Wall Street Journal
Ariela Gross - The massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando was a horrific tragedy. But it was not unprecedented – and it was not the “deadliest mass shooting in American history,” as many have called it.
To call it that is to forget the last hundred years of U.S. history of mass violence fueled by racial hatred and homophobia. Although precise numbers of deaths are impossible to specify, at least 100 African Americans were killed in East St. Louis, Ill., in one bloody night in July 1917; anywhere from 55 to 300 blacks were massacred in Tulsa, Okla., in 16 hours in June 1921; and dozens more were killed in Rosewood, Fla., in January 1923. And of course, more recently, 32 died in the 1973 bombing of the UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans.
It’s important to put the Pulse shooting in historical context not to minimize the terror wreaked by a disturbed and bigoted individual’s easy access to military-grade weapons, but to recognize that gun culture in the U.S. has gone hand in hand with violent hatred for a long time.
What were called one hundred years ago “race riots” were in fact pogroms, in which mobs armed with guns, explosives and fire – sometimes dropped from private planes – killed African American men, women and children, destroyed homes, and racially cleansed entire towns and cities, driving survivors into exile.
The biggest difference between the hate crimes of the past and Sunday’s mass shooting is that they were group actions rather than the work of a single individual. That is an important difference, to be sure, but it shouldn’t obscure how much yesterday’s events did have in common with past massacres of hated groups