Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of so many lives in Orlando last Sunday morning. Our deepest solidarities and love go out particularly to the LGBTQ Latinx, Afro-Latinx, and Black communities who have been impacted the most by this tragedy, as well as to the broader LGBTQ community.
This attack unjustly cut short the lives of predominantly LGBT and queer people of color, necessitating us to look at the systemic struggles that LGBTQ people of color face in the United States. Despite recent political gains, systemic discrimination in areas of housing, policing, employment, and healthcare ensure that LGBTQ people of color continue to be at risk of lifelong poverty, compromised health, and police violence. LGBTQ people of color also disproportionately live in areas that lack state-level protections for LGBTQ people and face greater vulnerabilities on many fronts due to a rising tide of anti-LGBT laws. In the past year alone, there have been at least over 100 anti-LGBT laws pending in various states. Furthermore, trans women of color face epidemic rates of murder in this country. Trans people of color as a group are also disproportionately impacted by high rates of police violence and incarceration, while trans people in general are disproportionately poor and homeless. The horror of the shooting–the devastating fact that the last moments of these lives were spent witnessing the deaths of friends, lovers, and community members–must be seen in the larger context of homophobia and structural violence against LGBTQ people of color in the United States.
It is not with emotional detachment that we list these horrendous examples of systematic marginalization, but with a deep sense of resolve that each and every one of us bears responsibility for combating homophobia and transphobia, and the toxic effects of their combination with racism, xenophobia, and classism. LGBTQ people, including those of color, are in our work spaces and classrooms. Within and beyond our union organizing, we must strive to reveal and address these issues, as well as those faced by every oppressed group. We honor that Pulse and places like it serve not only as entertainment, but as centers of community support, organizing, and expression; as safe havens; and as a means of affirming life for structurally oppressed peoples, making an attack in this setting all the more horrific. We seek in our own organizing to honor the memory of Pulse, its community, and the lives cut short last Sunday by striving to secure conditions on our campuses that affirm life for LGBTQ and all oppressed peoples. We note that these struggles are deeply intersectional: For example, it is not lost on us that a significant number of victims were Puerto Rican, reminding us of the history of struggle Puerto Ricans have faced, including those driven onto the mainland because of colonial economic policies.
Many have already tried to absolve themselves of their accountability to changing this toxic climate of homophobia at home by targeting the Muslim community, given the Muslim identity of the shooter and the fact that he pledged allegiance to ISIS during the attack. We condemn this form of Islamophobia because it does two equally damaging things: 1) it makes Muslims and other people of Southwest Asian and North African descent even more vulnerable to rising hate, discrimination, and racial profiling and it is a racist move that reduces an entire community to the actions of this individual, and 2) it displaces the focus from where it should be: a culture of broad homophobia–a structure that continues to be chronic in our country despite recent political gains such as the legalization of gay marriage–and racialized violence. Further, it turns our eye away from this country’s shameful gun laws and the fact that LGBTQ people are sadly no strangers to domestic acts of mass violence.
The Islamophobic response also erases LGBTQ Muslims and Southwest Asians/North Africans who deal both with homophobia and racism. Already, many Muslim voices, including LGBTQ Muslim voices, have committed themselves to organizing against these intertwined layers of hate in our communities. CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), the most prominent U.S. Muslim civil society organization, has unequivocally expressed solidarity with the LGBTQ community and joined in mourning the victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting.
We, members of UAW 2865, join their call and also condemn figures across the political spectrum who have taken this tragic opportunity to divide oppressed communities by advancing positions of warmongering, policing, and Islamophobia. We lift up the prior work of UAW 2865’s Black Interests Coordinating Committee (BICC) in acknowledging the racial and homophobic violence perpetuated by police. We know that more police, prisons, and defense spending will not stop disproportionate rates of homelessness among LGBTQ youth, mass incarceration of LGBTQ people of color, and significant structural inequities faced by LGBTQ workers. Only a true commitment to ending all forms of oppression led by grassroots social movements in our own communities can bring about the real justice we seek.
We mourn the loss of beautiful lives in #PulseOrlando. Our hearts are with the families, including chosen families, as we wish them healing. Our fight to end all forms of oppression, including white supremacy, anti-blackness, patriarchy, colonialism, and classism, will not be complete until our LGBTQ loved ones are free.
UAW 2865 Joint Council