As the early reports of the horrible massacre unfolding in Orlando started coming in, a refrain that was not uncommon was some variation of “please don’t let it be…. a muslim.”

Imagine living this way, carrying the weight of a collective guilt by association because a major violent event is perpetrated by someone who might be of your faith or be of your people in some way. It is a reflex not shared by white or non-muslim people for the most part.

So polarized has our nation become that we cannot grieve as one nation because the long shadow of suspicion and the loud voice of cable and social media is directed at your “people.” There have been mass murders (Sandy Hook, Oklahoma City, Columbine, South Carolina) that have not required the immediate rallying of people of the faith of the alleged perpetrator to come together to defend their faith, for representatives of that faith to take to the airwaves to explain and apologize.

It’s not just mass shootings. Imagine being a black parent and hearing about a police shooting in your city and hearing yourself saying “Please don’t let it be…..”

Imagine being a loved one from the LGBTQ community and hearing about a violent attack on the community and hearing yourself saying “Please don’t let it be….”

In a discussion with a friend I described it as “white privilege,” living without that pavlovian reaction is living a life of privilege. He described it more as an omission that for the most part straight whites are unaware of, their lives represent a norm, a baseline if you will of how we cover our country.

He’s right, but what it also demonstrates is a lack of empathy, something that is increasingly in short supply in our public discourse.

It took time for the news media to focus on the fact that the club attacked last night was one that was a famous LGBT gathering place, a safe space of acceptance and love for a community not always welcomed. This is a community, remember, where gay men are still restricted from donating blood because of the “otherness” still equated with homosexuality.

As the President described himself, this was an “act of terror and act of hate.” A group of people were targeted because of who they love by someone who apparently abhorred an expression of love he saw between two men.

We don’t know what motivated his man ultimately. But here is what we do know. The way we describe our fellow man, the way we talk about groups of people, about who they love, how they love, who they worship, who they don’t, where they come from, has consequences. There will be jockeying for positions and airtime right now

but as we move through the twitter stages of “horror”, “thoughts and prayers,” “solidarity with our gay brothers and sisters” etc. etc. know that tweeting about it is the easy part.

What we do about how we speak about each other is a whole lot harder.

Madhulika Sikka has been thinking a lot about how we talk about each other.