Our hearts are heavy. Again.
This weekend, we saw the sickening consequences of hate – as we’ve seen over and over in recent months.
Twenty-two people were killed by a gunman in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday.
He wasn’t an ISIS fighter. He wasn’t a brown-skinned “invader.”
He was an angry white man, U.S.-born, who had access to weapons capable of killing dozens of people within seconds.
Although the motives are unclear in two other mass shootings over the last eight days in Dayton, Ohio, and Gilroy, Calif., those acts also were committed by white men. This is the truth our country must confront.
The suspected killer in El Paso – who used military-style weapons to kill 22 people – appears to have been fully indoctrinated in the same white nationalist movement that has spawned numerous other domestic terrorists in recent months.
This is nothing less than a global terrorist movement, one animated by white supremacy and the belief that white people are being systematically replaced by people of color in Western countries.
And make no mistake: It’s a movement that has been energized and encouraged by our own president, who uses words like “invasion” and “infestation” when talking about people of color. In describing U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ majority-black congressional district in Baltimore, he said “no human being would want to live there.”
A racist “manifesto” apparently posted online by the suspect in El Paso echoes the same themes that President Trump invokes to stoke militant anger and hate among the campaign rally-goers who roar chants like “Send her back!” in reference to women of color in Congress. In the post, the writer frets about a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and warns that white people are being replaced by foreigners.
This fear and resentment of our nation’s growing diversity is at the heart of the hate that’s swelling across America.
It’s no coincidence that the number of hate groups we’re tracking across America rose for the fourth consecutive year in 2018 – for a cumulative 30 percent increase that coincides with the last presidential campaign and the current administration. Hate crimes also have risen by about the same amount during this period, following three years of declines.
Words matter. Especially the words of our political leaders.
In 1963, in the midst of his feud with civil rights leaders, Alabama Gov. George Wallace said, “What this country needs is a few first-class funerals.” Just days later, Klansmen bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, a meeting place for civil rights activists, killing four little girls.
Today, more and more, we are seeing hate crimes and terror attacks committed by white nationalists. Unfortunately, El Paso may not be the last.
This white nationalist fever will not break on its own.
It’s up to people of decency and goodwill across America to work together toward an agenda of love and hope – of opportunity, equality and true justice.
We must reject the politicians who traffic in fear and hate. And we must relentlessly call out those who enable them.
As a nation, we’ve done it before. We must do it again.
Photo by Mark Ralston/Getty Images