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#Charleston & #PulseOrlando: Hate Breeds Hate

Senseless violence is the articulation of evil, and evil is never at a loss for words.

After what is now the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, the nation stands with Orlando as the city recovers from a tragedy that occurred this past Sunday at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub that left 49 dead and at least 53 wounded. The gunman, Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce Florida and an ISIS sympathizer was killed in a police shootout. Authorities are describing Mateen’s act as a hate crime against the LGBT community. But hate knows no community.

Hate didn’t have mercy on the little kids at Sandy Hook, the college kids at Virginia Tech, the movie goers in Aurora, and as we reflect on the one-year anniversary of the Charleston church shooting, church goers looking to pray. An act of hate against one group of people is an act of hate against us all, because we’re all connected through our humanity. But even in our darkest hours, people will still insert hate into their self-perceived humanity – the inhumanity of humanity.

Tragedy is always fodder for political and religious agendas. Just hours after the Orlando shooting, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sent a tweet from his account quoting the Bible. It read, “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” I took this as a suggestion that the victims of the Orlando shooting deserved what happened to them. Patrick is a staunch social conservative who opposes same-sex marriage and LGBTQ discrimination protection laws.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump villainized an entire religious group in his response by proclaiming, “There will be nothing, absolutely nothing, left. A single gunman carried out the Orlando massacre,” he said. “Can you imagine what they’ll do in large groups, which we’re allowing now to come here?” “They’ll” refers to Muslims.

Trump’s rhetoric is not in support of the Orlando shooting victims or the LGBTQ community at large; it’s meant to polarize and instill fear into the American people. He failed to mention the word LGBTQ in his initial reaction. Both Patrick and Trump’s fear mongering responses have deep historical roots.

Propaganda is tragedy’s shadow, and it’s a tool often used to incite fear and promote hate. For example, the AIDS epidemic was used by religious fanatics to persecute gay men. The late pastor Jerry Falwell’s infamous quote, “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals,” invokes hate. According to the CDC, well over 5,000 people in the U.S. died from AIDS before Ronald Reagan even mentioned it publicly in 1985. Earlier this year, former aides for President Richard Nixon admitted that the war on drugs targeted Blacks and hippies, an implicit racist platform that left thousands of Blacks incarnated for drug offenses.  Social sentiment around sexuality and race has evolved throughout time, but so has hate.

Today, hate continues to be more diffusive as ever. Hate is concentrated across certain spaces as it makes sense for its target. Once upon a time, Black and LGBTQ people were not welcomed in any spaces. In response, we had to make our own communities safe spaces. For Black people, church was one of them.

The Charleston church shooting that took place at Emanuel AME holds eerie similarity to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of 1963, which claimed the lives of four little girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carole Denise McNair. Just 43 years ago on June 24, 1973, the same week of New Orleans gay pride, an arsonist set fire to the upstairs lounge of the French Quarter, killing 32 people. No suspect was ever charged.

Because of this, Black and LGBTQ people share a contentious identity.

The Civil Rights and Gay Rights Movements were a collection of widespread efforts to protect our best interests and identities, and both were responses to hate. Since the FBI is investigating reports that Mateen used gay dating apps, Mateen’s horrendous act is potentially a response to his own self-hatred.

The victims of the Orlando shooting were casualties of that hate. Days after our nation’s deadliest mass shooting, Republicans in the House of Representatives successfully blocked a bill that would ensure federal contractors can’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And then there’s the lack of acknowledgement that the Orlando shooting was even a hate crime.

In his reaction to the murders on Twitter Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, references those who lost their lives in the tragic shooting as “victims” while other Republicans followed suit. Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi consistently mentioned “LGBTQ” in her responses. This was also practiced with the Charleston church shooting.

“I don’t know what was on the mind or heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes,” said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush when Huffington Post asked if he thought the Charleston shooting was racially motivated. While there were some Republicans that did acknowledge the racist component, most simply blamed Dylan Roof’s actions on mental illness. As if mentally ill people can’t be racist. Roof would later admit that he carried out the shooting in hopes of starting a race war. Friends of Roof also revealed to media outlets that he was pro segregation.

Acknowledgement post tragedy isn’t acknowledgement, it’s guilt. And to rob victims of their acknowledgement, whether by race, gender, or sexuality sends a grim message that it’s OK to target these same people in the future.  The absence of this kind of acknowledgement socializes hate in a way that desensitizes the masses when it comes to race and sexuality-based discrimination, making that hate more digestible.

The government’s stance on gun control is also to blame for such violence. Everyday citizens should not have the ability to carry out a massacre on a whim or premeditated. And breeding hate from tragedy just pays that hate forward.

What happened in Orlando could’ve happened to any of us. No one is above tragedy. This month may be LGBTQ Pride Month, but after learning the names and ages of the 49 victims, I’m just happy to be alive, because not even Pride Month is guaranteed.

This piece is dedicated to all the victims and their loved ones affected by the Orlando shooting, the victims of the Charleston shooting and their loved ones, and all victims of hate crimes.

Terrence Chappell's Headshot

Terrence Chappell is a Chicago-based writer. He covers an array of topics ranging from social justice to more brain candy content such as pop culture and infotainment. Terrence has been featured on JETMAG.com, Huffington Post, Advocate.com, Windy Cindy Times, and the Black Youth Project. When he isn’t writing, Terrence works as a social media manager at Burrell Communications.