us in El Paso.  He felt empowered to murder us in cold blood in our cars, while fundraising for our children’s’ soccer teams, and simply grocery shopping, because we were brown.

My question to you – to the people I love that are Trump supporters – is when will you use your power to push back on the ugliness that comes out of our President’s mouth?  When will you force him to be a President for all American citizens, not just his base.

The Beauty of South Texas

South Texas is magical. It is and will always be my home, even when I don’t live there. It is where my family lives, where I grew up, where my heart is.

What makes South Texas so special has so much to do with its people. It is and I hope always will be one of those special places where people of different backgrounds, different cultures, and different races came together and proved that it is our diversity that makes us stronger.

As you travel from El Paso to Corpus Christi, along the Rio Grande and up the Gulf Coast, you have community after community of majority Tejano communities, but with Irish and German families all brought together. The Irish, German, Polish and Czech families settled in the region after the war with Mexico and became absorbed into the fabric of life in south Texas to create a culture that is uniquely different. From the Tex-Mex cuisine, to Tejano music (which is a fusion of classical Mexican music fused with Polka,) to the Texas-Spanish dialect, not English, not Spanish, but something in between.

South Texas is where I grew up side-by-side with neighbors, white and brown, that even when we disagreed with each other on fundamentally important issues, we found a way to be friends.

And then Trump happened…

In 2015, as Trump’s momentum grew, Mexican-Americans throughout the country, along with many, many others, were horrified with the language that Trump used to speak about minorities and immigrants. It was clear that he had racist tendencies, and it was also becoming clear that the people that believed in the rhetoric he was screaming about was allowing some of the worst in America to rise up.

For many of Tejanos in South Texas, his language around Mexicans and migrants hit home.  The migrant workers he berated were our aunts and uncles, our friends and family. The “rapists and criminals” he decried – were they US? Who were they?

Yet, we watched as some of friends, our family, started to embrace Trump. They rationalized his language as strong but accurate. Maybe he could say it in a better way but in your minds it was true. Some of you agreed with his economic policies. Some of you just like his style – loud, brash, angry.

Over the last four years, in a community in which color never mattered before, I started to see a divide – driven by a single polarizing figure.  And it hurt. It hurt because you could not understand the angst and the fear that we felt.  You could not understand that we are less then a full generation away from Jim Crow laws being repealed.  The scars of institutionalized racism still sit on the shoulders of my father, my aunts and uncles, even if they don’t talk about what it meant to be marginalized and segregated.

We saw something ugly and terrifying starting to build, supported by Trump’s words and actions, and had no idea what it could mean.

Now we see what could be

So, here we are.  The country mourns three mass shootings in less than a week. El Paso was clearly a hate crime, focused on the brown people that Trump has spent the last four years targeting.  As the shooter targeted the Mexican invasion at a border town, it did not matter if the brown person he shot was an American citizen or not. It didn’t matter if his victim’s families had been here for generations or were literally just visiting for the day. All that mattered to him was the color of their skin, and he felt justified thanks to the words of his President.

Trump has proven over and over and over again that he is not here to be an American president. He is here for his base, and candidly, whether they admit it or not, those that he is appealing have a problem with minorities.  They are the people who cheer “send her back.” They are the ones that believe in this “Mexican invasion” fallacy – which simple statistics (real DATA) clearly disproves.  That is a real fact, versus Trump’s alternative facts.

However, there are many who support Trump because you support the larger Republican platform.  He needs you to get elected too, yet you aren’t his base.  You know his language is wrong. You know his lying is immoral. You recognize his divisiveness is hurting this country. How far will you let it go before you take a stand?

My plea to my Republican friends and family

Speak up! Give your elected leaders the courage to stand up to Trump.  Stand up for your friends, your family, that he has put in danger with his inflammatory language.

My Republican friends hate the connection that non-Trump supporters make between the American president today and Hitler.  But, look to history to understand why the comparison matters.

My grandmother grew up in Nazi Germany. She lived through the war as a child. And she is scared. She is also a Republican who watches Fox News.  Her take as our country has changed in the last few years is simple.

It was the silence of the German majority that allowed Hitler’s power to grow until it was too late. Then, no one could speak up.

Trump does not care about those that don’t support him. My voice in his mind is silenced already. But your voice could matter.  Take a stand, force him to be accountable, push him to be the President that you thought he might be able to be originally.

Speak up!  Stand up!