Tasha Amezcua, coordinator of the Audre Lorde Project’s Safe Outside the System anti-violence program, described instances of Islamophobia she encountered as the community was in mourning. At one point, she received an email from an elected official that referred to the Orlando Massacre as a terrorist attack and losing Enrique Rios Jr. during the attacks. Enrique Rios Jr. was from Bed-Stuy which has a significant Muslim population.
“Referring to it as a terrorist attack and not a homophobic attack really was not looking out for our siblings and community,” Amezcua says. “I think there is a huge risk and danger of a new homonationalism that is white supremacist and Islamophobic.” At a BRIC hosted town hall on LGBTQ Civil Rights on Tuesday night, Professor Katherine Franke, the Director of Columbia University Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, made a similar point regarding use of the word “terrorist.” “I resist using the words “terror” and “terrorism,” Franke said at the event, citing that the words took on a new meaning after September 11th. “I think [these words] are necessarily infused with Islamophobia in this country,” Franke says.
Amezcua described a moment on the way to the Audre Lorde Project’s vigil for Orlando at a local Botanica. When she told the person at the counter what the candles were for, she received a double-edged response. “She was an elder black woman and she said ‘I wish I could be there with you all, I can’t believe this happened’” Amezcua describes. “We all kind of lit up in that moment and [we] were really grateful,” Amezcua said. But then, according to Amezcua, the woman said, “You know, now that they let everyone over here, what do you expect to happen.”
“Those of us that have been organizing on the ground for racial justice understand the intersectionality of Christian supremacy, White supremacy, and a level of war and genocide that completely obliterates the rights to have religious, faith, spiritual practice connected to our racial, gender, and sexual identities,” Page says. Page ultimately believes that addressing militarization of police is as important as addressing gun violence as a whole. She and other long-time activists have come out against the impulse to reach out to police and state protections for safety against future violence. “Pulse could never secure our safety as a club, but police will never secure our safety either.”
“In the coming days you will see expanded police presence,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference Sunday. “Many key sites around the city, again particularly at sites of importance to the LGBT community.” Grieving the dead, healing the community and processing this tragedy are the next steps Page believe need to be taken. “We have to go deeper and look at their root causes that even allow this kind of gun violence,” Page says. “Not an anti-gun policy or law but a demilitarization of policing and really understanding war and genocide as, to quote Angela Davis ‘an economy of violence’ that we are all a part of. Whether or not we are harmed by it or perpetuate it, we are participating and if we are not looking at the root causes that build it through capitalism and white supremacy, then we will not shut this down,” she says.