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After El Paso shooting, Castro loses his restraint -- and finds his voice

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

SAN DIEGO -- Just as the liberal media largely erased Latinos from coverage of the El Paso shooting -- by excluding Latino commentators and focusing on guns -- so too did the El Paso shooting nearly erase the White House hopes of Julian Castro.

As the first viable Mexican American candidate for the presidency in U.S. history, Castro was in an impossible situation. When a white male drove halfway across Texas to, as police later said he told them, "kill as many Mexicans as possible" -- and wound up killing 22 people and wounding 24 more -- a lot of people were anxious to see how Castro would react.

Mexican Americans in the Southwest were feeling sorrow, pain and rage -- and still are. Which emotion would Castro tap into?

After all, this presidential candidate is also a Mexican American from Texas. He should easily relate to the people of El Paso.

But no matter how Castro reacted, he was guaranteed to get grief -- from one group or another.

I know. I got grief. Since Aug. 3, the day of the shooting, I've been writing columns, doing media interviews, and posting on Facebook. No less than a dozen white readers have called me a "racist" and someone who "hates white people." All for calling out anti-Latino racism and trying to hold white people accountable for letting it get out of hand.

 

Essentially, I said the same things that white journalists have been saying. But they can say those things. I'm not supposed to. As one of the few nationally syndicated Latino columnists, I'm on a short leash. Everyone has rigid ideas about what I should think, and how I should act, and they're likely to be disappointed. I've heard that word a lot in recent days. "Disappointed."

Same with Castro. If my friend had come out breathing fire after the El Paso shooting, he would have come across to white Americans like some Chicano radical from the 1960s with a brown beret and a knife in his teeth. It would have been Harvard Law School meets "Machete." But if he went the other way and tried to be calm, reasonable and fair, he would have been shredded by the Latino Left. They would have tagged him a Tio Tomas (a Latino Uncle Tom), who is so afraid of alienating white voters that he swallows this indignity aimed at his people and becomes irrelevant.

It wasn't unlike the situation Castro faced during the years that he was mayor of San Antonio. There, he had to inspire the two-thirds of the city that is Latino, without scaring off the quarter of the city that is white. Under the best of circumstances, that's quite a magic trick. And this time, it's playing out at the national level, where the stakes are higher.

What did Castro do? At first, he erred on the side of restraint. He went on the Sunday news shows and, in calm and subdued language, condemned the siren of white supremacy coming from the White House and proposed a plan to combat gun violence. He was a grownup.

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