The horrendous massacre at a mall in El Paso on Saturday seems to have had its root in violent hatred of immigrants. The online manifesto apparently posted by the shooter complains about the “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and argues that “if we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable.”
This kind of white nationalism has without question been emboldened by President Trump, who routinely denigrates the humanity of anyone who isn’t white. This is the man who first came into public view for discriminating against African Americans in housing and who most recently called on four women of color to “go back” to where they came from. Even when faced with violence from actual neo-Nazis, Trump talked about “fine people” on both sides of the issue.
As a result, the U.S. has seen an alarming rise in hate crimes during the Trump era. Especially revealing is the effect on Trump’s rhetoric in places where he holds rallies: There hate crimes increase by 226 percent.
The motivation for the El Paso shooting was apparently racism, pure and simple. But the white nationalism that feeds that racism also includes a violent hatred of LGBTQ people as well. There are plenty of examples that illustrated how tightly linked white nationalism is to anti-LGBTQ bigotry.
As a reminder, the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville in 2017 and who Trump was praising as fine people chanted “F*ck you, f*ggots.” One of the marchers later released a video game that required players to break into a gay nightclub and shoot people.
The connection is clearest when it comes to so-called Straight Pride events. The call for such a get-together in Boston is being organized by a small group with a record of white supremacism and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Another Straight Pride event in California is being run by a group that says Western Civilization is being destroyed by the “inherent malevolency/evil of the Homosexual/Sodomy Movement.” In short, it’s not just white supremacy. It’s straight supremacy as well.
So far most of that hatred has been confined to rhetoric — but not all of it. A white supremacist was convicted earlier this year for murdering a black trans woman. The Pulse nightclub massacre wasn’t a right-wing attack, although by the FBI’s own admission, the right-wing is the clearest threat for domestic terrorism.
At the heart of it all is what the El Paso manifesto made clear: the threat to “our way of life.” That’s the same fear that animates the religious right in its endless quest to diminish LGBTQ rights and that Trump plays to with his rants. It’s the threat posed by everyone who represents all the changes happening in American society — immigrants, people of color, empowered women, and, yes, LGBTQ people.
No one is saying that the fear automatically leads to violence. But the problem with hatred is once you unleash it, you have no control over it. If you genuinely believe your world is threatened, you will defend it. With guns so readily available (thanks to the NRA, which has its own anti-LGBTQ agenda), a shooting is hardly a surprise. That doesn’t make it any less a tragedy.