Years and years ago, when I was in college, I served on student government. During my term in office, a hate crime occurred on campus. Someone – multiple someones probably – burned a cross on campus between two residence halls. That moment and the subsequent days after that forever changed who I am. As I met with other students, including members of the Black Student Union, I heard the fear in their voice and saw the concern – for safety, for comfort, for understanding – on their face. During the days that followed, I spoke with college officials, local media, and a variety of law enforcement officers. But the people that truly mattered – that I was working for – were the students in that room. Their pain echoes inside me whenever I hear of a hate crime. It reminds me that we’re all in this together. And that hate must be continual fought. We have to stand up and stand together in saying this is not okay. This is not what our community is about.
I share all of this because this morning a friend and colleague shared a photo on Facebook of a hate crime in his community. Someone spray painted words of hate on the LGBT Center. And it stirred up those old emotions – anger, sadness, and that sense of disbelief. I just don’t get how people can do such a thing. How can you hate someone because of who they are? Color, sexual orientation, religion – those are things we just are. How we are born. It overwhelms me to think that 10, 20, 30 years from now we might still be facing these challenges. Yet the optimist in me remains ever hopefully. Goodness knows we’re more accepting and embracing than we were 20 years ago. It’s moments like this, where I turn the action of hate over and over in my head failing to understand why, that leave me hoping for the future the most. We have to make it better.