Since the tragic shooting at gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando on June 12, the FBI has opened an investigation into the motives of the shooter, who took the lives of 49 people and injured 53 others. As the investigation continues, on Monday the FBI released the Orlando shooter's 911 call transcripts — but there are a number of reasons why you shouldn't read them.
The attention of the tragedy need not be on the shooter or his alleged motives. In an effort to avoid propagating the shooter's reported allegiance to the Islamic State, the transcripts have been redacted to remove any reference to the terrorist organization, leading some to question the intent of doing so. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told NBC's Chuck Todd, "What we're not going to do is further proclaim this man's pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups, and further his propaganda. We are not going to hear him make his assertions of allegiance [to the Islamic State]."
Some politicians responded to the Pulse shooting with calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S, and others suggested the need to defeat "international terror groups." Lynch's words imply that redacting specific information from the transcripts is in an effort to not give further attention and credibility to ISIS supporters.
However, you shouldn't read the 911 call transcripts for reasons that go far beyond propagating the terror group's rhetoric. First, rather than just "not giving credence" to ISIS as the FBI suggests, avoiding the transcripts is important so as to not fall into a fearful and violent response to the Muslim community. Muslims are not to blame for the Pulse shooting.
Second, reading the transcripts gives the shooter a voice, and it's not his voice that we need to listen to. The voices that are important are those of the LGBTQ+ community, and especially LGBTQ+ people of color.
Third, reading the shooter's words only furthers the narrative that this tragedy happened because of his so-called allegiance to ISIS, when that is absolutely not the case. This terrorist attack was also a hate crime, and we need to remember that.
Rather than reading the transcripts of the 911 calls, you should read about the lives of the victims of this horrible shooting. You should say their names. You should learn about who they were. Their lives are important.
You should donate blood to the injured individuals who survived the shooting and who are still hospitalized. You should donate to the families of those who were killed. You should support the LGBTQ+ community every day, and not just in the wake of a tragedy.
The Orlando shooting happened because of hate and intolerance of the LGBTQ+ community, and especially queer people of color. And it can happen again. Reading the transcripts won't change this reality, but will only mask it. Rather than read the words of the shooter's 911 calls, we all need to work to create meaningful change in our communities, and that change should not stem from fear, hate, or violence.