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shooting

mass shooting, gun control, LGBTQ, Orlando, Florida, Pulse, Shooting, Gay Community, Pride, Omar Mateen, Eddie Justice, Mina Justice

My heart has been breaking since learning about the mass shooting that took place at “Orlando’s Premier Gay club”, Pulse, early Sunday morning leaving 49 victims dead and 53 wounded. I’m saddened and sickened for so many reasons. I could write about ISIS, terrorism, bigotry, racism and hate but what saddens me the most is that 49 mothers and fathers lost their child last night because a lunatic with a gun decided he wanted it to be so.

49 unsuspecting people thought it was just another Saturday night. Actually, it was a pretty special night, it was the eve of Pride Day. If ever there was a night to celebrate as a LGBTQ person (or a human being for that matter) it is the night when we all feel like there is a little less hate and lot more love and acceptance in the world. A day when we feel closer to a world of human equality and further from separation.Today the entire world feels vulnerable and helpless; victimized and terrified. We are angry that this was allowed to happen again but don’t let the anger turn to hate. Hate is what got us here to this moment of childless mothers and fathers, in the first place.

That’s what I was feeling yesterday, as I rode the 15-hour drive home from Boston and saw all the smiling, celebratory faces of my friends, celebrating at Pride Parades and block parties. I felt the pride all last week while I was in Boston and glorious rainbows adorned all of the buildings and landmarks around the city. I could feel the acceptance in the air, it was palpable.

But last night, the ugliness of hatred and stupidity reared up its head and stole the lives of 49 children from their parents. No, they were not small children like the victims of Sandy Hook but anyone who has a child knows that our children are always “our children” no matter how old or how big they get. It is our most primal instinct to protect them and love them as fiercely as our hearts will allow; to give our lives in place of theirs without hesitation or thought.

When I read the story of Mina Justice and the texts that she received from her terrified son, Eddie Justice, while he hid in the bathroom from a gun wielding bigot, afraid for his life, my heart shattered into a million pieces. It’s horrid that any one person had to die so senselessly in such a brutal way for no reason at all other than for being who they were meant to be and loving who they were born to love. But to see his own words in the texts to his mother; to know his fear was almost too much to bare. I can only imagine what his mother must have been feeling.

As a mother, I wanted to crawl into the fetal position and die. I wanted to run to this mother and hold her and tell her that it was all going to be alright. That her son was fine. Like this was some primetime drama and at the end, everybody would walk away just fine and the bad man would be apprehended but that’s not how it happens in real life.

In real life, bad things happen to good people. Terrible unthinkable things happen to unsuspecting people who’ve done nothing more than live their lives, openly and freely. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, lose their loved ones because bad people with no scruples are allowed to obtain guns because, apparently, the right to bear arms trumps the right to live in our United States.

We are becoming desensitized to the point where when we see shootings on the news, it’s no longer shocking unless it’s a mass shooting.

People are outraged, screaming that terrorists are targeting and murdering the LGBTQ community and I agree with their outrage but for me, it’s much simpler. Someone murdered 49 children, his name was Omar Mateen.  He was an American-born man, a domestic terrorist, who called 911 before carrying out this ghastly task and pledged his allegiance to ISIS, while referencing the Boston Marathon bombers. He then chose to gun down 50 innocent people. This is the deadliest mass shooting in the United States and the nation’s worst terror attack since 9/11.

Mateen somehow managed to carry an assault rifle and a pistol into a packed club around 2 a.m. Sunday morning and started shooting, he murdered 49 people and wounded at least 53. After a three-hour standoff, while 350 people were trapped inside the club desperately calling and messaging friends and relatives, police crashed into the building with an armored vehicle and stun grenades and killed Mateen.

Omar Mateen was 29-years-old, lived in Fort Pierce, Florida and had been interviewed not once but twice, in 2013 and again in 2014, by the FBI but was found both times to not be a threat. They were wrong. In the past two weeks Mateen legally purchased a Glock pistol and a long gun, ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Trevor Velinor told reporters.

Authorities spoke with Mateen’s father and ex-wife and both said that Omar Mateen was not particularly religious but his father said that recently, Omar saw two men kissing in Miami and it offended him. His ex-wife says that she thinks he was bipolar but was never formally diagnosed. Sounds to me like he was a bigot with a gun; a bully.

49 moms and dads are beside themselves trying to figure out how to live without their children alive to love. 49 childless mothers are sobbing primally because their world has been destroyed. 49 childless fathers are looking at the door expecting their child to return, knowing they never will; feeling a void that is so massive that it feels as if their heart will crush beneath the weight of it.

Today the entire world feels vulnerable and helpless; victimized and terrified. We are angry that this was allowed to happen again but don’t let the anger turn to hate. Hate is what got us here to this moment of childless mothers and fathers, in the first place.

Channel your hatred, anger, helplessness and vulnerability into change. Donate blood. Be kind to strangers. Treat people as humans. Don’t judge people for who they love, the color of their skin or the God they worship. Be a voice for the mothers and fathers who cannot speak or barely breathe, those who lost everything because one evil man was able to possess a gun and with that gun he chose to murder people just because he could.

We have to say no more, stand up for those who need protection and be the change we want to see in the world. The time for  expecting others to make things happen has passed. We have to vote, risk and force the change. Next time, it could be one of our children.

What would you be willing to risk in order to prevent another mass shooting?

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Unarmed suspect shot by police officer, Walter Scott, Michael Slager, North Charleston, South Carolina, Shooting, Police, brutality, racism, fear

Yet another African American man, Walter Scott, has been shot dead in the streets. Hearing this saddens me but seeing the video infuriates me. How many people have to die before we change what we will accept from law enforcement, from the justice system and from ourselves?

A 50-year-old black man was pulled over for a broken taillight in North Charleston, South Carolina. The officer, Michael T.Slager, tasered Walter Scott who had warrants out for his arrest for not paying child support. Scott ran after being tasered. The police officer followed in pursuit on foot and then shot the unarmed man 8 times, in the back. Would he have done the same if it had been a 50-year-old white man?

Then, it appears from the video, that the officer drops the taser by Scott. The same taser gun that the officer said the man had on his person; the very reason he felt threatened enough to shoot him. To add insult to grave injury, Walter Scott was left lying on the ground; face down, bleeding out while not one of the officers attempted to perform CPR on him. Officer Slager is being charged with murder. I’m glad. Still, there is no explanation for these events that can make any of this right for me. If seeing is believing, I’ve seen enough.

My belief is this white cops are shooting black suspects because they are afraid of them. I don’t know if it’s because of some residual guilt over the inhumane way that most Caucasians have treated African Americans throughout history, instilled racism from their upbringing or just plain old ignorance that allows them to treat black people as less than and still sleep at night. Whatever the reason, I believe that some white people are genuinely afraid of black people simply because of the color of their skin.

On the flip-side, I believe African Americans run from Caucasian officers because they are afraid of them too; afraid that their fear will cause them to overreact and use excessive force.Fear that their lack of respect for their basic human rights could put them in imminent danger. If history tells us anything, they’re not wrong. We’ve seen it happen. It’s not unimaginable. This is just my theory.

How many more Walter Scott incidents can we tolerate?

Everything about this sickens me, however, it no longer shocks me. This is nothing new. The only thing that’s changed is that everyone has a camera with a phone that takes video and social media allows us to share these stories instantaneously with remarkable reach. This has been happening for centuries and anyone who believes it hasn’t is fooling themselves. We are being forced to face the reality of our brutality. You can no longer be blissfully ignorant about the world because the truth is caught on video and shown to us. To say you didn’t know it was happening today, is to be a liar.

I grew up in an African American neighborhood and in my world, this is how the cops have always treated African Americans. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. The world is an unfair place where fear causes men to do unspeakable acts in the name of self-preservation. Fear is a very effective motivator, even when it’s completely unfounded.

I’m not saying that all cops are racist or bad people. Quite the opposite. There are many law enforcement officers who risk their life every single day to serve and protect their community but there are a few small men with narrow minds, who function on fear and power and have guns. These are the ones who make me afraid. The ones who can be more compassionate to a dog in the street than a dying man lying in front of them. Those who lack humanity and human compassion scare me the most.

We know there is a problem. No human being should be shot dead in the street. I don’t care what color, creed, race, religion or sexual preference you have. We need to change. How many mothers have to lose their children? How many children have to lose their fathers? How many lives have to be snuffed out before it all adds up to too much?

In my book, one dead human being in the street is too many. We have to stop letting fear and ignorance govern our reactions. Collectively as the human race, we need to say no more and develop a zero tolerance policy for the brutality and abuse of power that we currently accept as status quo. This is unacceptable. This is not the world that I want for my children. Our children deserve better.

What are your thoughts on the Walter Scott shooting?

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Michael Brown, shooting, Ferguson, MIssouri, racial profiling, riots

I have not touched the topic of Ferguson, Missouri and Michael Brown yet because I’ve been struggling with my own demons this week triggered by the suicide of Robin Williams but my fog is lifting and I am sick at what is happening in the world. I’ve spent the last 24 hours pouring over footage and articles and I am flabbergasted at what is happening in our country in this day and age.

I can’t pretend to know what it means to be an African American in this country. I can only imagine and empathize from knowing what it is to be a Latino. I also don’t know exactly what it is to live under the umbrella and protection of white privilege. I grew up a Latina woman in an African American urban neighborhood. I was not afraid but I was also raised that people are people, regardless of their color of skin, race, religion, sex or orientation. I guess that might be a fact those of us who are in the minority are taught and more readily accept because we don’t enjoy the privilege of ignorance. We’ve felt the wrath of hate and the shame of difference and so we tend to have a greater tolerance for humanity. We know what racism feels like.

On Saturday,  police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed an 18-year-old unarmed young man named Michael Brown.  Michael Brown was identified as a primary suspect in a strong-arm robbery of a box of cigars moments before he was shot to death. Apparently, allegedly stealing a box of Swisher Sweets is punishable by death here in the United States. The cop allegedly reached his hand out of his car and grabbed Michael Brown by the neck and that is what initiated the altercation. What ensued next was unfathomable, he was chased and shot at and when he turned with his hands up in the air he was shot dead from 35 feet away. He was then left lying dead in the street for hours. Why? As a warning to others?

Michael Brown, shooting, Ferguson, MIssouri, racial profiling, riots, civil rights

The next night after a vigil in his honor, a peaceful protest assembled. The people of Ferguson, the world, want answers and justice. Michael Brown’s mother deserves answers. Yet, they are not even allowed to mourn and protest his death. The cops shot flares into the sky. When the crowd was not moved to disburse, flares were shot at the ground in the direction of the crowd. This is when the peaceful demonstration turned to riots. An emotionally charged group of people who were in the clutches of fear and sadness needed to protect themselves, this has escalated to rage.

By Wednesday things went from bad to worse, many of the major networks were not airing live coverage of anything. Journalists on the scene were being rounded up, blocked from the town and arrested.The I Am Mike Brown livestream via KARG Argus Radio allowed viewers to watch as police fired rubber bullets into crowds of unarmed citizens and advanced on peaceful demonstrators. Police demanded that the reporters turn off their cameras. Crowds were seen standing in the street with their hands above their heads as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them. There was no provocation and the police continued firing even as the crowd retreated into their residential neighborhoods; obviously, not giving a damn who they hurt.

I don’t know what it is about brown and black skin that strikes fear into the hearts of some people. Maybe it’s the guilt from years of ancestors beating entire races down and treating them like subhumans, maybe it’s fear of karma ( what goes around comes around) or maybe it’s just a general lack of compassion and blind ignorance.

The world is a crazy place and we come in every color and flavor of the rainbow, only when your skin is brown or black, you can’t hide it. You can’t blend in. There it is daring people not to notice.

I was not on the streets of Ferguson last Saturday night. I did not witness this tragedy firsthand and I thank God for that because I don’t think that my humanity could ever recover from witnessing that kind of brutality but I do have my own experience with racial profiling and the cops.

Here was my situation and the sad part is that it wasn’t unique or even special; a cop saw a car full of Latinos. He pulled them over; we were never given a reason why. It was myself, the guy I was dating and couple of our friends. They were driving me home before my midnight curfew. It was about 11:45 pm on a summer, Saturday night. I was 18. It was my first experience with racism and racial profiling.

When we were pulled over, I began to freak out because I knew missing my curfew was not an option. I asked my date to please ask the officer why we were being stopped. I knew that any delay would make me late and my parents were very strict.

This guy, a clean-cut young man who had served in the military and was college-educated, very politely asked, “Officer, can I please ask why we’re being stopped?” To which the officer told him to step out of the car and arrested him for resisting arrest after pushing him around and slamming him into the door of the car.

Meanwhile, his partner was asking me what my name was. I told him and he spelled my name Cruise, Crewes, Crews and truly acted as if these boys were kidnapping me or holding me against my will. Once we clarified that I, Debi CRUZ, was in fact, willingly in the vehicle his entire demeanor changed. The cop went from polite and kind to me to cruel and short, as if I had done something wrong simply by being Latina.

One of the other guys with us asked if he could take the car to drive me home so I wouldn’t miss my curfew to which the cop responded, “ NOPE! She can walk home for all I care.” Then they put my date in the back of the squad car and towed his car to impound as we all silently watched, not daring to ask another question for fear we too would be put in jail or worse for speaking.

Our friends walked me home silently in the dark, we all felt dirty and ashamed because we did nothing because we were too afraid to. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, especially in light of what happened to Michael Brown but it is an all too common occurrence and it shouldn’t be. Cops are human and officers of the law meant to serve and protect its citizens but does that only apply to certain citizens with Lily-white skin and preapproved accents? The problem is that the lines are so blurred; breathing too loudly could be construed by the wrong officer as resistance.

But the thing that I can identify with the most is a mother has lost her child.  Michael Brown is dead and no amount of rioting or looting or saying I’m sorry is going to change that fact. The truth is that we don’t know exactly what happened in those last moments; what was said or done, only the offending officer and Michael Brown know that secret but we do know that nothing warrants shooting an unarmed child in the street like a rabid dog…no matter the color of his skin.

I feel like the world has gone completely backwards and spun right off it’s axis this week. I am horrified by the behavior and the things people are saying. I am disgusted by the lack of human compassion. Be good to one another.

What is going through your mind this week with the circumstances surrounding Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri?

 

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