A Message in Response to the Tragedy in Orlando

Posted on June 16th, 2016 by Elizabeth Boylan

Low Library

The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law joins our allies and friends in acknowledging and supporting all persons suffering as a result of Sunday morning’s hate crime at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

We also acknowledge the particular vulnerability and pain experienced by the communities most affected by this tragedy, especially the LGBTQ community, the Latinx community and LGBTQ communities of color.

Following the massacre, we have seen people resort to further hate and bigotry, expressing Islamophobic sentiments regarding the alleged identity and affiliation of the attack’s perpetrator. We refuse to participate in a culture that allows hate to beget further hate.  And we urge careful thought about the language being used to describe this event and to shape responses to it.  In particular, we resist the use of the term “terrorism” to capture the kind of violence suffered by those attacked at Pulse.  Terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” The term focuses attention on the motivation of the shooter, and diverts attention from “political aims” that enable this kind of violence: a political culture that chooses the interests of gun owners over human life.  The term “terrorism” exceptionalizes these acts of violence and exonerates Congress’s embrace of a well-funded politics of death.  Our political culture is saturated with a kind of necro-politics and this sort of mass murder is its extreme, ugly face.  For this reason we are also troubled by our allies who lament the failure of a bill in Congress that would have denied gun permits to “terrorists.”  Besides the obvious Islamophobia that underwrites this kind of legislation, isolating “terrorists” as the people who don’t deserve to own weapons renders everyone else not so labeled as innocent if not virtuous bearers of Second Amendment rights.

What is vitally important is that we all cultivate a culture that enables us to move away from hate, and towards a dialogue that seeks to dissect fear and cultivate compassion, understanding, and support for the marginalized communities that are suffering most right now.  We also are committed to deconstructing the systemic legal, cultural, and social inequities that enabled this tragedy to occur.

Sunday morning’s hate crime has left many people feeling a range of intense emotions.  We at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law believe that feeling those emotions is important, and channeling emotion into passionate action is a positive way to enact change in our world.

At the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law Blog, we have developed a list of12 ways that individuals can take action in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando.  The blog post may be accessed here, and we encourage you as our friends and colleagues to offer any further suggestions you may have.

In Solidarity,

The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law and
The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

Professor Katherine Franke
Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law

Elizabeth Reiner Platt
Director, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

Kira C. Shepherd
Associate Director, Racial Justice Program

Liz Boylan
Assistant Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law

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