I blend in seamlessly in Arizona, where about one in three residents is Latino. As a naturalized citizen, I felt safe here even when a campaign against illegal immigrants led by the infamous former sheriff, Joe Arpaio, targeted Latinos. One day after Donald Trump’s election, a man approached me while I spoke Spanish on the phone outside a coffee shop and screamed, “Speak English.” The experience rattled me, but still I felt safe. I did, however, start carrying my passport card in my wallet, just in case.
That sense of safety changed when a young white man opened fire in a Walmart in El Paso last Saturday, making targets out of brown-skinned people. I read the suspect’s manifesto Sunday morning and, for the first time, I did not feel just like an immigrant. I felt like a target. I looked at my 10-year-old daughter eating the chocolate-chip pancakes I’d made and realized that she could be a target too. Citizenship, it turns out, is an illusory shield. In the eyes of that gunman, I am not American but an invader, an instigator. It is because of people like me that he did what he did.