Chattanooga City Councilman Chris Anderson goes on Twitter attack after Orlando shooting
Last Sunday, 49 innocent people were brutally murdered.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, I was angry. Each mass shooting in America deserves its own horrible place in infamy, as we in Chattanooga are all too aware. But yet again, this one hit particularly close to home in my heart.
As dozens of bodies lay on the floor of a gay night club, I spent most of the day Sunday making phone calls to my friends in Florida to make sure they were safe.
On Sunday afternoon, I directly asked several local elected officials and political leaders if they regretted their history of hateful, divisive language and legislation directed toward LGBT people. I will not apologize for that. We need leaders who will challenge hateful rhetoric and the politicians who sponsor it. And that sometimes calls for uncomfortable conversations about the real consequences of hate speech. These tough moments allow us to push forward and hopefully realize a society that relegates homophobic words and laws to the annals of history books and documentaries.
Today, most of us rightfully recognize how dogwhistle attacks on people based on race is unacceptable and can lead to an environment where violence is accepted as the cost of doing business in America. Indeed, there are lines to be drawn between violence and the language that denigrates and devalues people because of the color of their skin — or perhaps whom they choose to love.
We are plagued in this state by government officials who target LGBT Americans as being less than full citizens — sometimes less than human. We live in a state where our lawmakers demonstrate through speech and actions (and our governor through actions) that a transgender person in the stall next to you is more dangerous than an automatic rifle bought without a background check. We live in a state where we annually reduce the number of spaces where guns cannot be taken; yet we do nothing to increase funding for mental health treatments that would actually stymie gun violence.
Tennessee is a state where lawmakers want to make the Bible the official state book, but clearly haven't read all of its words charging us to provide food, shelter and medical care to those who need it.
My remarks weren't for my benefit — a fact clear to any political observer. Rather, they are deeply meaningful for the countless gay young people across this state who felt shocked, isolated and scared as they woke up to the horror unfolding in Orlando. I know this because these feelings were all too familiar to me as I grew up gay in the South. As a young man, I told myself that if I ever found myself in a position to step up and speak out, I wouldn't hesitate.
There's no doubt, the politics of my remarks on Twitter may not play well with the media or social conservatives. Perhaps some of you whom I count to be my friends, supporters and allies might also disagree with my choice of words. But I hope that everyone recognizes how important this conversation is to those without a voice to say this: Hateful words and legislation should not be acceptable in our society.
The reality is that our world is changing, and fortunately what used to be acceptable dialogue is quickly becoming a great breach of decency. America's constant march toward progress is what makes our country great. I hope that many of our political leaders find it in their hearts to make their own march toward progress as well.
Chris Anderson represents District 7 on the Chattanooga City Council.