‘I’m an American, First and Foremost’

‘I’m an American, First and Foremost’



This Week in Hate highlights hate crimes and harassment around the country since the election of President Trump.

The first time it happened, Tanya Russ was at Walmart. She was talking to a friend in Spanish when a man approached her and began calling her racist names. Afterwards, her husband asked her to buy mace so she could protect herself.

The second time Ms. Russ experienced racist harassment after the election of President Trump, it came in the form of a note left on her car while it was parked outside her home in Phoenix. The note included a swastika, a racial slur and the phrases “Trump won” and “go back to Mexco.” “The thing that stuck out was they couldn’t even spell ‘Mexico’ properly,” Ms. Russ said.

The third time was at the grocery store, in January. Ms. Russ was talking on her phone in Spanish when a woman walked by and said, “I can’t wait for them to deport you.” This time, Ms. Russ said, “I was just fed up.”

She confronted the woman, who claimed she had been talking to someone on the phone. Ms. Russ didn’t buy it.

“My family has been in this country before it was even this country,” said Ms. Russ in an interview. Her ancestors lived in California when it was still part of Mexico, and she also has Native American heritage.

“I’m an American, first and foremost,” she said, but people keep treating her like a second-class citizen.

Since the election, many Latino Americans have reported similar experiences. Around 160 of 1,372 incidents of bias collected by the Southern Poverty Law Center since the election of President Trump targeted people who are or are perceived to be Latino. Texas and California had the most reported incidents.

Threats and harassment against Latino Americans are “very much part of the new norm that this administration and that the president when he was a candidate created,” said Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. Especially since the inauguration, community groups that work with the center have been reporting a rise in a range of anti-Latino harassment, including “people being told to go back to Mexico when they’re not even from Mexico,” she said.

Dozens of people have reported anti-Latino harassment to theDocumenting Hate project, which tracks hate crimes and incidents of bias since the election, and at least 10 people reported being told, “go back to your country,” according to the website Univision.

For Ulises Ricoy, the dean of arts and sciences of Northern New Mexico College in Española, N.M., it happened during a run. It was the day after the election, and he was running near the college campus when a truck with a Confederate flag license plate approached him.

Two men yelled a racial slur at him and told him to “get out of this country.” They also threw a glass bottle full of liquid, which looked like it might be urine. The bottle struck him in the chest and some of the liquid splashed on his face.

Prof. Ricoy was born in Austin, Tex., grew up primarily in Mexico, and returned to Texas for high school. There he got used to racial slurs and insults. But in the rural, largely Latino and Native American part of New Mexico where he’s lived for seven years, he’d never experienced anything like that until the incident in November.

Anyone who is harassed or threatened should report the incident to law enforcement, a local immigrants’ rights group, interfaith coalition, legal services organization or a trusted friend or family member, said Ms. Hincapié. Reporting an incident can help the victim get support, from legal help to mental health treatment, and can help raise awareness about harassment and hate crimes. “We need to be able to tell the story of what’s actually happening in our communities,” she said.

Ms. Russ reported the note on her car to the management company of her apartment complex. She sometimes leaves for work in the early hours of the morning, and after the incident, she asked her husband to walk her to her car. “I was scared,” she said. “I didn’t know if somebody was going to be waiting for me.”

When she was harassed at Walmart and the grocery store, she wished someone had stood up for her: “Nobody said anything to those people, nobody stopped them, nobody tried to protect me. They just stood there in silence.”

While Prof. Ricoy was alone when he was attacked, his colleagues at the college rallied around him when they heard what had happened. The college president even made an announcement condemning the incident.

Though not everyone talks about it openly, Prof. Ricoy sees a lot of anxiety about the Trump administration in northern New Mexico. Several students who are recent immigrants from Mexico have come to him with their concerns. At the same time, he sees a sense of hope for the future. “That’s just the spirit of migrants,” he said.

“We know adversity,” he explained. “This is just another challenge.”

If you have experienced, witnessed or read about a hate crime or incident of bias or harassment, you can use this form to send information about the incident to This Week in Hate and other partners in the Documenting Hate project. The form is not a report to law enforcement or any government agency. These resources may be helpful for people who have experienced harassment. If you witness harassment, here are some tipsfor responding. You can contact This Week in Hate atweekinhate@nytimes.com.

Read more: www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/opinion/im-an-american-first-and-foremost.html


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