I have no problem talking about race. I won’t hesitate to call out racism when I see it. In fact, I’ve made it a personal life goal to not let racists get away with anything. But (unintended apophasis notwithstanding) the Orlando massacre is not the time to call out the media for downplaying Colfax, Elaine, Tulsa and Los Angeles. We don’t have time for oppression one-upmanship. Rather than focusing on where we differ in terms of belief and circumstance, now is the time to dig deep and find the points of connection, the places from which true empathy flows. Because no matter what your belief, we who are Black should know — better than most — just what happened in Orlando:
- Real people — not some stereotype — died. How many times have we who are Black been angered when people have looked at us through racist-colored lenses and transmogrified us into the demons of their personal nightmares? It wasn’t ‘a bunch of LGBTQs’ that died. It was Amanda, Antonio and Akyra. Darryl and Deonka. Yilmary, Tevin and Paul. They were real people. And now they’re dead. Just like Trayvon, Sandra and Jordan. I bet you know somebody like him or her.
- For their families, the grieving has just begun. Every one of the 49 who died (and I don’t care about the 1 who deserved to) belonged to some others. They were sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors and lovers. And because they were, there are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors and lovers — some unknown number multiplied by 49 — crying and preparing to bury them too soon. Just like Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin; Geneva Reed-Veal and Sharon Cooper; Ron Davis and Lucia McBath. I bet you’ve read about people like them.
- Somebody hated them because of who they were. People who decide to hate you because of who you are, whom you love — or what color your skin is — have decided you are making a choice which, in turn gives them a right to do likewise. Even if their deadly choices are in response to something that was never a choice for you. And that’s really scary because there are a whole lot of things — race, gender, sexual orientation, mental and physical abilities — that you and I don’t have a damn thing to do with. Homophobia, xenophobia, gynophobia, transphobia are all the same in the end. I bet you’ve been affected by something like that.
- That somebody believed he was justified. Religion, law, natural order. God, Allah, Jehovah. The Constitution, the Bible, the Koran. No system, higher power or guiding principle based on justice or love, life or liberty can condone murder. And if it does, perhaps it’s time to rethink it. Of course, it’s all a matter of perspective. Even the most loving belief can, in the wrong mind, twist into something diametrically opposed to its intent. But moral absolutes can drive people to absolutely immoral acts. Personal value systems are just that – personal. When someone imposes his or her values on someone else, things fall apart. I bet you’ve accepted some ‘truths’ that truly are just belief.
My point here is that those real people, with real families and real existences are US. Evil people are everywhere, thinking and doing the unconscionable and unbelievable every day. But when they do, we have to step away from individual hurts and histories and lean in to the collective and present pain. It’s not about some of us, it’s about ALL of US. Loss is loss. It all hurts like hell. And for those who want to compound the hate, remember: No matter who or what you are, there’s somebody out there who hates you for being you. And one day, that somebody could pick up an all too available weapon of mass destruction and make his or her hateful beliefs a terribly tragic truth.
So figure out what you are — Black, gay, straight, male, female, transgender, gender fluid, a parent, a child, a friend, in business, on parole. For Goddess sake, HUMAN. And connect. Because that’s the only way any of US are going to fix the things that make the things like Orlando happen.
I bet you know that all too well.