Speaking With One Voice
Hatred. Bigotry. Outward, harmful prejudice. The socially, morally, spiritually toxic epidemic that our nation faces today has many names. For the next few minutes, I’ll refer to the aforementioned societal quality as “hate.” Hate has many methods and many faces. We see it on the news, on social media, on the bathroom walls of my school.
Recently, my school has garnered a substantial amount of negative media attention for a small, but definitely important collection of hateful messages and actions. Following this year’s presidential election, similar occurrences have been documented and reported by the media from coast to coast. In this community, many have been quick to detest Council Rock North as a school rampant with bigotry, as a place where uniqueness is not accepted.
This is not the case. The hate that we approach today is not simply a Council Rock North problem. It is not simply a high school problem. In the words of my social studies teacher, Mr. Derek Wright, “hatred it is a human problem.” Hate haunts the Earth, and it always has. Hate prevents progress. It stunts social growth. Hate is the thing that scares people. Hate is thing that makes my classmates and our citizens cry. Hate is the thing that makes people think that being different is wrong. It is the thing that makes gay, a former synonym of lighthearted and carefree, a bad word. Hate is the thing that makes my friends not want to come to school. It is the thing that makes our fellow citizens dread waking up every morning. For some, hatred floods the mind just before they take their own life. Hate is the antonym of the best things in this world: love and acceptance.
Let us not pretend that the recent manifestations of hatred, seen in our nation’s schools, offices, workplaces, and sidewalks, is foreign or new. Hate is here and it’s always been here. In my school, the outcry of the student body has finally been heard and has earned response. This past week, our administration opened up a conversation on hatred and acceptance that will not soon be over. Although I have my ideas, I truly don’t know why this specific manifestation of hatred finally opened the discussion that now controls my school. But I am glad that it has. Like the rest of our nation, my school is due for a chat and everyone deserves to have their voice heard.
Some blame an election, others the media; in a speech to my school I assured my classmates that, regardless of the means, the opportunity we have reached is essential. I implored them to not let our opportunity for school-wide change to go to waste. Tonight, I will preach a similar message to all of you.
The hate stops now.
I know that most of the people in this crowd, like most of the kids in my school, are loving and accepting. Regardless of race, gender, political ideology, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ethnicity, most of us will accept you for who you are.
Still, hatred lives in America; it is a contagion nurtured by indifference. The messages that the few create in fear on the bathroom walls do not define us. They don’t define you. They don’t define me.
All those messages do is hurt. They hurt the people that they target, and they hurt everyone that watches the victimization of their peers, feeling helpless against the hate- a concept that many see as abstract and insurmountable.
We are not helpless. The hatred we face is not undefeatable. The hate stops now.
We can stop the hate because its origin is us: people, human beings. We can dry the tears of our fellow men and women. We the people, living in a society founded upon the ideal that all men are created equal, can make sure everyone feels safe and secure in their own skin.
The hate stops now.
Do not let an election divide us. We are one people. Regardless of color, creed, and whatever else, we are all members of the humans of the world. A vote in an election does not define someone’s position on hate. Hating somebody for casting their ballot (and nothing else) is still hate. Do not let an election blind us. The products of hate—the tears, fears, self-hatred, and darkness—are the same regardless of your place on the political spectrum. Forget the spectrum, because it bars no sole significance in the area of hate.
It breaks my heart when I hear of the products of xenophobia, racism, sexism, and homophobia in the schools of America and throughout the world. I know it breaks most of yours too.
We need to stop the hate. We the people. We the leaders, we the lawyers, we the doctors, we the mothers, we the fathers, we the brothers, sisters, sons and daughters need to take a stand. The vast majority of our nation, the loving and accepting population I see before me, needs to loudly speak out against the hatred of the few. We need to band together as a community and find the best ways to stop the hate. We need to listen to each other and work to understand one another.
We need to be louder, stronger, and more pronounced than the bathroom walls, than the hateful Facebook posts, than the various incidents of hate magnified by the media; they don’t define us. We need to accept all people regardless of race, gender, political ideology, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ethnicity. But we cannot accept bigotry and harmful prejudice.
Mason Luff is a student at Council Rock High School North. He spoke at the recent candle light vigil at The Garden of Reflection. This transcript of his incredibly moving speech is reprinted with his permission.
Get ready for November 25th – December 10th and join The Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, UN Women, UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, Rutger’s University, and many other international communities as we advocate for an end to gender-based violence.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign was birthed out of Women’s Global Leadership Institute’s 1991 call to address violence against women and supported further through the 2015 UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign to highlight the international awareness and action towards the Sustainable Development goal to end violence against women. It is an exciting development that Goal 5 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals highlights not only the need to empower women and girls through education, but also targets the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence against women and girls. Are you ready for sixteen days to MOVE?
What can you do?
1. Attend the 25th Anniversary Celebration on Wednesday November 30th in NYC 2-6pm EDT.
3. Join, post, stay informed via the 16 Days of Activism Facebook page.
4. Join the Center for Women’s Global Leadership’s 16 Days Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence Twitter Teach-Ins! From November 25th to December 10th, Twitter Teach-Ins will cover various issues from targeting of girls’ schools to women’s human rights work. Here is the calendar of “teach-ins.” Choose your topic of passion and start tweeting and receiving educational information on that topic.
5. Inform media networks and communicators, such as local and national journalists, media icons, bloggers, and television presenters about the initiative to “Orange the World” and End Violence Against Women. Invite them to produce articles, to invite relevant guests and organize TV and radio shows and discussions, documentaries and news features on particular issues of local or national relevance relating to violence against women and girls, including showcasing the results of the work undertaken by innovative organizations to end violence against women and girls, or particular obstacles faced by organizations in the conduct of their work.
See more ways to get involved on the 16 Days of Activism website.
[Source: http://www.wg-usa.org/website2014/16-days-and-ways-of-activism/ by Cynthia Grguric, WG-USA Advocacy Convener]
Louise McLeod is Vice President of Graduate Women International (GWI) and a Bucks Country Women’s Advocacy Coalition Partner.
THE FOLLOWING POST HAS ALSO BEEN SUBMITTED AS A LTE TO LOCAL NEWS OUTLETS
The Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition (BCWAC) believes that gun violence is a public health issue. We have supported a number of gun safety bills proposed by members of the PA legislature that are widely supported by Pennsylvanians:
- HB 1010 and SB 1049 require background checks for the purchase of long guns from private sellers that closes a loophole in the law.
- HB 1030 makes mandatory the issuance of a firearm restraining order in conjunction with a protection from abuse order.
- SB 1182 closes the loophole in PA that allows domestic abusers to surrender their guns to family or friends instead of the sheriff.
- HB 1020 requires the reporting of lost and stolen guns within 72 hours of discovery.
- HB 415 holds gun owners responsible for preventing children from getting access to firearms.
Not one of the bills has been moved out of the Judiciary Committees. Yet our elected officials fast-tracked the gun lobby’s preemption bills HB 2258 and SB 1330. We are appalled that many legislators have chosen to support bills that would prevent local governments from instituting gun safety measures while ignoring common sense gun safety measures that are sitting in committee.
Even in the ”Wild West” era, there were local municipal rules on firearms. According to UCLA Professor Adam Winkler, “The carrying of guns within the city limits of a frontier town was generally prohibited.” In fact, Winkler continues, “When Dodge City residents first formed their municipal government, one of the very first laws enacted was a ban on concealed carry. The ban was soon after expanded to open carry, too.”
Gun owners have rights, yes, but no rights in this country are unlimited; all rights come with responsibilities. Passing a background check to buy a long gun (including an AR 15), keeping guns safely stored so that children cannot get them, reporting lost and stolen guns, and preventing abusers and the mentally ill from getting guns seem like sane expectations.
We can do better than a C rating in gun safety legislation from The Law Center to Reduce Gun Violence. One of the Law Center’s three suggestions for improvement is to allow local governments to enact gun violence prevention laws that would improve the safety of their citizens. BCWAC Partners implores our legislators to allow local public safety laws designed to protect residents of a community. Please tell your elected officials to vote “No” on SB 1330 and HB 2258 and alternatively to advance the very good public health and safety bills listed above that are sitting in our Judiciary Committees.