Call it what you like—a tragedy, a massacre, an act of terror—but acknowledge the shooting in Orlando for what it inarguably is: a hate crime targeting the LGBTQ+ community.
It's no coincidence that the shooting, the deadliest in American history, took place in Pulse nightclub, which is often referred to as the hottest gay nightclub in Orlando, FL. It’s also important to note that the massacre took place during “Latin Flavor,” an event specifically set aside to celebrate Latinx members of the LGBTQ+ community. As a result, the vast majority of victims were POC. This crime was charged with bigotry—bigotry against queer-identifying people of color.
Despite all of the glaring evidence, including the fact that Mateen's father recalled his son reacting angrily to the sight of two men kissing and being openly homophobic, multiple news sources are avoiding, if not totally discounting, the fact that this shooting was an act of pure hatred. Instead, different media sources are running to their respective corners - Fox News is using the incident to portray an entire faith as a threat (see a video here), CNN is blaming it on the lack of gun control (see an article here) - but too few are addressing the core problem which is, simply, homophobia.
What's frustrating is the fact that so many people are referring to the Pulse massacre as "shocking," as if the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S. hasn't been struggling to fight seemingly-losing battles for decades. It's almost as if people honestly believe that LGBTQ+ people magically achieved equality last June when they were granted the right to legally marry. It's almost as if everyone thinks that LGBTQ+ people are not constantly under attack; meahwhile, transgender and non-binary people are being harrassed, arrested, and physically assaulted for using the bathrooms that match their gender-identity (read an article about bathroom law concerns from Time here).
Yes, 29-year-old Omar Seddique Mateen, the man behind the mass murder of 49 innocent people, was Muslim. This is a fact that American politicians are now using to their advantage (see Donald Trump's gag-inducing tweet below); they’re using the murderer’s cultural background to push their Islamophobic, xenophobic agendas onto fearful and vulnerable American citizens who, in the wake of this catastrophe, are looking for explanations to cling to that could possibly excuse such a detestable act.
However, in a time of tragedy like this, it is crucial to remember that Mateen’s racial and religious identity don't reflect the morals of the entire Islamic community. We cannot condemn the Muslim population for a heinous crime committed by one hateful individual. This is not a product of Islam. This is a product of hatred, of homophobia, a societal disease that courses through the veins of people belonging to various religions, races, and cultural backgrounds.
In fact, there are many members belonging to the Muslim community, many of whom are LGBTQ-identifying, who are using social media platforms (see the Tweet below) to speak out against this heinous act of violence in attempt to reassure the world that their religion never condones the perpetuation of discrimination and hate. In fact, as do most religions, Islam preaches quite the opposite: love.
As a country, we should all work together to do the same. Hate cannot effectively be fought with hate. We mustn’t isolate one another. We must stand together to combat these issues at their core. This goes beyond guns and beyond ISIS. If we truly want to see progress being made, we need to address the issue at its core; hatred for LGBTQ-identifying individuals.
For information on how to support victims of the Orlando shooting and their families, please follow the link to this article: 5 Ways To Help Victims of the Orlando Shooting
Images via: Daniel Munoz, Getty Images, Twitter
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