The white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville did not include the words “Mexicans” or “Latinos” in their disgusting chants. Drawing on their Nazi credo, they shouted “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil,” among other racist diatribes. The closest they came to spewing direct attacks against the Latino community was when they chanted “One people, one nation ― end immigration,” considering that millions of Latinos are immigrants or children of immigrants. But as Ilia Calderón’s interview with members of the Ku Klux Klan can attest, Latinos are not immune from white supremacists’ hate. As one of the largest minority populations (in size) in the United States, it’s our responsibility to stand up and speak out against white supremacists. Now is not the time to say it’s not our fight.
Our history’s place in the United States is complex and diverse, but there is one thing that remains constant in our shared experience: we have had to fight for our civil rights and against racial discrimination. While many of our ancestors in the Southwest and Florida were in this country long before the Mayflower landed on Plymouth Rock, as a whole, our community has historically been the target of legal and de-facto discrimination. We were used as scapegoats for the nation’s economic woes in Operation Wetback and beaten to a pulp in the Zoot Suit Riots of East Los Angeles during World War II. Hidden in the shadows of a history relegated to specialized Mexican-American college courses are the hundreds of Mexican lynchings that took place in Texas and the Southwest during the 19th and 20th centuries. Mexicans were not allowed to use public segregated establishments such as schools, pools, restaurants and public restrooms. We’ve been branded as an “other” to fear and to use as a rationalization for the nation’s maladies. This oppression came by the hands of men who thought like Trump, Stephen Miller and David Duke.
In the face of oppression, we didn’t sit back and watch. Leaders sprang from within our Latino communities from Texas to California and, taking cues from the courage of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, we fought to take our rightful place in a nation that we have helped shape with our hard work and contributions. We organized. We wrote. We marched. Our hard work paid off, and our community prospered under the cloak of hard-fought equality. Our milestones came one after another, from the first Latina in the Supreme Court to the first Latina in the United States Senate, and everyday victories for the countless Latinos who contribute to the labor force. The day Trump slid down the Trump tower escalator and called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals marked a terrible milestone that launched a campaign for the presidency that to this day continues to attack us.
The same ideology that prompted restaurants to post “No Dogs and No Mexicans Allowed” signs, and the same laws that allowed policy like Operation Wetback in the 1950s is the same one that lurks in Trump and Miller and Gorka’s White House. It’s the same ideology that appeared dressed as disaffected white supremacists and shrieking racist chants like a mad banshee in Charlottesville. They don’t want people of color or immigrants, among many other groups they consider inferior, and Latinos are on their list of “undesirables.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, for instance, found that discussions on Stormfront, a white supremacist website, were mostly centered on Latinos and African-Americans. The same fringe extremist groups that surface during heated national immigration debates now have a national stage and they will not differentiate between a Latino immigrant and an American of Latino descent.
We are all on the receiving end of their attacks, and to survive, we must look to the leaders before us. We must not sit back and watch. It’s our duty as Latinos to stand with our African-American and Jewish sisters and brothers. It’s our duty as Americans to stand up and defend our nation from the gangrene that is white supremacy and Nazism. Latinos have contributed to this nation in the ballot box, in the businesses that employ millions, in the classrooms where we teach, in the literature we write, in the movies we direct, and in the policy we enact. Now, we must contribute with our voice in the resistance.