The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

The last time El Pasoans voted for a Republican for president, it was Ronald Reagan. Yet El Paso, which is about 80% Hispanic, is as conservative as any idealized middle-American small town. It’s a place where family and tradition are paramount, where attention is shunned, and where change is looked at with suspicion.

Many people in El Paso like things as they are — and there is much to love in the small-town feel that belies the fact that about 2 million people call the region home — but sometimes the city preserves the status quo to its detriment. While other major Texas cities are on the rise, El Paso’s growth is anemic thanks to the brain drain that draws away younger people who thrive on change.

I was one of them.

I was born in El Paso and grew up across the border in Juárez. My wife was born in Juárez and grew up in El Paso. We are border residents who consider ourselves at home on either side, and who have internalized the maxim that most people there know by heart: anything can happen in Juárez and nothing ever happens in El Paso.

It was that thought that kept running through my mind Saturday as the news slowly changed from reporting an incident at a Walmart to something much more serious. Even as I called my parents to check on them — and my brother and his family who were visiting — I did so almost casually. As if I was afraid giving it credence would make it so.

Eventually, denial gave way: This was a mass shooting. Dozens were wounded and many killed. There was a 21-year-old from the Dallas area in custody, and he had a manifesto that talked about a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” and how he was defending his country from “cultural and ethnic replacement.”

In a perverse irony, a city adverse to change was the victim of someone terrified by it.

Reading the alleged manifesto, the shooter’s ramblings are confused racist garbage. Almost as muddled as the reaction by Texas officials. After the shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott talked about mental health while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blamed video games. But white supremacy isn’t a medical condition and “Call of Duty” isn’t the problem.

What did the young man who walked into that Walmart see? If he had seen me that day, would he have recognized the annoyance on my face because I hate supporting the big box behemoth? If he had seen my Mom and Dad, would he have seen a couple figuring out how to fit an extra gallon of OJ into their budget because their grandson was visiting? When he saw 10-year-old Erika de Alba Mariscal shopping with her parents, did he see an invader as he pulled the trigger?

The massacre in El Paso is the ultimate result of the dehumanization of an entire group of people. It should spur all of us into action, to fight back every day against the racism that poisoned the shooter’s mind.

As for the people of El Paso, I’m not worried. They are strong and resilient. They will get through this and carry on as they always have. Their very existence is a repudiation of the hate that has so far claimed 22 lives. El Paso can be painfully stuck in its ways, but it’s also ahead of its time. Unlike in many places around the country, seeing people of color be doctors, teachers, politicians or artists is as easy as looking out the window. Growing up in Juárez-El Paso was America. And by the look of it, America had a place for me.

I have no sympathy for someone who takes innocent lives or who allows hate to consume him. But I understand that the fear of losing power, of seeing things change so quickly that you feel your place in the world is slipping, is natural. But if we are willing to push past our fear, it’s easier to see that America has a place for all of us.

That, at least, hasn’t changed.

Luis Carrasco is an editorial writer for the Houston Chronicle. Before that, he was an editorial writer for the Arizona Daily Star.