By Mason Luff
Hatred. Bigotry. Outward, harmful prejudice. The socially, morally, spiritually toxic epidemic that our nation faces today has many names. For the next few minutes, I’ll refer to the aforementioned societal quality as “hate.” Hate has many methods and many faces. We see it on the news, on social media, on the bathroom walls of my school.
Recently, my school has garnered a substantial amount of negative media attention for a small, but definitely important collection of hateful messages and actions. Following this year’s presidential election, similar occurrences have been documented and reported by the media from coast to coast. In this community, many have been quick to detest Council Rock North as a school rampant with bigotry, as a place where uniqueness is not accepted.
This is not the case. The hate that we approach today is not simply a Council Rock North problem. It is not simply a high school problem. In the words of my social studies teacher, Mr. Derek Wright, “hatred it is a human problem.” Hate haunts the Earth, and it always has. Hate prevents progress. It stunts social growth. Hate is the thing that scares people. Hate is thing that makes my classmates and our citizens cry. Hate is the thing that makes people think that being different is wrong. It is the thing that makes gay, a former synonym of lighthearted and carefree, a bad word. Hate is the thing that makes my friends not want to come to school. It is the thing that makes our fellow citizens dread waking up every morning. For some, hatred floods the mind just before they take their own life. Hate is the antonym of the best things in this world: love and acceptance.
Let us not pretend that the recent manifestations of hatred, seen in our nation’s schools, offices, workplaces, and sidewalks, is foreign or new. Hate is here and it’s always been here. In my school, the outcry of the student body has finally been heard and has earned response. This past week, our administration opened up a conversation on hatred and acceptance that will not soon be over. Although I have my ideas, I truly don’t know why this specific manifestation of hatred finally opened the discussion that now controls my school. But I am glad that it has. Like the rest of our nation, my school is due for a chat and everyone deserves to have their voice heard.
Some blame an election, others the media; in a speech to my school I assured my classmates that, regardless of the means, the opportunity we have reached is essential. I implored them to not let our opportunity for school-wide change to go to waste. Tonight, I will preach a similar message to all of you.
The hate stops now.
I know that most of the people in this crowd, like most of the kids in my school, are loving and accepting. Regardless of race, gender, political ideology, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ethnicity, most of us will accept you for who you are.
Still, hatred lives in America; it is a contagion nurtured by indifference. The messages that the few create in fear on the bathroom walls do not define us. They don’t define you. They don’t define me.
All those messages do is hurt. They hurt the people that they target, and they hurt everyone that watches the victimization of their peers, feeling helpless against the hate- a concept that many see as abstract and insurmountable.
We are not helpless. The hatred we face is not undefeatable. The hate stops now.
We can stop the hate because its origin is us: people, human beings. We can dry the tears of our fellow men and women. We the people, living in a society founded upon the ideal that all men are created equal, can make sure everyone feels safe and secure in their own skin.
The hate stops now.
Do not let an election divide us. We are one people. Regardless of color, creed, and whatever else, we are all members of the humans of the world. A vote in an election does not define someone’s position on hate. Hating somebody for casting their ballot (and nothing else) is still hate. Do not let an election blind us. The products of hate—the tears, fears, self-hatred, and darkness—are the same regardless of your place on the political spectrum. Forget the spectrum, because it bars no sole significance in the area of hate.
It breaks my heart when I hear of the products of xenophobia, racism, sexism, and homophobia in the schools of America and throughout the world. I know it breaks most of yours too.
We need to stop the hate. We the people. We the leaders, we the lawyers, we the doctors, we the mothers, we the fathers, we the brothers, sisters, sons and daughters need to take a stand. The vast majority of our nation, the loving and accepting population I see before me, needs to loudly speak out against the hatred of the few. We need to band together as a community and find the best ways to stop the hate. We need to listen to each other and work to understand one another.
We need to be louder, stronger, and more pronounced than the bathroom walls, than the hateful Facebook posts, than the various incidents of hate magnified by the media; they don’t define us. We need to accept all people regardless of race, gender, political ideology, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ethnicity. But we cannot accept bigotry and harmful prejudice.
Mason Luff is a student at Council Rock High School North. He spoke at the recent candle light vigil at The Garden of Reflection. This transcript of his incredibly moving speech is reprinted with his permission.