Mollie Tibbetts’ death has been weaponized by racist ideology

Graphic by Maria Nevada

Will Patterson

It’s not often that the Midwest gains the attention of the entire country. Mollie Tibbett’s death is an exception. All eyes fell on the small community of Brooklyn, Iowa after Tibbett went missing while jogging near her home. Nearly a month later, Cristhian Bahena Rivera led police to her body on Aug. 22 and was charged with first-degree murder.

The tragic murder instantly became national political discourse when a single fact broke: Rivera is an undocumented immigrant.

From the highest levels of government—including the president himself—conservative politicians and personalities have used the Iowa student’s murder as a chance to feed anti-immigrant sentiment. Essentially, the logic being tossed around is that this incident has demonstrated that undocumented immigrants are dangerous.

The Des Moines Register published an editorial by Donald Trump Jr. on Aug. 31. The article is a scathing accusation against Democrats.

“They  don’t want you to know what happened to her—and they certainly don’t want you to know who is responsible,” wrote Trump Jr.

He goes on to write that left-leaning media organizations (a vast majority of media outlets according to the Trump Administration) have mislead readers. His writing makes it clear that he believes media organizations should have included a splash of unrelated rhetoric as part of their homicide reporting.

Rob Tibbett, Mollie’s father, responded the following day with a column of his own in the Des Moines Register. Keeping with his previous statements, he requests that his family be absent from the immigration debate and especially be absent from racist ideology.

The back-and-forth between Tibbett’s family and the anti-immigrant discourse plaguing this country should incite outrage. Even when facing the loss of a daughter, Mollie’s father has maintained an unwavering stance against racism welling up in the Midwest. Despite being over a hundred miles away, Nebraska has surely felt the violent tension.

Like Rob Tibbett’s editorial piece, this editorial is not defending Rivera’s actions. These articles are trying to prevent hateful voices from muddling the waters between Rivera and all immigrants. In other words, prevent textbook prejudice from being further weaponized against immigrants—specifically Latin American immigrants targeted by conservative rhetoric.