Column: The tragedy of Uvalde and the right’s cynical reading comprehension problem

President Biden embraces Mandy Gutierrez.
President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden comfort Mandy Gutierrez, the principal at Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde, Texas, on Sunday.
(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)
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Racist. Bigot. Idiot. Hater.

Anti-white. Prejudiced. Stupid. Evil.

Those were some of the nicer things conservatives called me last week — all because I feel white supremacists are a danger to American society who increasingly target Latinos.

That was the opening premise of my May 25 column about the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old man gunned down 19 fourth-graders and two teachers. I wrote that when I heard the news about a mass shooting of Latino schoolchildren in the Lone Star State, I immediately figured the killer was a white supremacist.

Stockton. Charleston, S.C. Pittsburgh. Fearing a racist attack didn’t seem like such a stretch.


The United States was just a week removed from 10 Black people being shot to death in Buffalo, N.Y., by a man who authorities say published a manifesto that stated, among other racist rants, that Latinos are a “problem whites will have to deal with.” Uvalde is in a state where another white supremacist drove to El Paso three years ago with the expressed purpose to murder Latinos and summarily killed 23 of them at a Walmart.

A gunman killed 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, about 80 miles west of San Antonio, on May 24, 2022.

June 3, 2022

We live in an era where a laughable conspiracy — elites are using Latinos to replace whites — has gone from society’s fringe to a talking point spewed by conservative media and Republican politicians alike, with an implicit call to action to stop this Reconquista.

Presuming that racial hate might drive someone to kill Latinos wasn’t illogical. I pointedly didn’t say I thought the culprit was a white person but rather a white supremacist — someone motivated not by his race but by his racism. Because I don’t believe race predisposes anyone toward criminality, but I do believe noxious ideologies can.

Most readers got that nuance. Hundreds of others didn’t.

Conservative media such as the New York Post and Breitbart zeroed in on my shock that the Uvalde killer was a Latino instead of the white supremacist I imagined he would be. Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce tweeted about one of those stories while adding “identity politics rots from the inside out,” then promptly blocked me.

They at least made the pretense of being polite.

Via social media and email, bilious readers shared stats and articles that purported to show minority groups commit more mass shootings than white people. Others said I should’ve assumed that the killer was a Latino because of our supposed propensity to kill.

That same line of thinking bubbled up from folks who asked why I didn’t cast my ire at narco-violence in Mexico — never mind that the killings that cartels commit are categorically different from mass shootings in the United States. Or that the United States fuels a large part of that mayhem through American weaponry smuggled south of the border and Americans who consume the drugs that go north.

Unsurprisingly, those hundreds of critics said I was the racist for bringing up white supremacy at all. People were so riled up that they even blasted my concluding thought that mass shootings are “a pathology found almost nowhere else on Earth ... as American as apple pie,” decrying me for besmirching the dessert’s honor.


I’m used to angry letters — it comes with the job of being a columnist. But the reaction to my Uvalde column disturbed me in a way I haven’t felt in years.

A memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
(Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times)

Readers also told me to move on from always thinking about race. I actually rarely do. But as hate continues to become louder and more powerful and deadlier, I need to. We live in a country where too many whites don’t want to look in the proverbial mirror and consider, maybe for a second, that white supremacy is a problem in this country and needs to be confronted.

Especially by whites.

Minorities have long had to apologize for the bad apples in our groups, the ones bigots use to make blanket pronouncements to deem us dangerous. Such stereotypes led to decades of legal and de facto discrimination, segregation and violence rooted in white supremacy — all done in the name of protecting whites from people of color.

Today, as official and unofficial attempts at racial reckonings continue, many whites won’t stomach scrutiny of that past and want to do everything possible to ignore it. Racism is a thing of yellowed newspaper clippings and on-screen dramatizations to them instead of something still too prevalent. People who openly align with white supremacy and then commit slaughter in its name are dismissed as solely mentally ill instead of a symptom of something more deep-rooted.

This type of colorblindness is a cult in the right almost as bad as its worship of guns. That’s why so many parents and politicians rail against the teaching of ethnic studies in public schools, or about the implementation of critical race theory in curriculum even when its implementation is more imagined than real.

That’s why they don’t want to hear that white supremacy caused the very damage to minorities that whites always feared minorities would do to them — and that the toxicity is more widespread than ever.


My column even mentioned that you don’t have to be white to commit these kinds of mass killings. Readers not only conveniently skipped over this fact — they took insult to the very idea that whites can. White fragility, heal thyself.