by Karyn L. Pomerantz
The massacre at Pulse of Latin youth has revealed the realities of living Latin, gay and transgender. Author Justin Torres contrasted the safety and sacredness of Pulse with the fear and vulnerability of life in the outside world (Washington Post, June 15, 2016, Op Ed, page A23):
“Outside, there’s a world that politicizes every aspect of your identity… Outside, they call you an abomination. … Outside, there is a presidential candidate who has built a platform on erecting a wall between the US and Mexico… Outside, Puerto Rico is still a colony, being allowed to drown in debt, to suffer, without the right to file for bankruptcy, to protect itself. Outside, there are more than 100 bills targeting you, your choices, your people, pending in various states.
You have known violence…. You are queer and you are brown … You have known a masculinity, a machismo, stupid with its own fragility. You learned basic queer safety… Outside, the world can be murderous to you and your kind….”
For many, there is no safe place. Millions of people in northern Africa, Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan leave their homes to find safety and economic security in other countries, driven out by war, suicide bombings, and unemployment. Fifty percent (50%) of Spanish, Greek, and DC black youth have no jobs and future.
Many Orlando Latin@s, mostly from Puerto Rico, also immigrated to the US to seek a better life made more urgent by the austerity measures US business imposed on Puerto Rico. People cannot find jobs or medical care. Challenge-Desafio (www.plp.org) reports that:
“Inequality is currently higher than in any of the 50 U.S. states; 46 percent of the population lives in poverty. Per capita income is less than half that of Mississippi, the poorest state in the U.S., while food prices are often higher because 85 percent of the food is imported. One woman reported that milk is $6 a gallon!”
US history is peppered with lynchings, violent attacks on black neighborhoods, and Klan terror. In 1919, racists murdered 237 black men and women for organizing a union. Whites rioted against blacks in St. Louis, Chicago and other cities after World War I. Politicians, union leaders, and industry bosses used racism to keep black and white workers divided and hostile to one another.
Capitalism cannot survive and profit without racism and similar strategies that blame the victims, sap the strength of the working class, and divide people with common needs. At its worse, it devalues people and blocks the contributions they can make.
While we struggle with the grief generated by the Orlando attack and the suffering of millions of people trapped in unlivable hells, we can stand up against bullying, against discrimination, against rape, and against marginalizing people based on racial categories, gender, religion, or sexuality. We can unite our struggles and build a movement to end capitalism. We can honor all of those shot at Pulse by building an inclusive movement to end racism and similar forms of oppression and rejecting the divide and conquer ideologies critical for the existence of capitalism.