The following are my current thoughts about the “We Are Orlando” campaign and similar campaigns.
I wish that campaigns like this were expressed differently, like “We are with ______” “We stand with ______” or “We love and support ______.” I feel wording like “We are Orlando” is problematic because we, ultimately, are not all “Orlando.” Most of our experiences of the event are markedly different from people who were present, who lost loved ones etc, and we don’t have to pay the price of having our entire world turn upside down in quite the same way. Those who were directly affected by yesterday’s events will still be putting the pieces back together long after the rest of us have returned to normalcy. Their stories and experiences deserve respect and reverence.
I believe that what we may be wishing to express through these campaigns is that we stand in solidarity with those affected, that we want to offer our help, support and love, that we are also experiencing pain in our own way, etc. However, I believe the way that the statement is phrased minimizes the pain of the people who were present or lost loved ones.
The reality is that any of us could have been in an event like what occurred in Orlando, but we are not “Orlando.”
I believe that we all need to find ways to express our very real and valid grief and solidarity without making claims that are inaccurate and untrue. We all have immutable needs to connect with each other, to share and express what we all are going through. There are ways to do this where we only claim the stories and experiences that are ours to claim. Ultimately, I find this phrasing of solidarity to be inappropriate because the premise, the base claim is not true. It feels like appropriation which it dilutes the pain and repercussions suffered by people who were directly affected.
~ Kathy Carlston