Omar Mateen, an American citizen, walked into Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida with the aim to murder and terrorize as many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as possible.
Mateen’s father told NBCNEWS.com, that his son recently became “enraged” when he saw two men kissing in front of his family and this could have “set him off.” In the coming days many will ask questions. How this could happen? Were there ties to ISIS? Where could Mateen acquire these extremist views?
The definition of terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims. Nowhere in this definition is terrorism limited to that of a foreign agent. Mateen was a domestic terrorist and his extreme and radical viewstowards the LGBT community were homegrown and we cannot in the light of day continue to ignore the issues we have growing in our own backyard.
When Dylann Roof took the lives of nine black parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina the world looked on in horror and some pundits tried to disconnect the fact that Roof’s white supremacist ideology was a motivating factor in the carnage he manifested. Some headlines neglected to call his actions terrorism. Roof did spare a witness to tell his tale—a messenger to spread his terror.
While white Americans struggled to understand how something like this could happen for Black Americans it was yet another reminder – like the countless unarmed shootings of black men, women and children – that we are not free and that in America we will always be seen as Black first and American second.
We are seen as American second in the systematic erasure of blackness in our history books, policies and the very landscape of America; through use of media outlets that equate blackness with criminality and poverty; through politicians who use policy to further marginalize us from achieving equal housing, education and access.
Why did Dylann Roof think that those nine parishioners deserved to die? Because American society told him they were inferior and ill-intentioned even as they prayed.
Omar Mateen much like Dylan Roof didn’t need ISIS to tell him that the LGBT community wasn’t worthy of life, dignity and the pursuit of happiness – politicians in Florida and across this country did the job for them, through anti-discrimination laws that seek to humiliate and isolate the LGBT community from mainstream America.
These are laws that seek to tell us which bathroom we can use, where we can work, and up until recently whom we could marry and whether we could defend a country abroad that refuses to recognize our humanity at home.
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America boasts politicians that have called us deviants, and just yesterday Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick wanted to remind us in our time of grief that, “men reap what they sow.”
Did the first graders in Newtown “reap what they sowed”? What about the moviegoers in Aurora or students at Virginia Tech or the parishioners in Charleston? Did they all have it coming to them for one reason or another?
When will politicians and the media understand that homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia and racism ARE in fact “extremist” views that are the breeding ground for terrorism?
What drove Mateen to commit such a horrific act? Our state-sanctioned and toxic anti-discrimination laws and hate-fueled politicians who use their platforms – much like Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump – to spread bigotry and fear.
States that are using restrooms as hunting grounds for LGBT people drove Mateen, the laws that ban LGBT people from adopting, policies that justify our firing, degradation and seclusion are what caused this tragedy.
The boogieman we are after isn’t just sitting in some far-off land hiding in a cave, he/she is sitting on the school board, in city council, in the state house and if we’re not careful, they may be residing in the White House.
Hatred for people that you don’t know is a mental illness and it’s cure doesn’t come in pill form, it comes through education and compassion—both of which is missing in our current political discourse and is now running amok, armed in our streets.
As the provocative cover of the NY Daily News put it after the San Bernardino shooting, “God Isn’t Fixing This”. So once again, rather than politicians offering platitudes and prayers to bereaved family and friends of the Orlando victims, they should offer policy solutions that make it clear that they stand with the LGBT community and other victims of preventable gun violence. They should make it clear that they won’t stand for rhetoric that seeks to divide us.
God isn’t fixing this, but with our vigilance and our vote, we can.
Hatred is in fact homegrown, but so is love. As, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
The LGBT community matters, black lives matter, and gun violence coupled with ignorance and hatred is killing us. Fix it.