While it took the white supremacist who aimed to kill the “growing Hispanic Population” 10-11 hours to get to El Paso, he could’ve easily have gone to my hometown of Laredo, which is only eight hours away from Allen, the suburb off of diverse Dallas. If you remember my story slam piece, I’m from Texas. Specifically, I was born in Laredo and now live in San Antonio. Except I kinda live in New England these days as I’ve been at Olin and have worked here over the summers for two years now.
Sometimes leaving makes me feel like I’m guilty of a crime. When I was in highschool, I left Laredo for San Antonio because my mom got married. He had a job; my mom had just lost hers. It made sense. We didn’t choose San Antonio because it was safer. When I left San Antonio for college, I left to escape “events I can’t speak of sober” that happened at home. Not because Texas was unsafe. I mean it was, for me, but not because I was a documented Mexican-American.
But the truth is, I went to a safer place for brown immigrants. People are more likely to be massacred at a highly Hispanic city, like the ones I left, than a small white college no one knows about. “Is my city going to be the next location of another domestic terrorist attack?” is a thought I share with friends and family, even other Oliners. I should feel safe knowing that I’m not in those cities anymore, but leaving the violence feels wrong. I left, I did. But I didn’t bring my family with me. I left them to the coyotes.
They are people leaving violence, seeking asylum and dying doing so. If they don’t die along the way, they are put in concentration camps. They’re being starved, denied health care, left to die, and being sexually abused, again. But don’t forget why they’re seeking asylum. These people (families, children, or whatever you want to call them, just don’t forget they’re humans) are seeking a better place than the ones they’re leaving. I’m not going to detail what they’re leaving or what they’re experiencing because those articles just make me hurt all over. IWhat those who are crossing and those being detained are facing, whether they’re wrong or not, is inhumane.
Maybe the right word for what I’m feeling isn’t guilt. Maybe it’s shame. I feel ashamed for not suffering with everyone else like me. Maybe it’s fear. I’m waiting for the next attack to be closer. Maybe it’s disgust. I’m complaining about American Cheese while so many inexplicable horrors are happening.
I left my neighborhood, but I didn’t leave the violence on the news. I didn’t leave my worry behind. I didn’t leave the desire to be at home. A home currently targeted by white supremacy and over run with fear. Because even as El Pasoans are buying self defense weapons, they’re still afraid.Why would they need to defend themselves if they weren’t? My friends are all sharing posts warning of the next attack even if they’re false because we are all afraid. We don’t even know what to say about this fear, except the same thing over and over again: “It could’ve been us. It could be us.”
I have wanted my family. All this time, I’ve struggled to feel comfortable at this college and at my summer jobs. I was just one of the few like me. I was brown, but apologetic. I’ve struggled between knowing I should be worried about all the things happening in the border but being unable to cope if I was. Maybe if things were bad at college like at home, I’d feel like I found the right place. Maybe if instead of going to therapy to cope with the past, facing my nightmares would feel familiar enough that I could feign comfort.
I have dealt with terrible things often in my life, but my mom has helped me get through them. At college though, I’m alone in processing what events like the El Paso shooting mean. I’m isolated from my family in a time where I want them around me for safety. No matter how many times I video call my mom, that will not change. No matter how good our wi-fi connections are, our phones are incapable of sharing the warmth and hope my mother radiates.
Last year, when the children crossing the border started being separated from their parents, I could not drag myself out of bed. I could not stop crying. I couldn’t show up to work. During that period, I went to therapy and was talking to my mom. My therapist talked about how maybe my obsession with the safety of these children was because I almost lost my mom several times, but that did not make me feel better. It was only when my mom lied to me that I had a sense of relief. She told me it was going to end soon. Here we are a year later. I knew that it was a lie. I was still able to tell people my mother lied to me and yet feel comfort me as it was the truth. My mom’s lie felt like a prayer. I didn’t ask her to, but maybe she knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it together without her trying to make me feel better.
So here I am, finding myself seeking lies, feeling guilty, ashamed, disgusted, and afraid. I’m not sure if I’m losing myself or growing a thicker skin. I’m just trying to get through college, like you are. I’m not trying to focus on the news and crumble instead of getting a degree. I’m trying to focus on the new problem set and grow, just like you are.
I want to thank everyone who has donated their time by protesting or volunteering with those affected or donating money to charities. Thank you for being public about it and calling those around you to help as well. Doing that makes Olin feel a little bit safer to call home.