If you have been in any LGBTQ space in the past decade, you’ve probably heard some variation of “love is love.” Even before I came out, love as a unifier has been a pervasive theme. When same-sex marriage was illegal, it was a central theme. When the ban was overturned, activists declared that love won. When the Pulse shooting sent a ripple through our community, we were told that love, not hate, was the answer.
Even outside of queer spaces, I hear this message. Whenever something inflammatory happens, the love brigade comes out. If something egregious happens, we’re told that if we love each other enough, we can get through it.
The latest example is the chaos erupting in Charlottesville. In the wake of blatant white supremacist terrorism, we are being told that we need to love them through it. Former President Barack Obama tweeted “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love … No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.”
As I scroll through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I see people parroting the same message. While all of this sounds great in theory, I can’t help but wonder if it is truly genuine. How far has trying to love our oppressors through our oppression gotten us? Would a hug or heart emoji have stopped Omar Mateen from storming Pulse?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is often quoted when people invoke this trope. He is seen as the shining example of being peaceful and loving. Yet, that didn’t stop the bullet on that fateful day at the Lorraine Motel. It didn’t prevent Heather Heyer and several others from being mowed down by that car. The idea that love is love, from my observation, is typically invoked when the privileged, or complicit, don’t want the marginalized to complain too loudly. When the marginalized get a little too loud, this superficial love is stuffed down their throats to pacify them. Those that resist this message are portrayed as too aggressive or hateful. It is a ploy to stop people from challenging the status quo. After all, no one wants to be the feminist, anti-racist or Tumblr liberal killjoy. They get drowned out and walked all over by the love squad. Business continues as usual and no real work is done.
If you truly love someone, or people in general, you want to see them being their full selves. You want to see them free and liberated. Silencing someone with superficial positivity isn’t love.