Do El Paso killings show a rise of white supremacists?

By Seth Galinsky
August 19, 2019

Is the massacre of Latinos at a Walmart in El Paso by a rightist killer a sign that “there are more and more angry white people out there willing to commit mayhem”? as columnist Paul Krugman asserted in an Aug. 5 New York Times article. Are “white supremacists,” racism and anti-immigrant hatred rising as many liberal commentators allege?

Patrick Crusius, 21, murdered at least 22 people and injured another 24 when he opened fire at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 3. There were as many as 3,000 people shopping and 100 employees inside the store at the time. According to one witness he shot people “aisle by aisle, with rage.”

Kianna Long, who survived the massacre, told CBS that workers at the store stopped to hold doors open, helping people inside get out and escape the slaying.

The store is close to the international bridge that crosses the border, and is popular with large numbers of Mexican-American families as well as families coming from Mexico. Working people in El Paso frequently cross over to Ciudad Juarez for cheaper medical care. And many residents of Ciudad Juarez go to school or work in El Paso.

At least seven of those killed or injured were Mexican nationals. Many of the rest are from families that have lived in Texas for generations. Some, like Arturo Benavides, 67, a bus driver, were U.S. army veterans.

Anti-immigrant manifesto

Police say that just minutes before he started shooting, Crusius posted an anti-immigrant statement online saying, “I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” He claimed to be “defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement.”

The “Christchurch shooter” murdered 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand March 15. He was a rightist terrorist and self-proclaimed “eco-fascist,” who called Muslim immigrants an “assault on our civilization.”

The liberal media made a big point of saying Crusius’ statement echoed anti-immigrant comments by President Trump.

Beto O’Rourke, trying to salvage his presidential campaign, blamed Trump for the attack, saying the president “is a racist and he stokes racism in this country.” Candidate Elizabeth Warren said, “We need to call out the president himself for advancing racism and white supremacy.”

Trump tried to present himself as taking the moral high ground. “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” he said two days after the Walmart shooting and another in Dayton, Ohio, where nine people were shot dead and 27 wounded Aug. 4.

The president seized on the mass killings to call for bipartisan support for giving the cops and FBI “whatever they need” to combat “hate crimes and domestic terrorism.” He also proposed expanding use of the death penalty. But Crusius, charged with murder, already faces the death penalty under existing laws.

As struggles by working people pick up in the future as the bosses intensify their assaults, more working people will come to see that the real target of stepped-up police spying and executions by the state is not terrorists, but the working class.

Trump also called for extending “red flag” laws that exist in some states. These vary, but can allow people to request a court order to prevent someone they know and consider a threat from accessing firearms.

Many liberals called for further “gun control.” But undermining the Bill of Rights, including the right to bear arms, to free speech and assembly, to a speedy trial, undercuts protections that are needed for defending the interests of the working class.

Less racism today

Anti-immigrant prejudices are continually fostered by the capitalist rulers as they attempt to divide working people, hoping to sap our capacity to struggle against their attacks on living standards and job conditions. But it’s not true that there is growing racism and prejudice against immigrants. In fact, there is less racism and anti-immigrant sentiment among working people, the consequence of the defeat of Jim Crow segregation by the mass Black rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s, which continues to be felt today. As native- and foreign-born workers live and work alongside each other, anti-immigrant prejudices begin to break down.

Liberal Democrats have pointed to President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, which is aimed at bolstering the bosses’ attempts to divide working people.

While the Democrats’ rhetoric may be different, their actions are not. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama deported more immigrants than Trump. And Joe Biden, the leading Democratic Party candidate for president, has said that immigrants without papers in the U.S. “should have to get in line [to apply to stay]. That’s the problem.” All of this encourages scapegoating immigrants for the social and economic crisis of capitalism.

Despite the bipartisan anti-immigrant policies of the Democrats and Republicans, deportations are not popular among many workers.

“Working people need to denounce every attack on immigrants who are fellow workers,” said Lea Sherman, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New Jersey General Assembly. “The answer to the bosses’ attempts to divide U.S.- and foreign-born workers is to demand amnesty for all 11 million immigrants in the U.S. without ‘official’ papers. This is not an ‘immigrant’ question. It’s needed to unite the working class and put us in a better position to organize the unorganized and rebuild a fighting union movement.”