Steward: Deadly rampage a call to action beyond ‘silos’

The Costs Of The Pulse Nightclub Shooting : Shots - Health News : NPR

On Sunday I was angry. As a black gay man who has dedicated his life to equality I have often tempered my anger in favor of civility and nonviolent protest, but on the morning of June 12 my anger could not be tempered.

Naturally, I was angry because 29-year-old Omar Mateen had walked into Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Fla., at 2 a.m. with a semi-automatic weapon and an assault rifle and opened fire on a crowd of 300, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. But I was also angry because this tragedy could have been prevented.

I was angry because I live in an America that mistakenly considers itself post-racial because we have a black president and believes it is beyond homophobia because we have legalized same-sex marriage.

I was angry because as I watched the news I realized we are resting on our laurels and it is costing us lives. We continually refuse to listen to the movements that surround us — movements that call for us to dismantle the institutional oppression that still infects the foundation of our country. That’s the kind of ignorance that led us to the tragic events in Orlando.

As I watched the reports come in over the weekend, I could only think of how we have failed.

It is no coincidence that the deadliest mass shooting in America’s history occurred at a gay nightclub during its Latino dance night in the midst of Pride month, a time dedicated to celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.

So, yes, on Sunday I, like many, was angry. But anger isn’t an emotion we have time for. Action must become our focus now.

Homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, sexism, racism. We’ve made it our mission over the last century to separate mobilization against these ills. We demand action but too often in silos, when our battle would be most effective if united. It’s important that we name what happened at Pulse on Sunday. This was an ISIS-inspired homophobic act of terrorism perpetrated on American soil by an American citizen.

When someone inspired by religion-based terrorism walks into a nightclub and opens fire on a room full of LGBT Americans, most of whom were people of color, the lines between violence based on homophobia and violence based on Islamic extremism become significantly blurred.

The gunman’s motives become more convoluted by the day. It has been reported by authorities that Mateen had a history of homophobia, his father claiming he became upset at the sight of two men kissing. Then later reports detail how the married gunman had frequented gay dating apps and had been to Pulse several times before, and had even been to Gay Days 2016 at Disney World. Was he meticulously researching a community he was hell-bent on destroying? Was he dealing with a severe case of homophobia?

U.S. officials confirmed early on that the local private security guard was previously on the FBI’s radar as an ISIS sympathizer and called 911 just before the attack to pledge his allegiances to ISIS, at which point he also mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers.

Whether Mateen’s broken psyche was fixated on his hatred of the LGBT community (internal or external) or his religious-based extremist ideology is irrelevant. There was only one ideology. The ideology of hate, whose common denominator is the far-too-common mixture of ignorance and intolerance.

An intersectional approach to civil rights that addresses this universal recipe of hate is the only way we will rid our society of the institutional oppressions that leads to hate-fueled violence. Congress does finally need to do its part and invest in the safety of this country by passing stricter gun laws, but this is just the beginning. Until we dig deep and treat the root of this poison we call bigotry, this will unfortunately not be the last time we see the headline “worst U.S. mass shooting in history” dominating our news feeds.

D.A. Steward is the Boston-based creator/host of the news Web series “The Other Side” with Dwayne Steward on YouTube. Talk back at

Published via Boston Herald on June 16, 2019


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