I once had a friend tell me that not all crimes were hate crimes. Another one decided to add on that just like 2020 was awareness for Black Lives Matter, 2021 would be awareness for Asian Lives Matter. They told me that maybe next year Latinos would get a turn too. But why should I have to wait a year for my people to get their recognition? Why should it only be important to talk about certain issues when they become a trend?
Am I all of a sudden supposed to forget that Vanessa Guillen was sexually harassed, murdered and left dismembered in a ditch? Was Alex Nieto not shot at 59 times by four San Francisco Police Department officers? Did three White girls not call my dad a wetback for being Cuban and was my mom not threatened to have ICE called on her simply for speaking Spanish? Millions of people are told to wait for their turn to finally become important in society’s eyes when thousands of them are killed by police and citizens every year, yet justice is hardly in anybody’s agenda.
We didn’t have to call what happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor or Daniel Prude hate crimes, but we did, didn’t we? Everything we ever thought we knew changed in summer 2020 because of Black Lives Matter protests. It was incredible, but people did not have to die repeatedly for a movement to finally matter. Just this month we even saw the Atlanta spa shootings cause national outcry against Asian hate, but when an 84-year-old Thai man was killed after an unprovoked attack in San Francisco, how many actually cared enough to speak out nationwide?
I’m told that my people will get their turn even though Patrick Crusius drove 11 hours to kill Hispanics at an El Paso Walmart in 2019, leaving 22 people dead. What exactly am I supposed to be waiting for? For more of my own to die until someone finds them important enough to be talked about? Latinos do come in all colors, but that day Crusius wasn’t just targeting any race. He wanted to kill “mestizos,” the racial category that millions identify with all throughout Latin America.
Mestizaje has a long and complicated history, but when these people of mixed Spanish and indigenous descent arrive in the United States, they feel forced to fill in the word “White” in papers that don’t define who they really are. However, the greater issue is not what socially constructed race someone is; it’s that, because “mestizo” is not recognized in the U.S., violence against the community becomes difficult to discern.
What happened at El Paso was racially motivated, just like the Porvenir massacre, the murder of Raul and Brisenia Flores and all those police killings you barely ever hear about. Their faces may pop up on Instagram stories here or there, but what good does that really do? They were all someone’s kid too when they were killed. Brisenia Flores was nine-years-old when a bullet was sent through her head. Instead of getting the chance to see her daughter go to college, all her mom has left to visit is a grave. That’s all people have when justice comes too late.
Street vendors are beaten unconscious in Los Angeles streets, others even killed. But, it seems that nobody but those who understand the pain of being discriminated against care. And it’s not like colonizers stealing away millions of people’s different cultures, languages, religions and practices was enough. Now, the very people who come to this country with the illusion that they will be living a better life than they were in nations run down by CIA coups are told to just wait for their turn in the Instagram trend cycle. Apparently, that’s all a life is worth now.
It terrifies me to know how a grave could one day have my brother’s, sister’s or parents’ name. I don’t want just photographs, memories and a grave to remember someone I loved. People shouldn’t have to die in order to be important. Centuries of genocide have ridden my community, yet still I wait for a moment of awareness.