“Our differences are the only thing that everyone has in common”

On Wednesday August 8th, I attended a candlelight vigil in front of the White House for the shooting in Wisconsin at the Sikh temple at the suggestion of one of my roommates who found out about it from her job at an interfaith advocacy organization. It was a beautiful vigil with some wonderful speakers who spoke on the importance of love and peace, but there was one girl who was particularly moving. This local 12 year old Sikh girl spoke about accepting and embracing differences, the quote in the title was from her and I hope I captured it correctly. She may have been the smartest person I have heard talk in a long time and her words struck me as the perfect feminist response to the recent tragedies.

Despite clearly being personally affected by the tragedy in Oak Creek, she managed to convey that the shooter was also a victim of hate even if it was his own hate, which is an incredibly magnanimous sentiment. She also included the events in Joplin as a result of the same problem of intolerance and ignorance. Some of the immediate responses to the Oak Creek shooting left me and many others feeling uncomfortable because many people rushed to explain that Sikhs were not Muslim, which is true, but also left the upsetting implication that it would have been more understandable had it been a mosque that was attacked. This 12 year old also recognized the flaws in this response by stating that she had been told the attack in Oak Creek was a case of mistaken identity and couldn’t understand how that would be better, that “He thought we were Muslim. So what?” Regardless, it was a case of being afraid of difference and that fear turning into hate.

Overall there was an incredibly resilient atmosphere at this vigil and an overwhelming acknowledgement that tragedies like these affect all aspects of our society, not just the particular groups attacked. But this 12 year old girl knew what was what and informed the sizable crowd about the damaging nature of hate, the healing power of love, and how everyone is simultaneously the same and different.

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