Reports of racism and anti-immigrant fervor are swirling after a deadly weekend in Texas that renewed Democratic concerns about the state’s battle against bigoted extremism.
On Saturday, a shooter opened fire at a Dallas-area mall, killing eight people before he was fatally shot by a police officer. According to NBC News, a social media page appearing to belong to the gunman shared extremist beliefs with rants against Jews, women and racial minorities, as well as posts about struggling with mental health.
The next day, a motorist in Brownsville fatally struck eight people and injured at least 10 at a bus stop near a facility for migrants. A witness told NBC News that he observed the driver cursing at the migrants and raising his middle finger at them.
The suspect has been charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Authorities have not ruled out the possibility that the crash was intentional.
The incidents come at a time when violent right-wing extremism — including dehumanizing rhetoric about migrants — is being embraced among Texas Republicans, all the way up to the governor. And the potential connections to race in both incidents aren’t going unnoticed, even as we await further confirmation of details.
Purported fears over migration form the foundation of the white supremacist “replacement theory” popular among conservatives these days. The theory baselessly claims that liberals — backed by powerful Jews — want to replace white Americans with people of color.
Texas Republicans — including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and members of the state’s congressional delegation, including Sen. Ted Cruz — have all pushed variations of the theory, such as characterizing migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as an “invasion.”
And they were widely condemned online after the past weekend’s bloodshed.
Regarding the Brownsville incident, the Texas Democratic Party chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa, issued a statement blasting the anti-immigrant climate fostered by Texas Republicans as they seek to pass House Bill 20, which Hinojosa described as “radical legislation that would deputize unqualified vigilantes to roam the streets.”
“With H.B. 20,” Hinojosa wrote, “Texas Republicans are creating a powder keg of racial violence and are now handing the matches over to the people, attempting to turn neighbor against neighbor. Texans know their worth and deserve better from their elected representatives.”
Meanwhile, Cruz and other Republicans faced renewed criticism for offering up “prayers” to the victims of the Dallas mall shooting in lieu of pushing for gun safety measures or efforts to fight extremism.
In an interview Saturday with MSNBC’s Ayman Moyheldin, Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez made it clear that prayers are not enough.
“There is a special place in hell, Ayman, for people that have this kind of problem staring them square in the face and have done nothing about it,” the Democrat said. “I don’t care about their thoughts, and I don’t care about their prayers.”