On the Friday afternoon before the Tree of Life massacre, I was told by a middle school boy that he is often called anti-Semitic slurs at his school.
I was shocked to hear this. In the seven years that I’ve been an anti-bullying advocate in schools, this was the first time a child spoke to me about anti-Semitism.
He told me that he is also called homophobic slurs, but being only 12, he really has no idea what his sexuality is so those comments don’t bother him as much as being called names for his faith.
He also confided to me that he deals with some mental health issues that are being exasperated by anti-Semitic and homophobic bullying. He’s contemplated taking his own life.
In a moment of confession, he got teary-eyed and admitted snapping back at his bullies and calling them names. He told me he knew it was wrong and he knew he didn’t mean what he said, but he wanted to defend his religion.
At this point in our private conversation, I told him that I’ll never understand why oppressed minority groups bully other oppressed minority groups.
I believe that if all of the oppressed people in America teamed up, we would be bigger and stronger than X-Men. I believe this statement with all of my heart and I know it could be true.
He agreed. He told me that he can deal with their comments better now that he’s on medication. He also told me that one of the boys has recently apologized and told him that there is nothing wrong with his Jewish faith.
The boy and I both took that as a sign of progress.
Then Saturday occurred. An anti-Semitic hate crime in the heart of Squirrel Hill. After initially sobbing and panicking upon hearing the news, I immediately thought of this boy.
I thought about the pain and anger this massacre would cause him. I prayed that this event didn’t make him feel defeated or give up on humanity. I prayed that on Monday when he returned to school that the same kids who bullied him left him alone or even better, said something nice to him. I prayed that the adults in his life will give him the support and love that he needs.
Hate is never okay. If you are feeling hateful, you should seek help. Rather than looking at who you hate as the problem, realize the act of hating is the problem. Get a therapist. Hatred is not normal and I refuse to live in a world where it is.