As a Latino actor, I portray characters who represent the Latino community in ways that I hope will help people see who Latinos really are — not the stereotypes of “rapists and drug dealers” but rather the beautiful, multi-dimensionality of Latinos as a people. That has been a major focus of my latest comedy work.
That’s why — in the wake of the largest attack on the Latino community in modern history, in El Paso this past weekend — I feel compelled to use my voice and platform to respond to this terrorist attack, in which a supposed “Hispanic invasion” was cited as the hateful motive. I feel compelled to help people see and understand the real causes of this act of domestic terrorism.
The targeting of the Hispanic community specifically is a sign that inflammatory political rhetoric has real-life consequences. By putting us in cages, like animals, by demonizing us as invaders, people are dehumanizing us in the minds of hateful, cowardly men who take it upon themselves to fix this “Latino problem.”
For my show “Alternatino,” we wrote a sketch a year ago called “Welcome to America,” about trying to explain mass shootings in the United States to a recent immigrant from Central America; these shootings make absolutely no sense to him because they have nothing to do with drug wars.
This is a very personal sketch for me because, as someone who grew up in Guatemala, I’m no stranger to gun violence, and I condemn it in any way, shape or form, as I’ve seen firsthand the tragic effects it can have on a society. Yet this particular brand of gun violence — fueled by racism and xenophobia — is very hard to understand and impossible to accept.
We were supposed to air the episode last week, per the show schedule we set months ago, but we decided to postpone for a week after the shooting in Gilroy, Calif. But I’ve realized now that I can’t postpone it any longer. It’s going to air on Tuesday night’s episode because it will always be “too soon” when gun violence happens so frequently. And it’s never too soon to demand meaningful gun reform and to stop using hate against people of certain ethnicities to gather votes.
I’ve realized this will always be an issue until we do something about it.
The sketch does not speak directly to what happened in El Paso; Dayton, Ohio; or Gilroy. But it does speak to the overall American gun violence crisis. Mass shootings make major headlines, but we’ve sadly become desensitized to the daily toll of gun violence in this country.
But the shooting in El Paso this past weekend — like the tragedies at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and so many other examples of hate-filled domestic terrorism — was the targeting of a community by a hateful person armed with a gun.
We have learned too many times in this country that the combination of guns and hate is deadly. That’s why we need to work to disarm hate — to call out the dangerous political rhetoric that incites and emboldens racists, misogynists, homophobes, anti-immigrant xenophobes and haters of all kinds — at the same time that we work to pass stronger gun laws to make it harder for that hate to have such deadly consequences.
My art is all I have to express what I feel. It’s my voice. Having a platform and not using it to talk about the things I care about — particularly when it feels like my people are under siege — would be irresponsible. In no way is our intention to make light of tragedy, but rather, it’s a responsibility to reflect what we’re living in this society through media.
My heart is with the victims of the California, Ohio and Texas terrorist attacks. My heart is with victims of everyday gun violence. As long as I have a voice, I’ll use it in defense of those who don’t. I’ll use it to help people see more clearly who we are and to disarm the hatred that has ravaged marginalized people everywhere.