I write today with a very heavy heart. The shooting in El Paso this past Saturday (August 3, 2019) has brought a dark cloud over my family and many in the Latino community. This event has been difficult to process. We (Mexicans and Mexican-Americans) were seen as a threat, we were targeted, and we were killed…
- As a Christian, it pains me to see 20 image bearers of God gunned down for being Latino in America.
- As a Latina, it pains me to know the lives of my kin were seen as so worthless and threatening.
- As a Texan, it pains me to see a new racist bloodstain on the home and place I love.
As I followed the coverage, I wept. Wept for our people who lost their lives, wept for their family and friends who are now in mourning, wept for Latinos across the country who are now afraid to step outside their doors, my family included.
Then in the early hours of Sunday morning, another shooting. Two mass shootings in two different states, within 14 hours of each other. The frequency of these two shootings reminded me of the fear I felt on 9/11. First it was one tower, then another, then the pentagon…EVERYONE thought, “we’re under attack!” On Sunday morning I felt that same fear, that same confusion. These two shootings feel like terrorist attacks because they are. Plain and simple, mass shootings are domestic terrorist attacks, especially when motivated by extremist hate ideology like white supremacy and white nationalism.
My generation has grown up seeing the increased frequency of mass shootings throughout the United States. From 1982 to 2011 there was a mass shooting in the US every 200 days. From 2011 to 2014 there was a mass shooting every 64 days. (Rate of Mass Shootings, Harvard Research)
Just off the top of my head, I can recall:
- 1999 Columbine
- 2007 Virginia Tech
- 2009 Fort Hood
- 2011 Tucson Arizona Grocery store (Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head)
- 2012 Colorado at premier of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises
- 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary
- 2015 Mother Emanuel AME Church
- 2016 Pulse NightClub
- 2017 Las Vegas
- 2018 Parkland
- 2019 Walmart in El Paso
- 2019 Dayton Ohio
If you’d like to see an exhaustive list of every mass shooting that has taken place in the United States, check out this link.
Mass shootings for any reason are horrific tragedies. However, even worse is the increase in mass shootings in the name of white supremacy/nationalism. This past Sunday some churches named the El Paso shooting for what it is: domestic terrorism fueled by white nationalism. To the pastors and congregations who had the courage to call out the cause and motive of this shooting, thank you!
On the other hand, some churches failed to say anything, or did but failed to publicly address the hateful and racist cause. Christians cannot be afraid to name Saturday’s shooting as an act of terrorism for the sake of saving face. Latinos across this country and in our pews are hurting and frightened right now! If this racist act is not acknowledged by our churches and our white brothers and sisters, you are with your words and deeds telling every Latino “you and your experiences don’t matter in God’s church.” Vague explanations about what happened on Saturday don’t comfort but add to the hurt we already feel.
Yesterday, during services an elder at my church cited 2 Corinthians and encouraged our congregation to be sorrowful about Saturday’s act of violence. To be completely transparent the call and prayer felt hollow because nothing of the ideology that led to the loss of life was ever mentioned, nor was it ever described as terrorism. If our churches want to demonstrate genuine sorrow and lament over the Latino lives lost in El Paso, we must also have the courage to name the ideology and institutions promoting the actions of the gunman. To truly feel sorrow and lament we cannot simply weep over the effect of hateful racist ideology, but recognize and name this root cause. Only by bringing white supremacy into the light and acknowledging it, can we start to dismantle it. Pastors, this is not about politics, this is about people. Especially for pastors of predominantly white churches, are you taking notice of the Latinos in your congregation? Have you reached out and asked any of your Latino members how they are processing this shooting in El Paso? Or are you sacrificing them at the altar of the status quo (white dominance), for the sake of not ruffling feathers of the white majority in your church? We are here, we matter, and we are watching. What will your response be?
To my white brothers and sisters, how are you processing the shooting? Are you naming it for what it is? There are Latinos sitting in the pews around you wrestling with fears reminiscent of anti-Mexican violence in Texas of generations past. Do you know the Latinos in your church? Brothers and sisters, sitting in silence and segregation is not ok. For my Latino and white Christian family do not be afraid to talk to each other about this event and be bold enough to confront one another about ideologies that oppose the gospel.
If you are unfamiliar with anti-Mexican violence in Texas we recommend reading this book.
A mis hermanos y hermanas, les amo mucho y estoy orando por ustedes. Salmo 34:18 nos recuerda, “Cercano está Jehová á los quebrantados de corazón; Y salvará á los contritos de espíritu.”
The shooting this Saturday makes the sin and brokenness of this world real and near. But we are not without hope. We worship a God who experienced our broken human condition, who can sympathize with our pain, and who will one day bring healing to our world and put an end to sinful ideologies. Check on one another, weep with one another, and encourage one another to hope. A sweet hermana sent this to me this morning and I hope you will meditate on it today,
“Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God; ruthless people are trying to kill me- they have no regard for you. But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength on behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did. Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.” Psalm 86:14-17 (NIV)