I am Muslim. I am Latina. I am a woman. I am proud to hold all three identities ― but I am also scared. I am scared because my state’s race for governor, between Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam, could set the tone of rhetoric and policies for the Commonwealth of Virginia and the rest of country.
Virginia is at the epicenter of the battle for the heart and soul of America. Just last week, Gillespie released four ads playing on fears of Latinos and racial stereotypes. The latest ad, which opens with a dark hooded figure holding a baseball bat as “Kill, Rape, Control” flashes across the screen, is part of a national movement to tie Latinos and immigrants to MS-13 gang violence. It is disheartening, misleading and downright scary.
These racist, deceiving ads in Virginia are not just talk. My own son was assaulted by an FBI agent just a few years ago when he was 15 years old. Cell phone video showed how this grown man armed with a gun attacked a defenseless child. The officer was charged and convicted, but in a move that added more pain to my heartbreak, a judge sympathized with the agent and dismissed the verdict. This is how justice is thwarted for immigrants and people of color: When judges sympathize with the aggressors, not the children of color they abuse. It is a clear to me that this is the result of the actions and rhetoric of elected officials who demonize immigrant and Latino communities. Their words and deeds put our families at risk for craven political gain.