by: Eduardo Cordeiro
A potent op-ed concerning the treatment of immigrants in the United States by Eduardo Cordeiro, the author of The Rapist, The Terrorist, The Idiot, The Hypocrite…
The hate speech I heard during the 2016 U.S. election cycle was not shocking to me. As an immigrant to the United States, I’ve heard it all. “Get the fuck out of my country!” and “Go back where you came from, Spic!” are just two examples that come to mind. When I was a construction worker, there were homeowners who wouldn’t allow me to use their bathroom and refused to pay me for my work because of my race.
I knew that many Americans believed negative stereotypes about Latinos, I just didn’t realize the full extent of their prejudice. When I heard Donald Trump and his supporters calling Latinos “drug dealers, criminals, rapists” and “bad hombres,” it wasn’t the words that surprised me, but the reaction of white Americans.
It brought to mind Alexandre Dumas’ famous words, “Hatred is blind, rage carries you away…”
Since the 2016 election, I keep asking myself how white Americans can hate the men and women who clean their homes, mow their lawns, and prepare their food.
How can they hate the 1.3 million undocumented Latino immigrants working in the restaurant industry? Or the 1.2 million Latino immigrant construction workers (both undocumented and documented) who build their neighborhoods, offices, and infrastructure? Not to mention the other 1 to 2 million undocumented farmworkers who pick their produce and raise their livestock.
When you buy groceries, order takeout, or go out to eat, chances are, the food was handled by someone without US citizenship.
Immigrants are exploited for back-breaking labor and paid next to nothing to put their very lives at risk. Latino construction workers are 18% more likely to die on the job site due to inadequate safety measures, while Latino farmworkers are dying from heat exhaustion. In other words, employers view Latinos as more disposable than other workers.
When you cross a bridge, walk into a school or hospital, or walk into your brand new home at night, chances are immigrant labor made this possible.
So why don’t white Americans seem to care? Is it that they take immigrants for granted?
I don’t know the real answer, but I do know that immigrants and other minorities have been used as scapegoats for decades. I know that facts don’t matter anymore, but they tell us that the real “bad hombres” aren’t Latinos or any other immigrant or minority group.
Chances are…the real “bad hombres” are white men.
While our media teaches us to fear Muslims, and Black kids are getting shot for holding a cell phone or a candy bar, white men are walking into schools, churches, and concerts and shooting innocent people. White males are responsible for 56% of all mass shootings since 1982, with the other 44% split among all minorities.
Chances are…the shooter is a white man.
While people are busy fearing their Mexican landscapers, while white men are walking in the front door and raping their daughter. 63% of reported rapes against females age eighteen to twenty-four are committed by white males. And in a sad twist of irony, low-income Latinas in the U.S. are frequent victims of sexual assault, often because male supervisors use their immigration status to threaten them.
Chances are…the rapist is a white man.
This is why I believe that the hate crimes and racist, sexist, ableist slurs that have swept the U.S since 2016 can only be explained as scapegoating: The drug dealers, criminals, and rapists can’t be our brothers, fathers, and sons. They must be coming from outside!
But again, the facts paint a starkly different picture. Women in the U.S. are twice as likely to be raped than women living in Mexico. Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S. born citizens. Cities that received the largest numbers of refugees from 2005 to 2016 saw a significant drop in crime. And finally, unauthorized immigrants actually raise wages for other workers.
Chances are…immigrants improve life for the rest of Americans.
We are now two years into the 45th administration, and President Trump has failed to keep his bold promises. There is no border wall. Obamacare has not been repealed and replaced. His greatest “victory” is giving $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the rich and appointing two Supreme Court Justices cementing a conservative majority in the highest court in the land. But it’s easier to convince a stone to move across a mountain than it is to convince a Trump supporter of the dangers of his administration. Not because they don’t know better, but because they don’t care. He continues to rally his supporters merely by mocking everyone who doesn’t look like him.
Republicans are supposed to be the “family values party,” but in the last two years they’ve supported pedophiles, defended the real rapists, and put children in cages. In the words of Simon and Garfunkel, “the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made.” As a firm believer in democracy and the dignity and equality of all humans, I find myself craving the “sound of silence.”
Chances are…Republicans will protect the “bad hombres” when they’re white men.
I started writing my first novel, The Rapist, The Terrorist, The Idiot, The Hypocrite, immediately after the 2016 election. Having faced discrimination throughout my thirteen years living in the U.S., I was frustrated by the blatantly false (and dangerous) stereotypes of immigrants being perpetuated by the MAGA crowd.
The Rapist tackles these stereotypes head on and challenges readers with the facts (there’s that word again). I tried to give a more accurate portrait of the average immigrant experience, describing the treacherous journey to the United States, as well as the threats we face after we arrive. I felt compelled to explore the tragedies of family separation before the Trump administration stole 4000 children at the border.
Chances are…my novel will challenge a stereotype that you haven’t questioned, yet.
I wrote The Rapist not only to challenge stereotypes, but also to help build greater empathy for immigrants. I believe that if we can each learn to look at ourselves before we judge other people, we would all be kinder. If we could each walk a mile in an immigrant’s shoes, we could possibly transform the world.
Because chances are… without empathy, there is no hope.