The Archbishop of Los Angeles wrote this week that the white nationalism that motivated a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas is a sign that the U.S. has lost touch with the Christian ideals of the nation’s founding. He called Christians to give witness to the common humanity of all people.
“In the 22 dead in El Paso, and the two dozen more wounded, in the children left with no parents, in the shattered security of a peaceful border town, we are left with some hard questions about what our nation is becoming,” Archbishop Jose Gomez wrote in his August 13 column.
The perpetrator of the August 3 mass shooting in El Paso, in which 22 people were killed at a Walmart, is reported to have posted online a white nationalist manifesto shortly before his attack.
His post lamented a “Hispanic invasion” in the U.S., decried intermarriage between Hispanics and white Americans, and criticized Democratic and Republican politicians, while noting that some Republican policies might reduce “mass immigration.”
“If ‘white nationalism’ is on the rise, it is a sign of how far we have fallen from the Christian universalism of our nation’s founding ideals,” Gomez wrote.
The archbishop, who is an immigrant to the United States from Mexico, added that “El Paso hit me in a personal way. My family is Mexican and American, and we trace our roots back to the early 1800s in what is now Texas; I lived much of my adult life there, including my five years as Archbishop of San Antonio,” he added.
“But El Paso is more than personal. With El Paso a line has been crossed in our nation.”
“In recent years, we have seen the evil of African Americans being targeted in racist terror attacks, notably with the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. With El Paso, for the first time, a massacre has been carried out in the name of stopping Mexican migration,” Gomez noted.
“In Jesus Christ, there is no Mexican or black, no Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean or Filipino, no Russian or Italian, African or Salvadoran, no migrant or native-born,” the archbishop wrote, adding that human dignity must always be respected.
“The humanity of others is never negotiable. Men and women do not become less than human, less a child of God, because they are ‘undocumented.’ Yet, in our nation, it has become common to hear migrants talked about and treated as if they are somehow beneath caring about.”
Gomez noted other instances of “white nationalism and domestic terrorism,” including the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, church bombings during the Jim Crow era, and the lynching of Mexicans in Texas in the 1920s.
“The myth that America was founded by and for white people is just that — a myth,” he wrote.
“This land was born as an encounter of cultures, first with Native Americans. Hispanics arrived in Texas in 1519. Asians started arriving in California about 50 years before the pilgrims made it to Plymouth Rock.”
Noting that Spanish was spoken in North America well before English was, Gomez added that “this country has always been renewed, again and again, by successive waves of immigrants from every nation on earth.”
In response to racism, the archbishop said, Catholics “need to help our society to see our common humanity — that we are all children of God, meant to live together as brothers and sisters, no matter the color of our skin, the language we speak, or the place we were born.”
“The way we honor the lives taken at El Paso is to live with true Christian love — and to live for the vision of America that their killer denied,” Gomez concluded.
“And let us implore our Blessed Mother to intercede for us, that we may build an America that is still a beacon of hope for peoples of every country, who look to this nation for refuge, for freedom and equality under God.”