There’s a lot we don’t know about two separate horrific events that unfolded over the weekend in two Texas communities, Allen and Brownsville.
Concerning allegations have already been reported about both incidents that remind me of an underreported but real dynamic: people of color espousing far-right beliefs.
While there is no indication that the two deadly events have any connection, the two suspects appear to be Hispanic men. Authorities identified Mauricio Garcia, 33, as the shooter responsible for killing eight people and injuring seven others at the Allen Premium Outlets Saturday afternoon. Garcia, who police say used an AR-15-style rifle in the shooting, was killed by a police officer who happened to be at the outlet mall, which is located about 25 miles north of Dallas.
In Brownsville, police said Monday that George Alvarez, 34, drove his SUV over a curb and plowed through a crowd of 18 people who were waiting for a bus outside a shelter on Sunday morning, killing eight of them. Alvarez, who police said has an extensive criminal record, allegedly tried to flee the scene of the crash but was stopped by a group of onlookers. He was charged Monday with eight counts of manslaughter and 10 counts of aggravated assault, Brownsville police Chief Felix Sauceda said.
To be clear, authorities in Allen have not officially disclosed a motive for the shooting massacre. But, citing law enforcement officials, several media outlets have reported that, at the time of the shooting, Garcia was allegedly wearing a tactical vest and a patch on his chest with the letters “RWDS,” which stand for “Right Wing Death Squad.” The insignia has been connected to right-wing extremist groups such as the Proud Boys. Additionally, what are believed to be the gunman’s social media accounts reportedly include posts with racially or ethnically motivated violent rhetoric, as well as neo-Nazi and white supremacist beliefs. Garcia lived in Dallas and was an Army veteran.
It should not confuse anyone that a man with a Hispanic name like Mauricio Garcia allegedly wore the right-wing death squad patch and posted neo-Nazi materials online, noted several scholars via social media. While the term “white supremacist” is commonly associated with white individuals, of course it is possible for people of color to subscribe to white nationalist beliefs. Exhibit A is Enrique Tarrio, the dark-skinned Cuban American and former Proud Boys leader who was recently found guilty of seditious conspiracy for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
It may sound counterintuitive but some Black and Latino individuals have been radicalized by pernicious racist movements. The reasons why are multidimensional and complex: self-hatred, internalized racism, and/or a desire to obtain access to the perceived privileges of “being white.” Consider a study conducted by Carlos P. Hipolito-Delgado, an associate professor of counseling at the University of Colorado Denver, who wondered what kind of impact the racist rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign had on young Latinos. He surveyed 350 first-generation Latino college students from across the country and found that “exposure to racism and acculturation to U.S. society predict internalized racism in Latinx undergraduate students,” Hipolito-Delgado wrote.
Police in Brownsville haven’t disclosed a motive for the crash and are still investigating, but some of the victims were Venezuelan migrants. One of the people hit by Alvarez’s SUV told The Washington Post that the driver was apparently taunting those waiting at the bus stop. “He crossed the street and he hit the gas and he drove by my legs, and hurt my arm,” the man told the newspaper. According to the witness, Alvarez yelled: “You’re invading my property!” Another witness told The New York Times that the driver had yelled anti-immigration insults to the group of migrants as he fled.
Authorities are trying to determine whether the attack was deliberate. Sauceda said that more criminal charges could be added if that’s the case. But media reports around the anti-immigrant sentiment allegedly expressed by Alvarez expose another dynamic that’s rarely discussed — the ever-present anti-immigrant nativism among Latinos.
Neo-nazism, white supremacy, fascism, nativism, and racism are all intertwined, of course, but these sentiments do not grow in isolation. “We have seen the horrific downstream consequences of what happens when a group of people are consistently demonized and dehumanized,” Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director of America’s Voice, said in a statement on Monday.
She is right. Dehumanizing and white nationalist ideas like the “great replacement theory” and messages of a “migrant invasion” have gone mainstream and become a common part of the GOP’s messaging. And like malignant viruses, they can infect anyone, including people of color.