By YAZMIN BENNETT-KELLY
We live in a world where if people love, look, and/or pray differently they are treated differently. While it may seem that our country is becoming more divided, I argue that it has long been divided. However, now we have the media to display it. Currently, the reality is that anyone who is not white, male, and Christian may struggle significantly more than one who is.
Two African-American individuals were killed while shopping in a Kentucky grocery store. This same shooter attempted to enter a predominantly black church as well. However, the doors were locked so he could not enter. That same church is now permitting members to carry firearms. A few days later, on October 27th, 11 individuals’ lives were taken at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.
Unfortunately, the list continues to grow. In the United States there have been nearly as many mass shootings as there have been days in 2018. People cannot be black in peace, as black people are constantly profiled and brutalized by the police. People cannot be gay in peace, as they also face discrimination. People cannot be non-white in peace, as non-whiteness deems one as less than. People cannot be Jewish in peace. People cannot be Muslim in peace. While such prejudice is nothing new, the city of Pittsburgh has suddenly adopted the slogan “Pittsburgh: Stronger than Hate.” This phrase represents unity and support for the victims, their families, and the entire Jewish community affected by this senseless act of violence.
Unfortunately, the slogan is also untrue. Pittsburgh is not stronger than hate. The United States is not stronger than hate. According to The Global Livability Index 2018, Pittsburgh is the 2nd most livable city, but for whom? The confederate flags, racial disparities in education, gentrification, and police brutality tell a different story.
The truth is, Pittsburgh is not a livable city for many. However, now that a mass shooting has occurred in this city, we act as if we are stronger than hate. Honestly, Pittsburgh and the entire United States is a representation of hate.
When people discuss the incident of a mass shooting, they speak of the shooter as if they were an individual. However, it’s not one man who kills two African-Americans in a grocery store just because he felt he had the right to do so. It was not just one man who attempted to break into a predominantly black church. It was not just one man who was responsible for the 16th Street Church bombing. It is time to examine our culture, and the ways in which we socialize men, specifically white men. What does happen is the terrorists who commit these acts are humanized and portrayed to be troubled, mentally ill men. The most recent mass shooters have looked the same and have had similar views. These acts of violence are the results of seeds that have been planted in our society.
What can be done in order for us to be stronger than hate? What can be done to eradicate racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, sexism, and all other forms of oppression that harm others? I am personally starting to feel hopeless. We have been having these hard conversations. We have discussed the multiple forms of oppression. These topics are being discussed on multiple platforms. I wish I had the answers but, unfortunately, I have the hurt and pain. I hurt for each and every victim who has been harmed as a result of hate. My only hope is that things do change.
People deserve to live regardless of their race, class, gender, or religion.
Yazmin Bennett-Kelly is a NewPeople Fellow and a student at Chatham University.