When some of us become ‘the other,’ all humanity is in danger

Some refuse to accept that women of color have a right to belong, even the right to be human. They try to deny our humanity. If they see you as “the other,” then they can say — and do — anything to you.

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Joseph Igartua, 37, was charged with stalking Mayor Lori Lightfoot. 

Joseph Igartua, 37, was charged with stalking Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

We don’t know exactly what Joseph Igartua had in mind when he was arrested last week for allegedly stalking Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

He was charged with three felony counts of stalking and another for reckless discharge of a firearm, according to news reports. On Thursday, a judge ordered Igartua held without bail.

Igartua, 37, drove past Lightfoot’s Logan Square home 15 times between Jan. 17 and Feb. 14, sometimes circling her block, according to media reports.

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One night he allegedly approached Lightfoot’s home with a letter — and a gun. He was stopped by the mayor’s security detail but had a valid FOID card and concealed carry license, so was released, police said.

Lightfoot, her wife and daughter were home at the time, she said. “It’s been terrifying,” she told reporter Karen Jordan of ABC7.

“I don’t need my child being afraid in her house,” Lightfoot said. “It’s bad enough what my wife and I have been enduring these days.”

Police had been watching Igartua. “On Wednesday morning, prosecutors said he was about a mile from the mayor’s house when he fired five shots down an alley,” ABC7 reported. “He was arrested and charged with stalking and reckless discharge.”

Igartua’s letter was a rambling recitation of many grievances, a source close to the mayor says. He was reportedly angry about receiving traffic tickets.

This alarming tale reflects the current sorry state of American debate, Lightfoot told ABC7. “This demonization of people just because they have a different set of ideas...We’ve got to get back to seeing each other as human,” Lightfoot said in the television interview.

“We simply cannot lose sight of our individual and collective humanity. We need to model the behavior that we want our children to copy,” Lightfoot also declared in a statement.

Seeing humanity is getting tougher, thanks to the bigotry spawned by former President Donald Trump and his ilk, and the pushback against our nation’s attempts at racial reconciliation.

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For some, it has become permissible to demean, threaten and traumatize women of color, especially Black women. To see and treat us as “the other.”

Lightfoot and other powerful politicians, like Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx; congressional leaders Maxine Waters of California and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; former First Lady Michelle Obama; and more, have been subjected to racist, misogynist and homophobic attacks by those who hold a hateful, paranoid vision of America.

In that vision, the higher these women rise, the louder they speak for the voiceless, the more they are feared and reviled.

I regularly receive hate mail in response to my columns from readers in Chicago and around the nation. Many of the missives hurl vile insults, profanity and threats. My correspondents excoriate my race and gender, even when I am not writing about those issues.

These times have given the haters permission to target us as we rise and bring different stories to tell and lived experiences to share.

Some refuse to accept that we have a right to belong, even the right to be human. They try to deny our humanity. If they see you as “the other,” then they can say — and do — anything to you.

This attitude is becoming dangerously common, and it’s no longer enough to sling toxic rhetoric via social media. Now, they are showing up at the doorstep, armed.

Lightfoot likes to say she is tough. But her family is the painful collateral of this hate. When some of us become “the other,” all humanity is in danger.

Follow Laura Washington on Twitter @mediadervish.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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