Comic by Leah Traylor.
Underneath the freshly risen October sun in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there is peace in the air. The early Saturday morning in Squirrel Hill, one of the country's most vital and historical Jewish communities in the nation, began like any other. It is 9:52 AM and, at the Tree of Life Synagogue, the celebration of new life has filled the room with unimaginable joy. In the back of the temple is David and Cecil Rosenthal, inseparable brothers and familiar faces who welcome everyone who enters their place of worship. They were not expecting to welcome, however, a white supremacist who would shatter the silence with an assault rifle and transfer a place meant for solidarity, healing, and life into a death sentence for eleven innocent people.
Unfortunately, events like these have become a common occurrence for citizens of the United States. On Friday, October 26th, bombs were mailed to those who criticize the president. The following day, the deadliest anti-Semitic hate crime was committed at the Tree of Life Synagogue. And not even 24 hours later, students were injured in a shooting at Butler High School in North Carolina, adding to the constantly growing number of school shootings in 2018.
There has been an undeniable rise of hate crimes in contemporary America. According to newly released data by the FBI, hate crime reports increased 17 percent in 2017 from 2016. Of those 7,175 reports, race, religion, and sexual orientation lead as the top three motivations for committing the hate crimes. Furthermore, the same report asserts that there was a 37 percent increase in anti-semitic hate crimes nationwide. For Jewish Americans, and for the countless amounts of diverse minorities living in America, the future seems bleak. The current narrative of everyday life in American society is filled with hate and violence. Hate crimes have consistently increased in the past three years. Guns are easier than ever to obtain, despite the fact that more than 13,000 people were killed in the United States by firearms in one year alone.
About a month ago, I was given the opportunity to speak at a vigil for LGBT people of color. While reading the speech on the way to school that morning my mother broke down crying. Her tears were so intense that she had to pull the car over so that she could gather herself. She supports me fully, but she says she never has truly realized how vocal I was on the issue and all the struggles that I have had to face. And through her tears, she told me that she worries that one day, the speech I give at a rally will be my last. She is terrified to know that any day she could lose her only son simply because of who he loves and because of the color of his skin.
And isn’t that just the perfect call to action? Isn’t that the sad reality that America has become?
When mothers fear that they will have to bury their own children, can’t we all agree it’s time for a change?