Growing up in Texas, it was clear to me that the Allen Premium Outlet Mall was more than a place to shop. It provided a sense of comfort and acceptance amongst immigrant communities, symbolizing the increasing diversity in Allen, Texas. A rising Asian American community now accounts for close to 18 percent of the city’s overall population. However, this sense of security was shattered on May 6th when a white supremacist named Mauricio Garcia carried out the Allen Mall shootings, claiming the lives of eight innocent people, more than half of whom were from the growing Asian community. That the shooting occurred at the start of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month feels especially cruel. The massacre is already disappearing from the headlines as June’s Immigrant Heritage Month ends, a reminder that while celebrations of our country’s diversity are welcome, they fall cruelly short in the face of systemic racism which encourages violence.
The contrast between the mall as a place of comfort and a place of racist hatred is a stark reflection of the potent power that widespread white supremacist propaganda holds, even over our elected officials, and its contribution to extremist violence.
White supremacist propaganda and rhetoric—although not a new phenomenon— has been increasingly used in recent years to spread a culture of fear and xenophobia towards immigrant communities and people of color.
White supremacist propaganda and rhetoric—although not a new phenomenon— has been increasingly used in recent years to spread a culture of fear and xenophobia towards immigrant communities and people of color. And the spread starts from the top. Right-wing legislators like Greg Abbott and conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson have been consistent in their deployment of xenophobic language to spread their anti-immigrant narratives by calling immigrants “illegal aliens and invaders.” This rhetoric has become so commonplace amongst right-wing legislators, it’s been used to dehumanize victims of tragic mass shootings and violence. Governor Abbott responded to the mass shooting in Cleveland, Texas that left five people dead by calling the victims “illegal immigrants.” We can’t blindly celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month when not only are immigrants getting killed, but elected officials like Abbott are denying their humanity. Instead of taking meaningful action to fight hate and extremism, they're actively fueling it. We must hold our elected officials accountable for their dangerous and divisive rhetoric and their perpetuation of xenophobic tropes. Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough; we need accountability and action to stop the dissemination and spread of white supremacist rhetoric.
White supremacist groups grew by 50 percent from 2017-2018 alone, according to data from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hate crimes rose by 11.6 percent from 2020-2021, according to the FBI. Hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islanders and LGBTQ+ people more than doubled. This unprecedented surge in white supremacist propaganda incidents poses a grave threat to our goal of an inclusive democracy.
Confronting white supremacist rhetoric is not just a moral imperative, but a crucial and necessary step towards building a stronger multi-racial and inclusive democracy.
Confronting white supremacist rhetoric is not just a moral imperative, but a crucial and necessary step towards building a stronger multi-racial and inclusive democracy. Platitudes that praise America as a nation of immigrants fall short when our communities are under attack. We need a national conversation on the link between white supremacist rhetoric and white supremacist violence, and an honest reflection on how and why our elected officials are, if not condoning this violence, allowing it to continue. This Immigrant Heritage Month, we must start the process of deconstructing white supremacist rhetoric and violence and push back against policies that limit or even merely preserve immigrants’ rights by promoting policies that expand them.