I was leaving from a public auction when I heard about the shooting in El Paso, Texas. I didn’t know how to react. When I later learned that the gunman was targeting Mexicans, I was petrified.
Both of my parents are Mexican immigrants; they moved to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas almost 30 years ago. Though my older sister was not, both my older brother and I were born in the United States. I was taught how to speak Spanish before learning English. I feel a sense of gratitude being born into and being able to experience such a beautiful blend of cultures.
The shooting, however, made me feel like a target because of my background. I felt that even the act of speaking Spanish in public could put my life in danger.
Even before the shooting in El Paso, Texas, fear and anxiety of being in public places and attending events had been in my mind. I didn’t feel safe going out for fear of someone gunning people down.
I am not alone. According to a survey done by the American Psychological Association and the Harris Poll, one out of every three adult Americans avoids certain places or events because of mass shootings.
This is extremely troubling. Every time I go out, I subconsciously take note of all the visible exits, places to hide and if someone is acting suspiciously. In the back of my mind, I wonder if I made a mistake coming to the area. Whenever I see someone act agitated in public, my heart starts to beat faster.
I am scared that every day I step outside could be my last. I am scared for my family who live by the border. I am scared that my parents will be targeted because they primarily speak Spanish.
In a country built upon the rights of individuals, no one should feel this way. No one should feel targeted for their race or be afraid to go to public places. To some individuals, the right to bear arms seems to hold more importance than the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Though our constitution does protect your right to own a firearm, safety must come first in our society.
We need change in our country. We need to value human life more than the stockpiling of weapons. We need better background checks on individuals attempting to buy firearms and ammunition. We need to look out for each other and remind our neighbors and friends that they are loved, because any day could be their last in this country. We need to embrace our identity as a country where immigrants come to create better lives for their families, not tear them down or disadvantage others.
Washington should take note of our growing crisis and take it seriously.
I truly hope that change does come soon. I don’t want future generations to suffer the way we have.
Christian Reyna is a second-year biomedical engineering major who is planning on obtaining a Spanish minor. When he’s not writing, he is usually thinking about his two Pomeranians back home in Texas and procrastinating on his homework.