For 15 years, my ethnic last name has appeared above all of my stories. Which means, for 15 years, some readers have judged me only by that ethnic last name.
Call it bigotry. Call it racism. Call it xenophobia. As a writer – especially one who covers national politics – you chalk it up as coming with the territory, as hurtful and as menacing as it can be. This year, though, it is coming far more frequently. There is no mystery why.
Maybe you don't believe Donald Trump is a bigot. Or a racist. Or a xenophobe. But the Republican nominee for president certainly has won the support of people who are.
These voters are out there. I know because I hear from them.
I don't think it's a coincidence that, recently, readers have told me I should be "on the other side of the wall" and that my background should "disqualify" me from covering this election.
This was different. These came via email. From people using their real names.
I realize I am far from the only person whose ethnicity or race has become a focal point for a few critics. I don't want to trivialize the reprehensible prejudice many other minorities endure.
It strikes me, though, that Trump, whether he means to or not, has fostered a hostile moment in our politics when his supporters feel entitled to racially denigrate others.
Sadly, simply being a Gomez is enough to make you a target.
Aside from my last name, you might not have guessed my heritage. My younger sister got our father's dark skin. I got our mother's paler complexion. And I wish you could have seen the look on my high school Spanish teacher's face when she realized she had to give me a "C."
I have wondered how I can objectively point out that Trump encourages hate. I find myself searching for the best response when a friend at a party or a person in politics excuses Trump by arguing that he is "saying important things" or "tapping into something that is real."
Perhaps I could show them messages like these
- March 14, 2016: "Since we're stereotyping maybe we should start asking to see your green card. You a spic or a beaner?" – @HurtinCowboy, via Twitter.
- July 13, 2016: "You have been always been [sic] a biased reporter IMO [in my opinion], but now you are an obvious and clear bigot that is inflaming the political situation. Your obvious latino background (dark, short, fat) should preclude/disqualify you from the political scene in this presidential election. ... FYI, I have studied some journalism, did a lot of professional writing in industry. Also have graduate degree from a top university."
- •July 23, 2016: "Also, just so you know, I have two daughters-in-law and they are both Hispanic. My grandchildren are half Hispanic. So I am not picking on you. I am not the biased one."
One online reader recently accused me of allowing my "enthicity" to cloud my judgment. Another asked if I was here legally. A third asked, tauntingly: "What makes you the expert, Enrique?"