This is not about your irrational fear of Islam.
This is not about your heteronormative view of relationships.
This is not a campaign tool.
This is a tragedy.
This is a time, more than ever, that we must come together and love each other.
I recognize that as someone who does not identify as LGBTQ or Muslim I am not directly impacted by the horrific events that happened in Orlando last Sunday. I’m a human living in a world that is struggling to maintain its humanity, and seek dialogue that is rooted in a way forward together.
As a cis-gendered heterosexual male I carry privilege in everything I do. I do not fear for my life because of the hate crimes that happen every day in this country. I do not face discrimination because of my appearance. I have a platform that many do not, and I choose to use that platform to speak truth to power and lift up others to do the same.
For others that have privilege like me there are times when we need to step up.
I recently had a difficult conversation with a loved that said, “I hate terrorists. I hate Muslims.” Taken aback, initially I didn’t know how to respond. An hour later we came to a shared understanding that hatred and violence are isolated symptoms of pain and violence in the world. People are not inherently violent and hate will only continue the devastating violence that has become so ingrained in American culture. These conversations are not easy, but they are necessary.
For others that have privilege like me there are times when we need to shut up.
An unconscionable event like the shooting in Orlando evokes mixed emotions, and people often look towards leader to share their perspective, to give comfort and to offer some semblance of reason for an unthinkable act. During a campaign this can be flawed by an opportunity for personal political gain.
Juventino Meza first saw the news about Orlando on his way home from the Saloon, a gay bar in Minneapolis.
“My heart sank. I used to go to Latino night on Tuesday during my years in college. I did that even before my family knew I was gay. It was heartbreaking to know that these people spoke the languages I speak, loved the music I love, knew the dance moves I know. It was so much more personal and so much deeper,” he shared.
Juventino, or Juve as he is known by many, appreciated the support that outshined the negative responses from the general public. However, he and many others recognized the political exploitation of the tragedy. Following the Paris attacks Trump’s approval ratings increased significantly. Politicians use these moments of widespread fear, sadness and emotion to leverage votes and power.
“There was a show of love across the board. Politicians, pro-LGBTQ+ and anti-LGBTQ+, were sending their prayers and condolences. People were sharing their stories about going dancing or visiting Orlando. Then, it started taking a dark turn. Gay men, especially white gay men, started making comments that this was an attack on the gay community and wanted straight people to stop making it about something else. Politicians quickly labeled this a terrorist attack. OutFront MN had a vigil which became about politicians. The Latinx community was ignored; it felt like we were a second thought. It hurt. I left the vigil right after the fourth politician spoke. I appreciated all the people who showed up there, and yes even the elected officials. But it just hurt to be erased from this conversation. Most of the dead and survivors were Puerto Ricans and queer people of color. The conversation is complicated. But a very human level, I want our leaders to do better. And I have not lost hope,” Juve said.
Not one Latinx was invited to speak at a vigil grieving the death of nearly 50 Latinx people in the worst hate crime in U.S. history.
Jess Blaqk uses they/them pronouns and is mixed race Mexican resident in Minneapolis.
“We need radical change and to promote more self-love because self -love in these trying times is radical,” Blaquk said. “I think the current LGBTQIA+ culture has a huge white and cis-washing problem. We can’t ignore that an overwhelming majority of those who were slain were people of color. I’ve seen SO MANY people attempt to erase that by just noting that it was a gay bar and that gay people died. It’s super important to acknowledge that there are many intersections that come into play here. We need to question why the white-washing of our community happens. Who’s in charge? Why does this continue to happen? We need to change this because we are all in this together and our differences need to be acknowledged and bring to light our intersections.”
We have to believe we can get through this together, and we have to respond with love not hate.
Filsan Ibrahim is a Black, Somali, American, Muslim community organizer from Frogtown, St. Paul. A week into Ramadan we sat down to reflect on the shooting in Orlando, Islamophobia and pathways towards peace.
“It’s a sacred month about community and your intentions in working closer with your community and yourself to get closer to god,” Filsan shared about the annual Muslim commemoration of the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.
When Filsan heard about the shooting it was late Sunday and was saddened by her news feed updating the number of those killed and injured. She and her sisters grieved the tragic loss of lives and said, “Please don’t be a Muslim man. When these horrible events occur it makes me more aware of how different I am. How un-American I am. I worry about my mother and older women who wear a hijab, the ones who are told they don’t belong. I fear for their safety.”
We discussed how we move forward from these events, how to stop hate crimes, how to stop Islamophobia, and how to stop violence driven by ignorance and misguided fear.
When asked if she could share one thing with others who have misconceptions about Islam Filsan shared, “Be a revolutionary. When you see a kid being bullied stop it, if you see someone being called the N word say something, if you see these microaggressions happening do something. Create spaces for people to be themselves and be all they can be. Try to unlearn everything you think you know about what is right and what is wrong. Challenge yourself. Tiny things build up to a revolution so be that.”
Are you tired? I am.
The weight of this anger, sadness, and pain from the constant violence in our world and in this country feels too heavy to bear.
Are you sick of seeing this brutality in your community every day? We all are. But we can’t stop fighting for something different and we won’t stop pushing for a world that is rooted in tolerance and love, not hate and violence.
This isn’t the home any of us want to live in. We can debate which policies need reform, but these tragedies won’t end until we revolutionize our culture. Step up and speak out during moments of hate, and step up for others to have space to speak. Like Filsan be a revolutionary, and create tiny acts of love, every day.
There will be a dance night dedicated to Latinx, LGBTQ, straight, people of color, and all people to coexist, dance, and heal together this Friday at Ginger Hop at 10 p.m.
Ryan Stopera is a social worker and community organizer in Minneapolis. He is on the board of directors of MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change and the Lyndale Neighborhood Association.