Everyone has a shooting.
I know, that line presents a multitude of issues within itself, but it’s true. If you ask someone on the street which shooting they remember the most, it’s different from person to person, especially for millennials.
Growing up in an age when mass shootings have slowly become the normal way of American life, there was never one that stood out to me quite like Pulse. Let’s be honest, I’m an upper-middle class white woman. People like myself are rarely the target of hateful attacks in America despite the clamoring of the evangelical right. Even in horrific cases like Newtown, some part of it didn’t feel completely real. Maybe it was because I was too young or simply didn’t take it completely to heart. I’m not sure I completely understood what it was like to have people just like you come under fire, just for being you, in America.
Pulse was the first shooting in my memory that actually made me feel something a little more than horror. As a queer woman, I remember immediately texting and contacting those in my life that were also LGBTQIA+. I got text messages from everyone too, telling me to take care of myself and not to worry. Suddenly, MY community was the one on the news and in the headlines. It was real — more real for me than any of the others before. When I went to college this past fall, and started going out into the LGBT nightlife, it hit me even more. It could be anyone. Literally.
Being a minority in America today is like one of those weird balancing boards you probably fell of off as a kid. If you so much as smile at the wrong person you could end up in a bad situation. Today, black men in America are told by their families to watch out. Muslim American women hope that no one will scream at them on the subway. Transgender Americans are afraid of the bathroom. Indian American’s worry about being shot. The Jewish people are threatened with bombs. This is the America of 2017. One year after the Pulse shooting.
But what now?
A good friend of mine once told me that in life you may not understand someone else’s pain ― but you still understand pain once you’ve felt it. Not all pain is the same, and there’s no way that a white woman like me could ever understand what it’s like the be Asian, Hispanic, Arab, or Black, but I do understand what it’s like to feel pain ― like you can’t move without being afraid. It’s different , but perhaps it’s enough.
Certainly, the last year has put that to the test for our minority communities. It’s also just the beginning.
If the American people collectively want to stand up to modern American bigotry, we need to realize that while we may not share the exact same experiences, we have all felt pain. We all know, in some way or another, enough to empathize with people who are different than us. That understanding within itself can move mountains.
Quite simply: Find America’s Pulse again.
It is out there. Even now.