I am very sad today. Sad for our country, sad for Nevada, sad for the friends and families of those killed or injured in the mass shooting in Las Vegas last evening, and sad for all of those who died and were injured at the hands of, what I would call, an “evil” man. How someone can kill innocent people baffles me and is definitely one of those things that I hope to never understand. However, I am not going to directly talk about this tragedy in this post, as we are still learning the details and because I have not had enough time to process it yet.
The tragedy in Nevada, however, brought me back to the mass killings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, last summer and how this relates to diversity and inclusion in a global society. Some people called this shooting domestic terrorism, others a hate crime. I think it was both. I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive. The shooter was an American citizen who dedicated himself to ISIS; thus, since he was an American and caused an act of terror – it is domestic terrorism. Since the shooting happened at a well-known gay club and specifically targeted a minority group – it was also a hate crime.
While the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community have progressed, LGBTQ+ members remain, what I perceive at least, at the top of list of hated/judged/misunderstood people in the United States. Living in southwest Virginia is a reality check on this issue. Bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc that say rude things about LGBTQ+ individuals are fairly commonplace here. And it breaks my heart. Even people who wouldn’t consider themselves as anti-gay say derogatory things daily. For example, the expression “that’s so gay” is something I hear weekly as I walk around campus. Most of the people, I presume, who use this phrase are not using it specifically to insult the LGBTQ+ community. But, it is a derogatory statement. It is said with a negative connotation. And it is offensive. Words can be hate crimes as well.
It seems that many people, including our current administration, hesitate to use the phrase “hate crime.” But why? What happened at the Pulse club was a hate crime, what happened in Charlottesville a few weeks ago was a hate crime, and who knows, we may find out that the act in Nevada last night was one too (only time will tell). And the sad part is, we were not born hating anybody. Hate is taught. Hate is passed down from generation to generation. And thus, hate is hard to extinguish.