CN: Pulse shootings. Incidentally, this is not the worst shooting in US history, and that we have to clarify that is appalling in and of itself. The point: this has happened before, and will happen again.
I've been trying to write about the massacre in Orlando all day, and the reality is--I just can't.
I can't explain how heavy my heart is as I flip through the pictures of the 49 people that were killed. I can't explain the effects of the knowledge that it was Latinx Night means that the victims of the shooting were disproportionally Latinx, and almost all people of color. I can't tell you how I cried as I read the last texts a man sent to his mother before he was killed.
Stupid, senseless death.
Hatred is learned from those around us. We aren't born with the innate knowledge of--well, anything. In the late 17th century, John Locke called this tabula rasa, the blank slate.
That's not exactly how development actually works, though. The brain is fully primed to absorb new material, like language, which is why children learn so much so quickly. People are a mix of their genetic predispositions and their environment, and if their environment is full of hate, they'll learn it.
We gave up when politicians didn't take a stand against gun access after Sandy Hook. The moment we accept the slaughter of children is the moment anything goes. It seems that everyone agrees that "suspected terrorists" shouldn't be allowed access to automatic weapons, and no one will do anything about it.
What about when the "suspected terrorists" are the people at home?
The man that decided to open fire at Pulse might have been raised in a Muslim household, but he was not Muslim. He didn't practice. The allegations that he was supporting ISIS might be true, but that doesn't mean he was one of them. This is not about Islam and its hatred of the "infidels." So many religions have histories of violence. Abrahamic religions are just glowing examples.
This is not a showing of "radical Islam." This is homophobia. This is radical hatred. This is a demonstration of the endless capacity of human cruelty.
It's lazy and irresponsible to say the man responsible was "mentally ill" and leave it at that. Doing so just perpetuates the stigma without actually addressing what are the underlying problems here: homophobia, sexism, transphobia, bigotry. This man abused his wife. This man was allegedly gay himself. This man carried with him the values of many American people, ones that many are ashamed to admit.
But not all of us share these views. Not all of us are scared of those who are different. Stand up for us. Stand up for the queer kids who no longer feel safe in their own spaces, for the trans individuals who want to use the bathroom in peace, for women in spaces dominated by men. Stand up for the people of color who disproportionately are arrested and prosecuted. Stand up for the religious minorities who want to practice in peace, who didn't come here to spread hatred and misunderstanding.
Fight for us. I fight for us. As a non-binary, queer, Sufi, white-passing person of color, raised in a Muslim household, as a Middle Easterner, I fight for us. The violence, the perpetual cycles of bigotry and excuses, needs to end.
When ISIS kills in the name of Islam, many Muslims respond with the hashtag #notinmyname. Well, this will not happen in my name. As a Muslim-American, not in my name. I hope it's not in yours, either.
This piece was written on June 14, 2016 and sent out in my newsletter. Well, it's really more of a blog-to-your-inbox letter.