A Latino on Latino mass school shooting in Uvalde. What now?

When I heard that a gunman had killed several school children in a Latino-dominated Texas town, I immediately thought: white supremacist.

How could I not?

Just this month, a white man allegedly murdered 10 black people in Buffalo, NY while railing against Latino “replacements” in an online manifesto.

In 2019, another white man radicalized by neo-Nazi literature drove hundreds of miles to a Walmart in El Paso with explicit orders to kill Latinos, prosecutors say. Twenty-three people died in this massacre, and several essays and columns have linked the tragedy not only to our current era of racism and violence, but also to the long, shameful history of Latino lynching in the Lone Star State.

We live in an America where millions consider us enemies just because we are Latino. So I braced myself to confront another murderous moron who is deliberately wreaking havoc in my community.

My stomach churned when I learned that the person who killed 19 fourth graders and two teachers Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas, was Salvador Rolando Ramos.

The mass shooting is already among the 10 worst in US history. In four cases, most of the victims were Latino: the 1984 San Ysidro massacre at a McDonald’s, the 2017 Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre, the El Paso massacre three years ago, and now Uvalde, a city where nearly three-quarters of its residents are Latino and the school district is more than 90% Latino.

But a Latino had never been the killer in any of these or any of the other 10 worst mass shootings — until Ramos.

We still don’t know his ultimate motivation. No explanation has surfaced and his now-deleted social media accounts left few clues other than cryptic messages and recent photos of guns he bought for his 18th birthday.

Former friends and classmates told the news media that Ramos was constantly bullied because of his clothing and speech impediment, that he often clashed with his mother and grandmother – and that his emotional state had deteriorated over the years.

But the sun had not even set on the Uvalde bloodshed and online speculation had already attempted to link Ramos’ actions to his person.

Some saw his Hispanic name and cited illegal immigration, although law enforcement officials were quick to explain that Ramos was born in North Dakota. After reading news reports that Ramos wore eyeliner and endured homophobic slurs, others claimed that his alleged sexual identity drove him to kill children.

Communities of color have always had to contend with this essentialism whenever one of us commits a massacre.

Asian Americans had to deal with ridiculous panditry in 2007 when photos surfaced of the Korean-born Virginia Tech student killing 34 people who posed in a way that referenced a violent Asian film.

Muslims must always remind people that Islam is not a religion of terrorism just because someone invokes Allah while launching an attack on US soil.

So when a minority kills on such a horrendous scale as Uvalde, it’s easy and understandable to call for color blindness.

But if it’s one of you killing your own kind, then what?

We cannot pretend that the disease of mass shootings is a white-only phenomenon, fueled primarily by racial hatred. Minorities should be “better”, we say to ourselves. We are supposed to protect our own from terrors like Uvalde – and yet we cannot.

By raining destruction on the most innocent of innocents in a small-town school, Ramos showed that minorities can be poisoned by that most American of diseases—the urge to arm themselves to the teeth and kill those around them on an industrial scale. It’s a very American quality now. One that makes us practically unique on the global stage. A land of mass killing, no war necessary, overburdened – no, guaranteed – by our dangerously easy access to weapons.

I have seen hundreds of social media posts from Latinos saying that the young victims in Uvalde reminded them of their nieces, nephews and children. I feel that too.

When I see photos of Ramos, I also see Latinos that I know.

When I heard Ramos being mercilessly taunted by his classmates, I recalled being bullied in a predominantly Hispanic high school where being even a little bit different was a scarlet letter.

When I learned that Ramos would lash out at others with verbal outbursts, I remembered how fellow students who were struggling with personal problems and needed help were doing the same—and how no adult seemed to notice.

When I read that Ramos was legally buying guns for his 18th birthday, almost as easy as buying a Coke, I thought of the gun cult that captivates too many Latino men.

None of what shaped Ramos is peculiar to the Latino condition. Rather, it is as much a part of our America as any other.

The Uvalde tragedy refutes what white supremacists say about Latinos and other minorities. We are not unassimilable; we all become part of the United States.

What Ramos has done – starting from a pathology found almost nowhere else on earth – is as American as apple pie. A Latino on Latino mass school shooting in Uvalde. What now?

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