When a white supremacist killed 11 people and wounded 6 others at a Pittsburgh synagogue last weekend, the world took notice.
Lights dimmed at the Eiffel Tower and Empire State building.
Candlelight vigils were held nationwide – including in Boston, Houston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles.
A host of international leaders from the Pope to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed outrage, sadness and solidarity.
I’ll admit that as a native Pittsburgher and person of Jewish descent, it touched me deeply.
For a moment, it seemed like the whole world had stopped spinning and from every corner of the globe people were with us in our tragedy.
But at the same time, it was troubling.
After all, there were at least two other major hate crimes in the U.S. perpetrated within 72 hours of the shooting.
In Kentucky, a white man shot and killed two African-Americans at a Kroger grocery store following a failed attempt to break into a black church.
Only two days later, a deranged man who had railed against Democrats and minorities with hate-filled messages online was arrested for allegedly sending mail bombs to people who’d been criticized by President Donald Trump.
Where were the candlelight vigils for those atrocities?
Where were the international landmarks going dark?
Where was the worldwide condemnation?
In the wake of Pittsburgh’s tragedy, these other violent acts have been almost forgotten.
Yet they’re all symptoms of the same disease – hate and bigotry.
Don’t get me wrong.
What happened in Pittsburgh was terrible.
The Anti-Defamation League estimates that the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue may be the most deadly attack on Jews on American Soil in our history.
But me and mine do not have a monopoly on sorrow.
We suffer, but we are not the only ones hurting.
This all happened not far from my home.
I’ll admit that I am having a really hard time dealing with it.
I am not sleeping well.
I find myself zoning out in the middle of everyday activities.
And I feel this constant anxiety like part of me is expecting to hear a gunshot ringing down the hall at any time.
When the alleged shooter entered the sanctuary armed to the teeth and shouted “All Jews must die!” before carrying out his plan, he included me in his declaration.
That’s my daughter. My parents. My family.
It means something to me that so many people have come together to repudiate this crime.
The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and other U.S. based Muslim groups donated more than $200,000 for funeral expenses. An Iranian refugee (who hadn’t even been to the three rivers) started a GoFundMe that brought in $1 million for the victims and their families.
You can’t go anywhere in Pittsburgh without a memorial, a moment of silence, a shared statement of solidarity and love.
At the symphony, musicians read two statements from the stage against hate before playing a Hebrew melody with string quartet.
At my school – I’m a teacher – the union decided to collect money for the victims.
I saw a barge floating down one of the rivers that had the message “Stronger Than Hate” on the side next to the modified Steelers logo where the top star had been replaced by a Star of David.
I even saw a similar message on a Wendy’s sign: “PittsburghStrong/ Stronger/ Than Hate”.
The community has come together in a way I’ve never seen before.
But I can’t help wondering why.
Even after Richard Baumhammers went on a racially motivated killing spree in 2000 murdering five people including two Jews, the response wasn’t this overwhelming.
Perhaps it’s just that this latest shooting is the final straw.
Perhaps it is the moment when our nation finally pulls together and says that enough is enough – We won’t tolerate this kind of hate and violence.
I hope that’s it.
However, in the shadows of my mind I wonder if it might not be a reflection of the same beast that struck us last weekend.
Could it be that we’re willing to put up with violence against brown people, but only draw the line when those targeted have lighter skin?
I guess my point – if I have one – is this: Thank you, But.
On behalf of Pittsburgh’s Jews, thank you for having our back.
If we’re going to survive this, we’re going to need your continued support and solidarity.
But it’s not just us.
Hate crimes have jumped from about 70 incidents a year in the 1990s to more than 300 a year since 2001. And after Trump was elected, 900 bias-related incidents were reported against minorities within the first 10 days.
Our country was built on the genocide of over 110 million indigenous Americans and the enslavement of 30 million Africans.
The idea of concentration camps didn’t originate with the Nazis. Hitler got the idea from U.S. treatment of Native Americans.
Racism didn’t end with the Civil Rights Movement. It just changed shape and is hidden in the way we practice health care, education, and policing all the way to mass incarceration.
The shock and solidarity in the wake of the synagogue shooting is appreciated, but it’s not enough to mourn only when 11 Jews are murdered in cold blood.
It’s not enough to take a stand against anti-Semitism.
We need to join together to fight all of it.
We need to be unified against school segregation, police brutality, xenophobia and prejudice in all of its forms.
The white supremacist who killed my friends and neighbors targeted us because he thought we were helping brown-skinned immigrants into the country.
We can’t just stand for the helpers. We need to stand for those in need of that help.
It just won’t work any other way.
We can’t just be against violence to light skinned minorities. We have to empathize and protect our brown skinned brothers and sisters, too. We have to love and cherish our LGBTQ neighbors, as well.
We have to realize that our freedom, our safety, our very lives depend not just on what rights we have – but on what rights we give to all.
That is the only way any of us will ever feel safe again.
Through love and solidarity for every. Single. Human. Being.
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