When I heard about the shooting at Pulse nightclub on Sunday, June 12, the first thing I did was turn on the news to learn all the details of what had happened. Yet, things were different for a Muslim friend of mine; he had little interest in going on social media, or anywhere else, for information about the shooting — because he knew people would be talking negatively about Islam.He wasn’t wrong. On Sunday, within minutes of reporting that the shooter’s name was Omar Mateen, CNN also told its viewers that he was raised in a Muslim family, supported ISIS, and had Afghani heritage.This comes in stark contrast with other news reports; on the same day as the Orlando shooting, a white man was arrested on route to the Los Angeles Pride Parade with multiple guns and explosive materials on him. Yet the media did not report on his race, religion, heritage, or family beyond that. Donald Trump did not jump on the chance to tweet hateful things about white people, and Hillary Clinton did not blame the man’s religion for his actions. On the other hand, both politicians used Orlando to further their Islamophobic agendas and rhetoric, with Trump reiterating that the USA needs to suspend Muslim immigration, and Clinton blaming ‘radical Islamism’for the day’s events.
For years now, whenever there has been a shooting or bombing in which the perpetrator has had anything to do with Islam, or has been a person of colour from another community, stories about the individual have dominated news cycles for days.
This is clearly not a new phenomenon; the same thing happened after the attacks in Paris, Brussels, and Boston. For years now, whenever there has been a shooting or bombing in which the perpetrator has had anything to do with Islam, or has been a person of colour from another community, stories about the individual have dominated news cycles for days.It takes both liberal and conservative news channels and political figures no time at all to blame violence on Islam, overshadowing what is arguably much more important — in this case, the fact that the Orlando shooting was clearly a hate crime against the LGBTQ+ community, and disproportionately targeted racialized persons.The mainstream media’s greatest mistake when it comes to the Orlando shootings was using the deaths of queer people of colour, specifically the Latinx LGBTQ+ community, to vilify another marginalized group. Instead of deliberating on why it is that queer and trans people of colour face disproportionate amounts of violence compared to white queer and trans people, the media focused on painting Muslims in broad strokes as inherently homophobic people, neglecting to recognize how this might affect queer Muslims. Instead of drawing attention to hypermasculinity and easy access to firearms as contributors to the attacks, much of the media fostered more hate following the deaths in Orlando by playing into the East/West dividing rhetoric — which ultimately helps radical terrorists to carry out their motives.We expect the news that we consume to be objective. However, this is problematic, because people of colour and racialized religions are talked about disproportionately after events like the Orlando shooting. Even though research shows that the people who commit the highest number of mass murders in America are young white men, we continue to associate brown men with terror. The media is partially to blame.
The way that Islam and men of colour are talked about on the news feeds into an active discourse that condemns Islam and people of colour simply for existing.
The way that Islam and men of colour are talked about on the news feeds into an active discourse that condemns Islam and people of colour simply for existing. When we hear so much negative information about certain groups of people — particularly in times of crisis, when emotions and tensions are high — this information only serves to reinforce other stereotypes and channels of discrimination against these groups. As a result, individuals begin to believe hateful messages about these groups. We become angry at Muslims, and afraid of people of colour.Furthermore, these marginalized communities then have to bear the consequences of sensationalist news reporting. After Islamophobic rhetoric rose to the surface following the Paris attacks, many Muslims all over the world reported being harassed — a mosque in Peterborough was set on fire, several mosques in the States were vandalized, and harassment against Muslims in London, England tripled.Every religion has extremists, yet every day people who have racialized faiths are held responsible for crimes they would never commit and do not condone. In the case of Orlando, while the media focused on Islam, we heard much less about other oppressive actions against LGBTQ+ people, including those who had been victimized in the shooting. We heard little, for example, about the Westboro Baptist Church — a radical religious group — who viciously protested homosexuality outside a funeral for a victim of the Orlando shooting. We heard about all the politicians who were supposedly saddened by the shooting, but the media neglected to mention the names of the many politicians that voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, which makes homophobic hate crimes illegal under US federal law.The way that we are given information in times of crisis should be something we are constantly analyzing and deliberating for ourselves. The Orlando shooting was a horrible tragedy, but the media has prioritized Islamophobia over paying respect to those 49 lives lost on June 12. Do not take what is given to us by major news outlets as absolute, and do not let rhetoric distract you from what is truly important.In memory of the victims, here are their names.Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years oldAmanda Alvear, 25 years oldOscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years oldRodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years oldAntonio Davon Brown, 29 years oldDarryl Roman Burt II, 29 years oldAngel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years oldJuan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years oldLuis Daniel Conde, 39 years oldCory James Connell, 21 years oldTevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years oldDeonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years oldSimon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years oldLeroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years oldMercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years oldPeter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years oldJuan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years oldPaul Terrell Henry, 41 years oldFrank Hernandez, 27 years oldMiguel Angel Honorato, 30 years oldJavier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years oldJason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years oldEddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years oldAnthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years oldChristopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years oldAlejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years oldBrenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years oldGilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years oldKimberly Morris, 37 years oldAkyra Monet Murray, 18 years oldLuis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years oldGeraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years oldEric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years oldJoel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years oldJean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years oldEnrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years oldJean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years oldXavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years oldChristopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years oldYilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years oldEdward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years oldShane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years oldMartin Benitez Torres, 33 years oldJonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years oldJuan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years oldLuis S. Vielma, 22 years oldFranky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years oldLuis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years oldJerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old Shailee Koranne is a third-year equity studies student at Victoria College.