Opinion: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has an inspiring message for radicalized white men and women. But will anyone listen?

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U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has an inspiring message of redemption for radicalized white men and women on the hunt for minorities.

But will anyone listen?

“When we allude to people as an invasion, as an infestation, we’re directly pulling from language of white supremacy,” Ocasio-Cortez said Monday at a gun violence vigil. “So, I don’t want to hear the question ‘Is this president racist?’ anymore. He is.”

This may be the kind of message you’d expect from this polarizing Latina, whose socialist agenda has taken the country by storm. But what she said next was truly remarkable.

She called on those “falling into the grips of white supremacy” to come back home where love will be waiting for them.

'We will love you back,' AOC said

“There is a mother waiting for you. I know it,” she said, fighting back tears. “I know there’s a teacher waiting for you saying, what happened to my kid? What happened to my friend? And we will always be here and hold space for you to come back. We will love you back.”

Love them back?

Love for those who want nothing more than to eradicate people of color from this country, even killing them like the 22 gunned down in El Paso, Texas, by a white man who drew inspiration from President Trump’s hatred?  

It’s a hard message to heed.

Instinctively, I’d say fight back because our lives depend on it. This isn’t a metaphor anymore. People of color aren’t safe anymore, anywhere. Latinos are being hunted down at shopping malls like animals, and she’s asking us to love?

Love somebody who’s pointing an AK-47 or an AR-15 assault rifle? Tell that to the families of the 22 murdered in El Paso or the nine at Dayton, Ohio, or the three in Gilroy, Calif., or all other victims of more than 250 mass shootings in the United States just this year.

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She is asking the impossible. Or is it?

What Ocasio-Cortez is asking us to do is impossible. Or is it?

Love back when all we want is vengeance? Don’t know about you, but I can’t do that – not now and not with images etched in my mind of the women, men and children running for their lives in El Paso, just because they happen to be Latinos.

Then again, how do we end this streak of hatred? Like many of us, Ocasio-Cortez is angry as hell. But she’s echoing the message of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK believed men could change, saying whites weren’t bad men. “They are misguided,” he said.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s struggles epitomized the fight against the segregation of blacks in this country and lynchings by white men. We know his message of non-violence didn’t save him. His murder in Memphis, Tenn., is a stain on America’s history of hatred against people of color.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was right, nonetheless. Men and women can change. Slowly and painfully, America changed and evolved since those dark days of the 1950s and 1960s. 

How else do we fight? By voting

Unfortunately, the country is once again in the midst of darkness with an evil unleashed by President Donald Trump’s attacks against people of color.

The president on Monday denounced white supremacy, appropriately so. But will he stop portraying Mexicans as criminals and likening immigrants and Central American asylum seekers to an “invasion” of this country?

Will the president stop telling Ocasio-Cortez and three other congresswomen of color to "go back" to where they came from? Will he desist in building his wall with Mexico?

REP. SIERRA: It's up to Latinos to change the racist narrative against us

We must fight back until he does. How? By voting him out of the White House. That is the best revenge.

Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez might be onto something important. Loving radicalized white supremacists could be powerful for their redemption. But doing so might be the hardest thing our generation does, especially when our instinct is vengeance.

Elvia Díaz is an editorial columnist for The Republic and azcentral. Reach her at 602-444-8606 or elvia.diaz@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter, @elviadiaz1.

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