When do we learn to hate another person because of their race, class, gender, or sexual orientation? Does it start from within the womb? Or as early as infancy? Research indicates that from a very young age children form their personalities, beliefs, and ideologies. Typically a child's first teachers are their parents. As a mother of two small boys, it's my husband, Roland and my responsibility to help shape our sons lives. Children aren't born to discriminate, it's what they see and learn in their environments that makes them learn to hate.
When I was growing up, there weren't many African Americans in my high school, located in Boulder, Colorado. My Latina best friend as a child (and still to this day), Teresa, and I shared a locker which was vandalized with racial slurs during our freshman year.
My eyes teared up as I looked at the hateful words.
I stood there in disbelief, but it wasn't the first time that either her or I had been called those hurtful names. Who taught the vandals to hate? Was it their parents? Or, was it society that taught them to degrade and think less of those around them? In the documentary, "I AM," from the director of "Ace Ventura" and "Liar Liar," Tom Shadyac attempts to answer two questions – “What’s wrong with our world?” “What can we do about it?”
This week, I was devastated when I watched, on local television, a young gay teenager, 20-year-old Brandon White being stomped and beaten by a group of young men. As the young man was struck in the head and beaten, the perpetrators shouted derogatory names referring to his sexual orientation. The video (released by Smoking Gun) shows that the attack occurred outside a convenience store on the corner of Delevan and McDaniel streets in Atlanta.
I watched in horror as the victim laid motionless. I immediately thought about his parents, “what if that were my child?” Bystanders stood by watching the young man bleed with no reaction or inclination to assist him. No one called 911 to report the attack. No one did anything because no one wanted to be labeled a "snitch."
And to think that he was beaten because of his sexual orientation is beyond disheartening and disgusting. As a community that allows this type of hatred to ensue, we should be ashamed of ourselves. Growing up, I knew two openly gay teenagers in my high school. As an ally, I felt particularly special and responsible when they told me that they both felt comfortable "coming out" to me. Studies show that one-third of all gay youth have attempted suicide at some point in their lives; thus, being able to talk with and be accepted by other peers and the community is critical to these youths survival.
What would you do if you saw someone getting beaten? Or if you heard a derogatory word that was offensive? Would you stand there? Would you question why they are being assaulted or do the right thing and help someone in need?
If I were there when the young man was getting beaten, I would have yelled. I would have screamed. I would have called 911. I would have pleaded for the young men to stop. While everyone else around me would have just stood there and watched, or simply walked away.
What's happening to our society? When did we stop caring for each other as human beings? We are all someone’s son/daughter, sister/brother, relative, or friend. It is time to wake up and start intervening; it is our responsibility to take action when hate and violence occurs.
Anyone with information on the attack, please call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.
Sojourner Marable Grimmett is an Atlanta-based author who is recognized for writing about the joys and challenges of being a “stay-at-work” mom and connects with moms, both new and experienced, who have the responsibility of raising a family and maintaining a full-time job. Sojourner has been featured in FitPregnancy, iVillage, MacaroniKid.com, BlackCelebKids.com, MyAtlantaMoms.com, WhatToExpect.com, BlackandMarriedwithKids.com, Fox News, and CNN. She is married to her college sweetheart, Roland and they have two young sons, Roland Jay and Joshua.
Visit her blog sojournermarablegrimmett.blogspot.com follow her on twitter and like her on Facebook. Also join her new campaign to support establishing lactation rooms in public places www.supporttablefortwo.org.