Yesterday and today, I threw myself into a draft of an abstract for a major research project on two recent SCOTUS decisions about Puerto Rico. I had long been expecting these opinions by the court and they should give me lots of material for legal scholarship in the coming months, especially during my sabbatical next spring, so that is a very normal part of my research summer. And I am excited to develop a new impetus for my scholarship. That is, after all, one of the more fun aspects of my job as a law professor.
But, frankly, I was also trying to escape the roller-coaster of emotions produced by the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Massacre.
On Sunday, my initial reaction was concern and sadness on a very personal level. I have many family members in the Orlando area and was relieved to see them use the Facebook “Safe” button. But there was also something very deeply jarring and personal about that. They soon posted pictures of a concerned community lining up to donate blood and help as well they could. That was, under the circumstances, life-affirming and hopeful.
So my feelings turned to sadness and anger at such senseless loss of life; anger at the uncivilized American culture of violence and guns. A growing sense of outrage overtook me as the grim statistics of death and injury started to come out. And I know very well that the 49 were but a fraction of those killed by bullets in this country this year. Just a few of those killed in multiple-victim shootings just this year or month. On average, 89 persons die of gunshot wounds every DAY in the U.S., 31 on average are murdered; over 11,000 are murdered with guns and almost double that number commit suicide with guns in a year in the U.S. (http://www.bradycampaign.org/key-gun-violence-statistics (last visited June 15, 2016)); see also Centers for Disease Control, National Vital Statistics Reports: Deaths, Final Data for 2013, p. 10, Tables 18-19 (February 16, 2016) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_02.pdf (last visited June 15, 2016)).
Then, as the names of the dead started to be reported, another thing that I had feared became clear: most of the victims were Latinas/os and, as I feared as well, mostly persons of Puerto Rican descent. I became increasingly agitated that no one in the national media was commenting on that at all during the early hours. So I twitted a few things about that and wanted to include an item from a Puerto Rican newspaper reporting that more than half of the dead were Puerto Rican. And then I noticed the horribly homophobic, disgusting anti-LGBT commentary by a few on the newspaper pages.
Later in the day, a colleague pointed out that as people realized that the victims were mostly Latina/o some conservatives began to say that they could not possibly be LGBT persons! From public reports of self-mapping information about their lives, from their friends, it is clear that most were BOTH Latino/a and LGBT. Some were either. Some were neither. All were human beings, and it is their humanity, in its entire, intersectional diversity that we must unite to mourn. That is the best counter to hate.
Some people who use the incident to express their clearly-pre-existing anti-Islam, anti-LGBT, anti-Latina/o, anti-whatever views, try to deconstruct intersectionalities into separate tropes that they use as tags for hate against entire homogenized groups. Hate is unacceptable. Group hate is unacceptable. We must resist that.
But equally problematic is the homogenization of what we choose to value. Loving “despite” a particular part of a person’s identity; the erasure of some aspect of who they were as complete human beings. Latinas and Latinos in particular are a very intersectional group, as I have written in my legal scholarship. We are not a race, we are an ethnic group that includes persons of many races, religions, sexual orientations and economic classes just to name a few tropes.
I self-map as a white, straight, Puerto Rican male of the upper middle class. My first language is Spanish. I am an attorney and a law professor. I am a son, a brother, an uncle, a cousin. But what I really want to be right now is a human being who can mourn the lives so senselessly lost and respect THEIR HUMANITY.