Column: The tragedy of Uvalde and the right’s cynical reading comprehension problem

Racist. Bigot. Fool. Hater.

anti-white. Biased. Stupid. diabolical

Those were some of the nicer things conservatives called me last week — all because I believe white supremacists pose a danger to an American society that is increasingly targeting Latinos.

That was the opening thesis of my May 25 column on the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old man shot dead 19 fourth-graders and two teachers. I wrote that when I heard the news of a mass shooting of Latino school children in the Lone Star State, I immediately thought the killer was a white supremacist.

Stockton. Charleston, S.C. Pittsburgh. The fear of a racist attack didn’t seem so far-fetched.

The United States was only a week away 10 Black people shot dead in Buffalo, NY by a man who authorities say has published a manifesto saying, among other racial slurs, that Latinos are a “problem that white people grapple with.” have to”. Uvalde is in a state where another white supremacist went to El Paso three years ago with the express intention of murdering Latinos and summarily killed 23 of them at a Walmart.

We live in a time when a ridiculous conspiracy — elites are using Latinos to replace whites — has become a talking point from the fringes of society, being peddled by conservative media and Republican politicians alike, with an implicit call to action to change to stop this recapture.

Assuming that racial hatred could lead someone to kill Latinos was not illogical. I specifically didn’t say that I thought the perpetrator was white, but white racist – someone motivated not by their race but by their racism. Because I don’t believe that race predisposes someone to crime, but I do believe that harmful ideologies can.

Most readers have caught this nuance. Hundreds of others didn’t.

Conservative media outlets like the New York Post and Breitbart focused on my shock that Uvalde’s killer was Latino and not the white supremacist I had imagined. Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce tweeted about one of those stories, adding, “Identity politics rots inside out,” then immediately blocked me.

They at least pretended to be polite.

Via social media and email, bilious readers shared statistics and articles purportedly showing minority groups commit more mass shootings than whites. Others said I should have assumed the killer was Latino because of our alleged propensity to kill.

That same mindset bubbled up from people who asked me why I wouldn’t direct my anger at drug violence in Mexico — not to mention that the killings cartels commit are categorically different from mass shootings in the United States. Or that the United States is fueling much of this chaos through American guns being smuggled south of the border and Americans using the drugs going north.

Unsurprisingly, said hundreds of critics I was the racist for even addressing white supremacy. People were so upset they even blew up my final thought that mass shootings are “a pathology found almost nowhere else on earth…as American as apple pie” and blasted me for giving the honor of the dessert.

I’m used to angry letters – it comes from my job as a columnist. But the reaction to my Uvalde column has disturbed me in a way I haven’t felt in years.

A memorial in front of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

A memorial in front of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

(Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times)

Readers also told me to stop thinking only about race. I actually rarely do. But as the hate grows louder and more powerful and more deadly, I must do it. We live in a country where too many white people don’t look in the proverbial mirror and maybe consider for a second that white supremacy in this country is a problem and needs to be addressed.

Especially by whites.

Minorities have long had to apologize for the bad apples in our groups, used by fanatics to make sweeping statements to deem us dangerous. Such stereotypes fueled decades of legal and de facto discrimination, segregation and violence rooted in white supremacy—all in the name of protecting whites from people of color.

Today, as official and unofficial attempts at racial reckoning continue, many whites will not tolerate an examination of this past and will do anything to ignore it. Racism is a matter of faded newspaper clippings and screen dramatizations, rather than something that’s still all too common. People who openly embrace white supremacy and then kill in its name are dismissed as purely insane and not a symptom of something deeper.

This kind of color blindness is a legal cult almost as bad as gun worship. This is why so many parents and politicians rail against teaching folklore in public schools or introducing critical race theory into the curriculum even if its implementation is more imagined than real.

That’s why they don’t want to hear that white supremacy has done the very harm to minorities that whites always feared minorities would do to them — and that the toxicity is more pervasive than ever.

My column even mentioned that you don’t have to be white to commit this type of mass murder. Not only did readers conveniently skip that fact—they even offended the idea that white people can. White fragility, heal yourself. Column: The tragedy of Uvalde and the right’s cynical reading comprehension problem

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