It hurts our hearts to write this editorial. On Oct. 27, 11 Jewish people were gunned down in a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Just three days earlier, a man killed two black people at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky. These horrific events remind us of another massacre close to home; less than two years ago, on Jan. 29, six people were killed in the Quebec mosque shooting. These fatal shootings have one key thing in common: minorities targeted by hateful white men.
When he opened fire on the worshippers in Pittsburgh, the gunman shouted, “All Jews must die,” according to CBC News. He had a far-right social media presence, especially on the website gab.com. Before the shooting, the gunman posted: “HIAS [an American non-profit group guided by Jewish values] likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
The gunman in Quebec held similar sentiments towards Muslims and was pushed over the edge when he saw a tweet from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promising to accept more refugees. According to the Montreal Gazette, the day the perpetrator saw the message, “he took his gun into the mosque and started shooting ‘to save people from terrorist attacks,’ he said.”
Before he was captured by police, the gunman in Kentucky told a bystander that “whites don’t shoot whites.” According to CNN, he tried to enter a predominantly black church shortly before he shot Vickie Lee Jones, 67, and Maurice E. Stallard, 69, at a grocery store. The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, according to the same source.
What are the common denominators here? The truth is, these are all hate crimes, whether or not they’re labeled as such by authorities. We must recognize the fact that when hatred brews and explodes in such violent and extreme ways, these acts are not “senseless” or “random.” They are vicious attacks on people who are constantly demonized. All of these gunmen were white and were fueled by ignorance, anti-black racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.
These tragedies are all the more difficult to process and reflect upon when the 24-hour news cycle seems to churn out such stories every single day. We must find a better way to interact with these occurrences and understand that they are more than just news stories.
Most importantly, we need to show solidarity. Even if we don’t identify as Jewish, Muslim or black, we cannot simply express shock when violent acts happen. When we stand together and condemn hate crimes, we are not only showing support for victims—we are telling the world that we vehemently disagree with those who perpetuate hate crimes. We are rejecting the motivations that spur white men with guns on. We are choosing to emphasize our humanity and renounce intolerance.
It warms our hearts to see people around the world attending Shabbat services, even those who don’t identify as Jewish. Seeing Muslims forming human defence lines around synagogues, the same way the Jewish community did after the Quebec mosque shooting, is uplifting to see. Watching Montrealers rally against anti-Semitism and attend vigils for the victims reminds us of the strength of community. Hearing members of a black church in Kentucky express solidarity with victims at the Pittsburgh synagogue reminds us of an important trait we all share: compassion.
Graphic by @spooky_soda