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The Orlando shooting: Can educating the public keep LGBTQ youth safe?

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Degree of  Interest

The urgency of protecting LGBTQ youth has now been revealed.

It is eerily prescient that two days before Sunday’s terror attack aimed at the gay community in Orlando, Florida, black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, sexually questioning and queer young adults gathered in Washington, D.C. for the first Summit on African American LGBTQ Youth.

The youth who attended that summit had to have shuddered with feelings of vulnerability Sunday. That’s because the Orlando attack was not only the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, it was also a reminder to the LBGTQ community of their artificial relationship to security. After all, what if the summit had been targeted? (And as the president said Sunday, “This could have been any one of our communities.”)

If you really want to see a reduction of mass murder we would need to see solutions bloom from this summit.

While I am a stark advocate for gun control, I also know that our lust for guns is related to our hate of minority groups. But whether we blame access to assault weapons or Islamic extremists, a hating heart that is killing our neighbors beats in our ignorance toward difference.

Yes, we are all neighbors. If you want to see Islamophobia cease you need not see a wall built between the United States and Mexico.

We should never forget that education is the highest and most durable form of protection.

Our LBGTQ youth should be scared because states and districts have not appropriately addressed their existence in curricula or in harassment policies.

“When we don’t think about intersectionality, we miss significant opportunities to acknowledge every challenge that black people face and that they have additional challenges being LGBTQ,” said David Johns, executive director of summit co-sponsor the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for African Americans. “If we only focus on the black or gay part, their experience goes unrealized in its entirety. We are required to move beyond the surface,” Johns added on NBC’s Parent Toolkit.

The Summit on African American LGBTQ Youth resonates because each multiple identity is a mark. Sexual identity is obviously besieged. Driving, shopping and walking while black can get you arrested or killed. Being a woman puts one under attack. Being a young black male puts you at risk.

And our youth are wrestling with all these threats.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who strongly rebuffed President Obama’s directive to public school officials to permit transgender students to use the restroom and locker rooms corresponding with their gender identity, sent out a tweet quoting Galatians 6:7. The verse reads, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

He sent the tweet only hours after the shooting. The tweet was removed later that day. But you can’t as easily remove the attitudes behind the tweet.

If we are honest, Lt. Gov. Patrick is right. We are reaping the constant planting of hate. Patrick sowed hate with his aggressive policy stance against transgendered students. He planted hate with his tweet. Worse is the dearth of attentiveness to the histories of gays, blacks, women and other minority groups. Our indifference or in some cases hostilities that are reflected in our schooling policies farm the violence against marginalized citizens.

Those who don’t subscribe to presidential candidate Donald Trump’s dog whistle language of wanting to “make America great again” have no choice but to embrace the vulnerability created by hate.

We are ostensibly targets, but we are not alone. We must stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ neighbors. That standing starts in school so we can reap what we sow.

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Andre Perry

Dr. Andre Perry, a contributing writer, is a David M. Rubenstein Fellow at The Brookings Institution. Perry was the founding dean of urban education at… See Archive

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