Stop killing my people

IMG_4647As I awoke this morning to a growing list of Latinx names murdered at a gay nightclub in Orlando two nights ago, I couldn’t suppress a thought that I usually dismiss but today found inescapable: they shot my people.

In the sense that we are all children of God, or Mother Nature, or quantum physics, or whichever life force you subscribe to, the victims in Orlando are no less my people than the victims in San Bernadino, or in Brussels, or in Nigeria, or in whichever part of the world senseless tragedies have recently taken place. If you look at the picture of the gunman and compare it to pictures of some of the people he killed, you might see that they don’t look that different from one another. Brown skin, short haircuts, collared shirts, manicured beards, selfie pouts; I’d believe it if the news reported they mistook a picture of one of the shooter’s 103 victims with a picture of the shooter himself. The sameness of each photograph points to one irrefutable conclusion: that everyone involved, shooter and victims, were all people.

But I can’t accept that the shooter was my people.

And maybe I shouldn’t accept that the victims were my people, either. After all, I’ve never been to Orlando, nor do I personally know any of the victims from the names released so far. But I do know that the only circumstance that got these people of color killed was being out and proud at a gay nightclub, an offense I am guilty of many times over. Anyone could have been a victim of this tragedy two nights ago, but because of the prejudice of one man and the ideology of hatred he subscribes to, there was a much greater chance that those victims could have been my friends and I. My people.

I already assume that no meaningful change will come from this. Powerful white men with business suits and flag pins will argue the merits and pitfalls of gun legislation for the next week or so before turning their attention back to a comparatively meaningless election circus, and hoards of numb Americans will turn their attention away from the violent racism and homophobia in Orlando and towards the systemic racism and homophobia on their televisions and devices. I know this because I am one of those numb Americans, and I wish I felt like I could make a single meaningful action against this incomprehensible attack on my humanity.

The fight against fundamentalist hatred of queer and poor people is a long and nuanced fight, and I don’t suspect that justice will be achieved anytime soon. There is, however, one adjustable variable that could have saved lives not only in this attack, but also in the nineteen mass shootings during President Obama’s tenure and the countless others before: the uniquely American availability of assault rifles and ammunition. The sad truth is that up to the moment the shooter released his first bullet into the nightclub, he had done nothing illegal. He was within his right to purchase military grade weapons and artillery, and he was within his right to conceal the weapon in Orlando’s streets, and that is a shame that every empathetic American should feel today. That the United States is the only country where this regularly happens is a result of our stubborn refusal to examine the hands that buy our weapons.

Progress is simple: ban assault rifles. Ban high-capacity magazines. Mandate universal background checks on anyone wanting to buy a weapon. Vote for candidates who offer clear and concrete support for gun control legislation. Speak out against the horrors of domestic gun violence.

And to those who still want their guns: fuck your guns. They killed my people.

I don’t want to suggest that I’m ashamed of my country. On the contrary, I truly believe that despite its injustices, I have never visited a country more tolerant and accepting of my people than my own. But I’m reminded that no matter how much love and kindness we’ve developed towards queer Latinx people over the last few years, all it takes is for one impressionable mind to take the lives of the underprivileged simply for being different. Every developed nation in the world has systems in place to stop single-minded massacres from happening, and now it’s our turn to develop some systems of our own.

Stop the hatred. Stop killing my people.

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