Orlando opened a dialogue in the public sphere about LGBT+ rights, homophobia, and growing gun violence. These are conversations we should be having, considering the frequency of gun violence and mass shootings in the U.S. and the country’s treatment of marginalized populations (like the LGBT+ community). According to the Mass Shootings Tracker, there has been a mass shooting five out of every six days in the U.S. since January 1, 2013. We have seen and lived through approximately 1,000 in 1,260 days, far more than any other country in the world.
In addition, hate crimes against members of the LGBT+ community are just as prevalent. The LGBT+ community has been continuously vilified and alienated throughout history, and has been fighting against these stereotypes for decades. More than half of surveyed LGBT+ individuals are worried about being the victims of hate crimes. And there is good reason to be worried. According to the New York Times, members of the LGBT+ community are more likely to be the victims of hate crimes than any other minority group.
However, another dialogue was opened during this most recent mass shooting, one that exploits this tragedy and disrespects its victims. Some American figureheads, like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, have used the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history to target another population; Muslims. Islamophobia and an irrational fear of Muslims has rapidly grown since the shooting as a result of dangerous generalizations against the religion.
Some have tried to turn Orlando into a war against “radical Islamic terrorism,” even though they have little knowledge of Islam and lack the ability to recognize radicals (think ISIS and al-Qaeda, and not your local mosque). Some fail to recognize that the Orlando shooter was a terrorist because of his acts of terrorism against the LGBT+ community, and not his religion.
I am repulsed to see people like Donald Trump exploit an LGBT+ tragedy to not only ignore gun reform efforts being pushed in Congress (remember when Democrats had a sit-in in Congress to force Republicans to discuss the topic?), but use a hate crime to justify more hate crimes. We should not be afraid of Muslims, we should be afraid of the hatred being bred by scapegoating one population of people to spread dangerously inaccurate accusations. If you are interested in reading more on this topic, you can check out my article for The Odyssey.
It is also important to remember the victims of this shooting, even as the discussion is being shifted to marginalize a different population of people. Remember the 53 LGBT+ victims killed and 50 injured, as well as their friends and family, as we continue to push to fight for LGBT+ rights and gun reform. We cannot let hate crimes and gun violence continue to oppress America.