Words have the power to incite violence

This weekend I watched with horror along with a vast majority of my countrymen and the world as the El Paso shooting unfolded. I was further horrified when the shooter’s alleged manifesto was released because the words sounded very familiar. The manifesto speaks of an “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and warns that white people are being replaced by foreigners. This language was familiar because it’s the same language used by my own state senator.

On July 15, Sen. Sylvia Allen warned against increased immigration saying that the U.S. would soon “look like South American countries.” She went on to say “The median age of a white woman is 43. The median age of a Hispanic woman is 27, we are not reproducing ourselves with birth rates. But here’s what I see as the issue: It’s because of immigration.” Fear of immigrants and fear of dropping birth rates has a long history of fueling racism and white supremacy. As seen in El Paso, it has lead to unimaginable violence.

In the face of criticism, Sen. Allen apologized for the hurt her words caused, saying that her words were taken out of context. However, she did not apologize or comment on the issue of birth rates. Sen. Allen went on to describe criticism of her as a “verbal lynching” clearly not understanding (or ignoring) the awful history of lynching in this country. Many of Sen. Allen’s Republican colleagues, including Governor Ducey, have come to her defense.

In these contentious times, we must be very clear: words matter. The words of leaders matter even more because their reach and influence is amplified by their office. Those words have the power to incite violence and fuel hate. Sen. Allen must fully recognize that the words she has chosen to use are the same as white supremacist extremists. The use of such language is irresponsible and dangerous. All elected officials must reject this ugly, hateful rhetoric unequivocally. Our leaders must come together to find sensible solutions to end gun violence and keep our communities safe.

RICHELLE SPEILMAN

Flagstaff

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