Statement on El Paso, Dayton and Increased, Hate-Based Violence

This past weekend, our country experienced two mass shootings within hours of each other. One clearly targeted El Paso’s Latinx community solely because of their Latinx identity. The other, in Dayton, Ohio, was allegedly an extension of hateful rhetoric around violence toward women. It’s been one week since the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting in California. That shooter reportedly was exploring violent ideologies, left a reference to a white supremacist text, and was compiling a “hit list” of religious and political organizations and federal office buildings. It’s been two years since Charlottesville. Pulse, Charleston, Pittsburgh and Christchurch are all in the rear view mirror – real for so many, fading for others and just another headline to many who are becoming, or already, numb.

We are in public health and moral crises from the lack of gun reform laws, spiraling hate, and the lack of regard for the dignity, even the lives, of many human beings. These terrorist attacks are encouraged by cultures of white supremacy and misogyny. We deal with the impact of these violent attacks on our mental health while acting, advocating, watching and waiting for sound solutions stymied by failing leaders – with growing frustration over where to direct our energy for change.

In DC, homicides are on pace to meet last year’s number, which was a 40% increase from the previous year – and hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community have almost doubled since 2015. Violence toward transgender women of color – specifically Black transgender women – has left this community in agony and its members’ life expectancy much too short.

The violence we face is born of hatred and fear. The cultures of white supremacy and misogyny hate the people we love and cannot understand the power and resiliency of the communities they address with so much hate. They hate the people we uplift for who they love, for where they came from last week or generations ago, for what language they speak, for how they look, for how they pray. But the people we care for, and the people we are, deserve love and to be treated with dignity and respect for who they are.

We can’t give in to such backlash. At Whitman-Walker, we are rooted in the fight against stigma and helping our patients and clients to be resilient in the face of hateful rhetoric and acts. We believe in dignity – a person’s inalienable right to be who they are. Those who disagree, even violently, won’t intimidate us. We stand united with communities across the world that offer respect to each human, and deem them deserving of respect and dignity.

Please know your grief, your confusion, your anger, and your cries are recognized here. At Whitman-Walker, we see you. To us this means that regardless of how or why you came to us, we will welcome you with open arms and treat you with the dignity, respect and love that you deserve.We will always be a place where people can be themselves without fear of judgement or retribution.

We are reminded in times of hate that we hold the power to make positive change in the hearts, minds, and attitudes of those closest to us.We will stand beside you. And we will work harder to advocate for strategies and public policies to keep our communities and those we love safe.

You can advocate too. Push to make your voice heard by your representatives and by your loved ones. Continue to advocate for safeguards around who can access guns. Counteract messages of hate, bigotry and exclusion that echo through the darkest corners of the Internet and are stoked by the highest offices of the land.

“…just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” – Toni Morrison

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