About Letter to a Bigot
A rallying cry…
Growing up in a mostly white California town as a queer Mexican American woman, Myriam Gurba learned early in life about the long-term devastating harm of racism, sexism, and xenophobia. In this Scribd Original, Gurba directly addresses the mayor of her hometown, calling him out for allowing bigotry to flourish. Like her true-crime memoir “Mean,” this unnervingly candid piece is a rallying cry to shatter the status quo, from a woman who has a hard-won understanding of the costs of complacency.
With the publication of her electric true-crime memoir Mean—hailed by The New York Times as “a pair of brass knuckles disguised as a book”—writer, artist, and activist Myriam Gurba flouted expectations, of genre and style, tone and intention, and signaled a refusal to behave according to anyone else’s rules. She learned early in life, growing up in a mostly white coastal California town, that the rules are rigged, made by people who do not have her best interests as a queer Mexican American woman at heart. One man in particular schooled her in the distorting, painful effects of bigotry, using Trumpian tactics long before Trump ascended to power: George Hobbs, who served as mayor of her hometown, Santa Maria, California, off and on from 1966 to 1994.
In this direct address to Hobbs, A Letter to a Bigot: Dead But Not Forgotten, she chronicles all the ways in which he turned the bias already afflicting her community from a simmer to a boil and made her coming of age a struggle for survival. In the summer of 1990, when Gurba was only thirteen, Hobbs gave a speech before the Santa Maria Valley Economic Development Association in which he declared that the region had a “Mexican problem,” advocating for “U.S. financed colonies” for immigrants at the southern border. Calls for his resignation were no match for the support he received, and within months Gurba would experience firsthand the emotional and physical violence to which Hobbs had given license. In high school it only grew worse, and she became expert in recognizing not just the overt expressions of racism and sexism around her—the slurs and physical menacing—but the subtler expressions of it, too, as in the local papers’ debasing coverage of Indigenous people living in their region and in her English teacher’s critiques of her writing. When she was assaulted again, this time by a man who went on to murder a Mexican migrant, a woman who still haunts Gurba to this day, there was no longer any space between the political and the personal, no room for excuses for “leaders” like Hobbs or Trump and the power structures they depend on and that depend on them, no condoning the scapegoating, hate-mongering, and hypocrisy they practice. Her trauma and pain became her fuel, irreverence and rebellion her art.
Like her memoir, this timely and unnervingly candid Scribd Original is a rallying cry to shatter the status quo, from a woman who has a hard-won understanding of the costs of complacency. She’s long been acquainted with the adversaries of hope and progress, and, like the fury she channels, that indeed she has become—“una diosa furiosa,” cheers author Luis Alberto Urrea in tribute—she’s taking those adversaries on one by one, dead or alive, without apology, without politeness.
Gurba’s letter — full of fearless castigations and incisive cultural analysis — positions Hobbs as a mini-Trump. He was, she says, a bloviating racist who “inspired hatred and violence in our community” by speaking with a Hitlerian inflection about the “Mexican problem.” Through a series of harrowing anecdotes about her own and others’ experiences, Gurba illustrates the trickle-down effect of bigoted rhetoric from people in positions of power, the way politicians’ dog whistles become White teens’ catcalls and the rhetoric of intolerance in the office mutates into acts of violence on the street. I confess, I’d never heard of George Hobbs, but this scathing essay helps me see him and his ilk still toiling away.—Washington Post