How a Tragic Murder Became an Excuse For Racism

Courtesy of Newsweek

On July 18, Mollie Tibbetts, a sophomore college student, went out on an evening jog and disappeared. One month later, her body was found in a field and Cristhian Rivera, an undocumented immigrant, was charged with first-degree murder.

Shortly after, the current administration tweeted a quote: “Should never have happened…the immigration laws are such a disgrace.” It continued to speak out about the murder – as opposed to talking about the dangerous situations that women in this country are faced with each and every day.

By claiming that the murder was a direct result of “illegal immigration,” people have insinuated that this tragedy could not have happened if American border laws had been stronger. However, on average, undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than American citizens; the homicide arrest rate for native-born Americans is about 46% higher than the homicide arrest rate for undocumented immigrants. This incident was unrelated to the murderer’s status or country. This incident was not the fault of any undocumented immigrant other than the perpetrator. So why did he do it? Not because he was “illegal,” but because he yelled at her to stop and she didn’t listen. Because women in this society are objectified to the point of brutality.

Crime against women is disturbingly common across the country – so common that it is not safe to be a woman in the United States. Our society views women as “less than” men, explaining why generations of men have grown up believing that women are objects that can be manipulated or obtained. Based on this notion of toxic masculinity, female bodies are consequently objectified, and men are taught that they have a right to do whatever they want to women. It is this mindset that leads to rape cases, kidnappings, and murders.

After all, what exactly are the consequences?

On average, there are 321,500 victims of rape and sexual assault (aged 12 and older) each year in the United States. For every 1000 rape cases that make it to court, 994 of the perpetrators will walk free. Women fear walking the streets alone, knowing that, statistically, there’s a solid chance they won’t make it home.

Yes, this specific murder wouldn’t have happened if Rivera had never entered the country. But attacks just like this one have and will happen to other girls, too – by native-born Americans and immigrants alike. If this administration really wants to prevent murders, it must address the issue of rape culture and violence towards women above anything else.

Instead of vilifying the immigrant community, Mollie Tibbett’s murder should have awakened people to the danger women face in our country – a danger that our country has created and perpetuated. A story that could have made even a difference was construed into a publicity stunt by the White House, and because of that, our culture of toxic masculinity doesn’t show any sign of diminishing.


-Lucia Wetherill