These are the words of a renowned queer black man living in an anti-black, anti-queer world.
Bryce Williams was a queer black man living in an anti-Black, anti-queer world.
I am a queer black man living in this world, too.
And I am in a constant state of rage.
James Baldwin’s rage never took the form of sadistic massacre. He never filmed a slaughter intending for the whole world to see. The rage I feel does not prompt me to praise mass-murderers as Williams did. Rage does not have to and should not take the lives of innocents.
My rage is not simply expressed outwardly, I am also enraged by the internalized anti-blackness and anti-queerness in which I participate, but it is there. And it is real. It is legitimate.
Earlier this week, 41-year-old Lee Flanagan (a.k.a. Bryce Williams) murdered Alison Parker, 24
, a news reporter at WDBJ7 in Virginia (his former place of employment), and Adam Ward, 27, her cameraman, during a live broadcast. After the motivation for Williams’ actions were revealed in a series of tweets and a 23-page manifesto sent to ABC news
, a motivation that included – but was not limited to – rage in response to experiences of anti-black, anti-queer violence, particularly the racist massacre in Charleston, SC
earlier this year, many jumped at the chance to indict black and queer liberation movements and what is seen as their embrace of the victim status. Ben Shapiro blamed acknowledgment of injustice for Williams’ acts in the right-wing publication Brietbart, claiming
“virtually all evil people think they are victims, and thus justify their violence." Activists felt the need to defend the Black Lives Matter movement and distance themselves from Williams, penning articles with headlines such as "The Virginia Shooting Has Nothing To Do With #BlackLivesMatter
The narrative had begun to take shape: those of us fighting for liberation are to blame for violence, and we must atone for it.
This is simply untrue.
Ironically, Shapiro’s statement that “virtually all evil people think they are victims, and thus justify their violence" is far more accurate than he seems to realize. What he misses, though, is that anti-blackness and anti-queerness are clear, measurable oppressive forces, whereas his idea that Williams represents the type of evil born from the depths of liberation movements is not. America, particularly its racist and cisheterosexist elements, has always hid beneath a cloak of false victimhood in order to continue enacting violence on black, queer and trans people, and has used this cloak to ensure that we stop fighting. To ensure that we question our rage or apologize for it. To ensure that we shut up.
People committed to liberating black, queer, and trans people have nothing to explain, apologize for, or disassociate from. Our enemy has always been anti-blackness, queerantagonism and transantagonism, and that they are enemies is nothing but legitimate. The rage that these enemies evoke is nothing but inevitable. The only people responsible for Williams’ heinous acts are Williams himself and the anti-blackness and anti-queerness he undoubtedly experienced.
Anti-black, anti-queer, and anti-trans sentiments are the reasons people use guns or the state employs law to kill black, queer, and trans people almost daily. These sentiments are killing us on camera, like they did with Sam Dubose, with just as much sadism as Bryce Williams, and streaming our deaths on a seemingly infinite loop. That is why the public must fight until the anti-black racism and antagonism aimed at LGBTQ people are ended. No one should ever lose sight of that.
That Williams' final acts were evil does not erase the fact that what he experienced as a black, queer man in America was evil, too. We do not yet know why he snapped, but we do know America must reckon with its racist, heterosexist violence, and it must do so now. Those things to which we are demanding an end, anti-black and anti-queer violence, still deserve our full commitment. That can and will never be up for question.