As a mother fearlessly stood on stage, walking us through the murder of her 17-year-old son, she asked the audience, “How did we become such a violent society?” Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, asked us, as a mother would ask her child, why we had become so cruel. As I sat there, among Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, Buddhists, I could only feel my stomach churn thinking of how someone can bring themselves to hate someone different from them so much. But the fact of the matter is that this is not surprising, the senseless and meaningless murder of young black men, of university students, and of Muslim youth doesn’t shock us anymore. It’s commonplace. You turn on the TV, or computer, and almost expect to see another shooting, another bloodstained sidewalk, another dead child.
We sit in our rooms and we change the channel, or scroll down, or even watch absentmindedly as these people are cut down. But that’s just it. The fault doesn’t just belong to those that commit these acts; it’s belongs to all of us. It is so easy to become violent and angry when faced with how horrifically wrong all of this is. Yet we can’t. As Sybrina said, “There should not be a hateful bone in your body.”
Debate on gun control, race relations, and mental health treatment are important, of course they are. But we can all work together to make this country a place that isn’t as hateful. For Sybrina, this change is simple, just get to know someone different from you. Understand that they’re people just like you. She lectured us, as a mother, to be kinder to one another. She urged every single person in the audience, people of every creed and color, to help forge a new society, a new community. One where violence is replaced by love and meaningless hate is replaced by respect for our common humanity. It may sound farfetched, but try. As Sybrina put it, “Are you going to wait until it happens to you to get involved?”