In the wake of a tragedy like the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando or the terror attack in Turkey or the recent executions of two black men by police in America, it can be tempting to bunker down into an “us” vs. “them” mentality - no matter who the “us” or “them” is.
Maybe you’re a member of the LGBTQ community that felt victimized by the Pulse attack and the horrific, hateful rhetoric from certain groups in the days after. Maybe you, like me, have a huge problem with the gun culture in the U.S. and couldn’t stand seeing “Pro-NRA” posts following the shooting. Maybe you’re from Turkey, and you felt saddened by the level of support given to your citizens after the Istanbul attack, and angry that it didn’t seem to matter as much as tragic events in the States.
So, you put up a rainbow flag on Facebook, you post an image calling on Congress to change their gun control policies on Instagram, or you tweet an article asking for support for Turkey.
After all, we all have our “causes.” Some of us are strong proponents of women’s rights, some of us are vegans, some of us fight against systemic racism. It’s almost reflexive to stay entrenched within our “cause” mentalities after defining national events. We’re told change can’t happen without focus, so we choose to stay focused on our individual causes.
And we need to stop.
We shouldn’t be standing up to violence against the LGBTQ community because we’re gay...and then staying silent on all other causes. We shouldn’t be standing up to violence against the the black community because we’re black... and not speaking up when a violent attack happens on another group. And we certainly shouldn’t be standing up to violence against American citizens because we were born in the States and not find ourselves just as involved for international events.
We should be standing up to violence against everyone because violence - killing, hatred of any kind - is unacceptable.
Too often, I’ve seen posts from friends on social media stating their plans to block certain of their contacts because of hateful comments posted after a tragic event. I have been lucky enough not to be put in this position - the majority of my contacts on social media are people I feel proud to know.
That said, I wish I saw more of my white friends posting #BlackLivesMatter just as they posted #OrlandoStrong. I wish I saw more of my black friends posting #OrlandoStrong just as they are posting #BlackLivesMatter. I wish I saw more American friends acknowledging and supporting - if even from afar - the citizens of another nation when they are under attack.
We need to stop being impressed when a straight person supports the gay community, or when a white person supports the black community - because not being a member of a certain group, but still recognizing and supporting the right of that group to love, and live, and be who they are without fear of violence isn’t impressive, it’s the right thing to do.
More than all of that, I wish I saw more people truly getting involved instead of armchair social media activism. I love the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, and I love that social media has become a way to call attention to issues we may have remained silent on in the past. But please, get political - contact your local government and police station and demand information about concrete actions to avoid events like this from happening in your city. Donate money or time to the families of victims.
And talk to people - don’t be the ignorant person subjugating the black lives matter movement or the gay rights movement because you can’t stop obnoxiously posting #AllLivesMatter. And don’t let your family, friends and loved ones be that person - it’s time to stop making excuses for systemic hatred.
And it’s time to start realizing it’s not our goodwill to speak out against violence of all kinds - it’s our responsibility.