The manifesto written by Patrick Crusius, who murdered and injured dozens of people in El Paso, titled “The Inconvenient Truth,” gives political, economic, and environmental reasons for the killings. It may be surprising that a white supremacist would be socially aware of the looming threat of climate change, but environmental purity and racial purity often have been linked. This strange combination of eco-racism has its roots in American conservationism since the late 19th Century. In 1892, attorney, conservationist, and eugenicist Madison Grant along with naturalist John Muir and other conservationists, saw preserving the country’s wildlands as showcasing white land stewardship. Proponents of this movement saw themselves as protectors of the environment from what they saw as “filth,” spurring such action as the removal of the indigenous population from Yosemite National Park. This dynamic of eco-xenophobia continues today, with Fox News host Tucker Carlson in December of 2018 opening his show with a rant about how immigrants make the US “dirtier and poorer.”
The El Paso shooter is another episode in this twisted form of thought, concluding in his manifesto that the only way to stop climate change is to reduce the population, in this case – killing Mexican immigrants. The upsetting reality is that communities of color are impacted the most from climate change. According to a 2013 study, poorer communities of color are affected the most from extreme weather. It found that the destruction of super-storm Sandy cost a total of $65 Billion, with low-income communities facing the brunt of the costs. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath also showed that rebuilding efforts is unevenly distributed, with black homeowners receiving $8,000 less than fellow low-income white homeowners. What is just as upsetting and alarming is that according to a World Bank report, by 2050 there will be 140 million migrants from Latin America, sub-Sahara Africa, and south-east Asia that will be displaced by climate change. This has caused some to worry that this will only fuel more anti – immigrant fear mongering in the name of the environment. Refugee’s fleeing the disproportionate impact of climate change could therefore find themselves being blamed for the very thing that has forced them from their homes.
In addition to a white supremacist view of climate change, the El Paso shooter also railed against corporate greed and political influence. He argues that corporations take advantage of immigrants for low – skilled jobs who in turn provide better opportunities for their children to get high-skilled positions in society. In his racist interpretation, immigrants are not victims but co-conspirators in a secret plot hatched by a cabal of elites to destroy the white race.” Of course, this racist reasoning completely overlooks the fact that immigrants and communities of color are the most affected by corporate greed and corruption. In 2017 it was reported that nearly one fifth of low-wage workers in ten of the largest cities in the US were being cheated by their employers. Most of these workers were young people, women, people of color, and immigrants. A few weeks ago, a massive ICE raid of a chicken processing plant in Mississippi saw more than 40 people arrested and separated from their families, with no company officials facing criminal charges, despite evidence showing they knowingly hired undocumented immigrants. Furthermore, many corporations like CoreCivic, GPS, General Dynamics, and Dell have profited off the detention of immigrants through lucrative ICE contracts. Immigrants are one of the single most victimized groups from corporate capitalistic exploitation.
The multi-faceted nature of white supremacist philosophy can incorporate progressive ideas like environmentalism and corporate regulation to fit its own narrative. When commentators say that Trumps anti-immigrant rhetoric caused the massacre in El Paso they ignore the centuries of an inconvenient truth, that white supremacy is always evolving. President Trump did not emerge from a vacuum; but is a continuation of institutionalized immigrant vilification. Despite all this, in the days and weeks since, the immigrant community and especially the community in El Paso have demonstrated that our resiliency has no limits. El Paso community organizer Alonso Rene Mendoza expresses that local pro immigrant organizations have been mobilizing to stand against racism by addressing the “intersectionality of other issues” such as “environmental racism and militarization at the border.” Vigilance is key in the fight against hate and xenophobia in all its variations. Members of the community as well as community organizers are on the front lines of changing the system of oppression. This is paramount, we owe it to the victims of El Paso and to the countless unseen and unheard generations who also fell victim to hatred. Our collective voices will drown out hate, and make known that we are here to stay.