El Paso shooting was an attack on Latinos—and media needs to do a better job at remembering that

The names of the victims adorn a makeshift memorial at the Cielo Vista Mall Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on August 6, 2019. - The August 3 shooting left 22 people dead. US President Donald Trump will visit the Texan border city August 7, and will also travel to Dayton, Ohio where a second mass shooting early August 4 left another nine dead. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

The white supremacist terror attack in Texas was without question an attack on the Latino community: The killer drove nine hours to target El Paso, a vibrant binational city where crossing borders is just a daily way of life. And because the killer drove hours to intentionally target this community, the dead have overwhelmingly been Latinos, from both the U.S. and Mexico. This community should be centered in any media coverage of the shooting, but has this been happening? Not nearly enough.

“CBS has been calling Saturday’s shooting ‘the worst attack on Latinos in modern American history.’” CNN’s Brian Stelter said. “On the ‘CBS Evening News,’ correspondent David Begnaud visited a local Catholic church and interviewed residents. ‘We’re not all rapists and animals’ the way ‘someone has depicted us,’ Ruben Torres told Begnaud.” Stelter also points to a headline from the Los Angeles Times, “For Latinos, El Paso is a devastating new low in a Trump era.”

But the Los Angeles Times’ own Esmeralda Bermudez, co-author of the article cited by Stelter, listed a slew of other newspaper covers on which Latinos and their voices were largely erased. “Reading headlines across the U.S. today you wouldn’t know that one of the deadliest hate crimes against Latinos happened 3 days ago,” the journalist tweeted. “You wouldn’t see victims faces or get any hint of how Latinos feel.”

She points out that papers did breathlessly cover Trump’s scripted remarks, even though everyone knows he’ll be back to chuckling over shooting asylum-seekers in no time. Rather than the media continuing to waste airtime on noted liars who literally have nothing to contribute but Hatch Act violations, such as Kellyanne Conway, it should give that space to Latino leaders such as Rep. Veronica Escobar and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who have been among the voices pointing out Trump’s ties to white supremacist violence.

“The attack two days ago was an attack of a Latino community, it was an attack on immigrants, it was an attack on Mexicans, and Mexican-Americans. And that was not an accident,” Castro said at a recent gathering organized by advocacy group UnidosUS. “That is in part due to the climate this president has set.” Likewise, Escobar said that “the president has made my community and my people the enemy. He has told the country that we are people to be feared, people to be hated.”

Fear is heard in the voices of Latinos interviewed by Bermudez, one of whom told her that Trump’s “words are the ammunition and people of color are his target. And he’s not ceasing, and it’s all very methodical and directed.” The members of this community cannot be erased from the conversation when they are the conversation, so talk to them, and ask them about their lives in this era. “From Chicago to Houston to Boston to New York and Washington D.C., how so many editors and writers managed to let the voices of Latinos fall off the news grid this fast is incomprehensible,” Bermudez continued. “Do better. Too many lives depend on it.”

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