It’s time to address the hate

Published 5:58 pm Monday, June 13, 2016

Columbine. Sandy Hook. Virginia Tech. And now Orlando.

The largest mass shooting in U.S. history took place at an Orlando nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Every time a mass shooting occurs, the nation reacts with shock and horror. This time it’s being called an act of terrorism; the outcome of radical Islam; the bidding of extremists in a place on the other side of the world.

But is that the case?

Yes, this man was a Muslim. He was also American, born in New York City, raised in Fort Pierce, Florida. He worked for a security firm. He had two firearms licenses. He purchased his weapons legally.

What he chose to do with those weapons was kill 49 people and injure 53 others, but not just any 49 people and 53 others. In the theme-park capital of the United States, the shooter chose a gay nightclub — not a school, not another dance club, not a mall, a sporting event or a church. He targeted Americans, yes, but he specifically targeted gay, lesbian and transgender Americans.

It’s too easy to write the events of Sunday morning off as a terrorist act, because that’s not all it was. It was a hate crime. This shooter used his religion as an excuse to justify his hatred of LGBT people. He used it to justify the murder of a travel agent, an accountant, an East Carolina University graduate, a brother, a sister, a father, a child who texted “Mommy I love you” in the moments before he was gunned down.

As the entire nation reeled with shock and horror on Sunday, hundreds of people of every color, age, religion, sexual orientation, lined up at OneBlood donation centers in Orlando and waited for hours to do something, anything — give blood — to combat the fear, helplessness and sorrow a tragedy like this creates.

Those are feelings with which many in the LGBT community have a lifetime of familiarity. While it may seem far too simplistic to call the shooting at Pulse nightclub a hate crime, that’s exactly what was: the bloodiest, most deadly hate crime against LGBT Americans in U.S. history.

It’s not only time to address the “homegrown” terrorists. It’s time to address the hate.