Numerous outlets are reporting that the mass shooter who killed eight people and wounded at least 10 others outside a mall in Allen, Texas, maintained a social media page where he shared racist, misogynistic and anti-Semetic views. Mauricio Garcia’s page on a Russian social media network glorified Nazis and featured a profile picture of “a smiley face with a Hitler mustache,” The Daily Beast reported.
While little else is known about Garcia at this time, bad faith actors have fervently latched onto his Spanish name and likely Hispanic background in an attempt to obfuscate and downplay associations with the white supremacist movement.
“For many people, this idea triggered an immediate negative reaction: How could someone with the name ‘Mauricio Garcia’ — a Hispanic name — be a white supremacist?” Washington Post columnist Philip Bump wrote. “In some quarters, that The Post was offering such a possibility was somehow demonstrative of this newspaper’s purported interest in elevating unsupported racial claims.”
But there’s a slew of examples in just the past couple years of how the white supremacist movement has sought to increase its numbers, legitimize its views, and challenge public criticisms by both recruiting non-white members and touting non-white leadership. It’s strategic, experts say. “There is an intentional recruitment of people of color by white nationalist leadership into its alt-right coalition in order to defend itself from the very real charges of racism,” Western States Center’s Eric Ward told 9News last year.
Enrique Tarrio, chair of the neo-fascist Proud Boys organization and a far-right extremist who now faces up to 20 years in prison after being convicted of seditious conspiracy for his role in January 6, is of Afro-Cuban descent. “He’s used his heritage to dismiss accusations that the organization advocates for white supremacy,” Fidel Martinez reported for The Los Angeles Times last year. “‘I’m pretty brown. I am Cuban. There’s nothing white supremacist about me,’ Tarrio told Insider in September 2020,” the report continued.
Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier who founded the white nationalist America First Political Action Conference, is also of Hispanic descent. His conferences have attracted some of the most extreme lawmakers within the GOP, including Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar. Fuentes himself had a private dinner with fellow extremist Kanye West and indicted former President Donald Trump at the latter’s Mar-A-Lago resort last year. Fuentes is so toxic that both Greene and Gosar, themselves removed from committees in 2021 over posts endorsing political violence, tried to distance themselves after public backlash. Trump, meanwhile, claimed he “never heard of the man.”
Still, that doesn’t directly address why a person of color would participate in overtly racist movements. “Experts tell Axios far-right extremism within the Latino community stems from three sources: Hispanic Americans who identify as white; the spread of online misinformation; and lingering anti-Black, antisemitic views among U.S. Latinos that are rarely openly discussed,” Russell Contreras and Astrid Galván reported last year. While anti-immigrant groups in the past have endorsed English-only platforms, Bump noted that Nazi outlet Daily Stormer has been publishing its propaganda in Spanish as a recruitment tool.
But why a person of color would participate in an overtly racist movement is also not that complicated to explain. Proximity can equal power, and Fuentes has dined with a former president and one of the world’s biggest music figures. For those who hold abhorrent views, Trump and West are the cream of the deplorable crop. Fuentes’ conferences also draw federal lawmakers, a feat many legitimate organizations can struggle to accomplish. The Proud Boys, meanwhile, got national attention during a 2020 presidential debate, when then-President Trump instructed them to “stand back and stand by.”
Trump’s remark “galvanized” the Proud Boys, who understood it to be “a tacit endorsement of their violent tactics,” The New York Times reported at the time. Telegram messages revealed that Tarrio was among those who reveled in the sudden spotlight, USA Today reported earlier this year. “‘We are bigger than Jesus,’ a user called ‘Chris Cannon Pb’ wrote in the chat. ‘Kings,’ Tarrio replied.”
You even see it in our own elected officials, because there’s a similar thread that runs through anti-immigrant politicians who are themselves children of immigrants and asylum-seekers.
Despite being the son of a Cuban asylum-seeker, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has echoed the same “invasion” rhetoric espoused by racist mass killers in Buffalo and El Paso. Much like Tarrio, Cruz has acknowledged his heritage and personal story when it’s politically convenient, during his 2018 reelection touting that he’s “the son of a Cuban immigrant” and the state’s first Latino senator. But throughout his time in Congress, Cruz has repeatedly opposed attempts to overhaul our nation’s broken immigration system.
“Dehumanizing and white nationalist ideas like the ‘great replacement theory’ and messages of a ‘migrant invasion’ have gone mainstream and become a common part of the GOP’s messaging,” Marcela García wrote in The Boston Globe. “And like malignant viruses, they can infect anyone, including people of color.”
Photo Credit: Anthony Crider, https://www.flickr.com/photos/acrider/49415700288/in/photostream/