A Latino White Nationalist
NPR's "Latino USA" details how a Colombian immigrant came to identify with the alt-right.
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It doesn’t make sense.
In a report released on Dec. 8, Andrés Caballero of NPR's "Latino USA" tells the story of Johnny Benitez (formerly known as Juan Cadavid), a Colombian immigrant living in Southern California who joined the alt-right movement.
Yes, the alt-right: A loosely organized faction that is unwaveringly anti-immigrant and largely white nationalist, promoting the idea of a “white ethnostate.”
How is it that a Latino immigrant could become infatuated with a movement that seems so contradictory to his very existence?
Caballero attempts to answer the question with his report. He portrays Benitez as fair-skinned Latino raised in a low-income household. Growing up, Benitez was frustrated with the societal privilege he believes darker-skinned Latinos associated with him due to his skin color.
During his interview, Benitez emphasizes his “Iberian” features, comparing his own appearance to Edward Norton’s neo-Nazi character in the 1998 film “American History X.”
“People think I’m white until they have a narrative that tells them that I’m not,” he told Caballero, later adding that he is nearly positive he has no “indigenous blood” in his genetic makeup.
Interestingly, Caballero notes that, prior to the election of Donald Trump to the White House, Benitez was a progressive activist who joined the Occupy Wall Street movement. He even donated money to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.
What severed his ties with his progressive social circle, Benitez told Caballero, was his disagreement with the rights of transgender people, claiming he was “excommunicated” by the political left for his anti-trans views.
In a murky way (Caballero mentions his subject isn’t always an articulate communicator), this disconnect led, at least in part, to Benitez becoming the kind of person who supports Trump at “Make America Great Again” rallies and recites from memory the 14 words most cherished by white supremacists: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
To listen to Caballero's full 18-minute report, click here.
Unfortunately, Benitez’s ideological transformation is not unique, though it is extreme. While the fact that he is a Latino immigrant who joined the alt-right may be an anomaly, his shift from Sanders supporter to Trump advocate is not. According to NPR, 12 percent of people who voted for Sanders in the primaries voted for Trump in the general election.
It's easy to wonder how many of these people are now flirting with alt-right ideas, and why.