Understanding Latino White SupremacyRoundup
tags: racism, violence, Latino/a history
On May 6th, a thirty-three-year-old Mexican American man named Mauricio Garcia shot and killed eight people at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas. Then he was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer. Because of the white-supremacist views the shooter expressed in a diary and online, many were shocked that he was Latino. In fact, Latino white supremacy isn’t an oxymoron, and carrying out a premeditated mass shooting in the United States is one of the more American things a Latino could do. We’re only five months into 2023, and in that time seventeen thousand people have been killed by guns in this country. Meanwhile, there are more than sixty million Latinos in the United States, and, motivated by extremism or a sense of fear, they’ve bought a lot of guns in the past few years.
In his 2004 book, “Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity,” the late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington fretted over how Mexican immigration was changing the “Anglo-Protestant mainstream culture” of the United States. He worried that Mexican immigrants weren’t assimilating as earlier European immigrants had done. “The criteria that can be used to gauge assimilation of an individual, a group, or a generation include language, education, occupation and income, citizenship, intermarriage and identity,” he wrote. Huntington believed that the descendants of Mexican immigrants weren’t hitting these markers, but he was wrong. They assimilated like others did. They learned English, intermarried, became loyal Americans, and adopted American politics, including its most extreme and violent forms.
We don’t know a lot about Garcia, but the diary he kept in the years leading up to the shooting made clear his growing persuasion by white-power ideology. He wrote about the superiority of non-Latino white people and claimed they would lose their edge if they continued to let nonwhite immigrants into the country. Reports on Garcia’s self-presentation have focussed on his misogyny, Nazi tattoos, racist statements against pretty much every group, and the patch on his vest that read “RWDS.” The patch, which stands for Right-Wing Death Squad and refers to anti-Communist and anti-Indigenous paramilitary groups in Central and South America during the nineteen-seventies and eighties, has become popular among right-wing groups in the United States today, particularly the ultranationalist Proud Boys.
But Garcia continued to see himself as Latino, which he never equated with whiteness, and at moments he manifested pride in his nonwhite Latino identity. It is a confusing set of ideas that nevertheless has a long history among Latinos, in part because the category “Latino” itself has been fiercely contested—with some arguing, for example, that it should be classified as a race rather than an ethnicity. A New York Times Op-Ed by the historian Cecilia Márquez focussed on the lineage of Latino white supremacists before Mauricio Garcia, including Pete Garcia, a Mexican American segregationist in Dallas in the nineteen-fifties; George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin, in Florida, in 2012; Alex Michael Ramos, who beat a Black protester at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville; Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys leader recently convicted of seditious conspiracy; and Nick Fuentes, a white-nationalist live streamer. Most of these Latinos said they were nonwhite, even though the protests they joined, the groups they belonged to, and the violence they committed defended whiteness and white-power ideology.
Scholars and journalists have described these Latino white supremacists in different ways. Some Latinos, they’ve argued, are also afflicted by “aspirational whiteness,” or the desire to be white in order to fit into the racial and capitalist order of the United States, to avoid the discrimination that Black Americans experience, or to justify the pursuit of individual wealth and belonging. They ascribe to “multiracial whiteness,” which the political scientist Cristina Beltrán defines as an identity that people from all racial backgrounds can participate in. It is rooted, she writes, “in a discriminatory world view in which feelings of freedom and belonging are produced through the persecution and dehumanization of others.” Such concepts help to explain how, in a country with rising racial violence, Latinos can be both potential perpetrators and potential victims.
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