On May 26, 2017 three men defended two girls on a MAX train from a man who screamed racist and Islamophobic slurs. Rick Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche died as heroes, while Micah Fletcher survived after defending innocent girls who were only trying to get to their destination. This hatred has become more vocal due to our current political situation.
This is not saying that it didn’t exist before 2017, but it’s just become easier for people to say or do horrible things because someone’s ethnicity, culture, or religion is different than their own.
Bigotry is something that is dividing society, and the sad part is that it’s something that can be reversed. Bigotry is taught out of ignorance. Jeremy Joseph Christian is just an example of how far someone’s pure hate can reach. A memorial was created to remember the 2 men who lost their lives, and to unite the community. Almost all of the messages written involved loving one another, and fighting against hate of any kind. Coming to a memorial like this is incredibly emotional, and multiple people did show their feelings about this random act of violence. This memorial also brought so many diverse groups together. Unity is the best word to describe it
The combination of new and wilted flowers, candle wax, posters, and messages written in chalk created something beautiful but heartbreaking. I was nearly brought to tears because of the knowledge that innocent people died here for defending others.
As someone who has dealt with racism throughout my life, this hit me much harder than I would have imagined. What if I was in a situation like that when I was going to the store? What if I could have died almost like those girls because of the color of my skin? I have personally never experienced being hated for my religion, but I do relate to being hated because of who I am. This has always bothered me. Why must society always constantly be divided? It seems that we’re only united as a people when a tragedy like this happens.
We can prevent things like this from happening if we punish people who hate others for no reason. Common racism or Islamophobia or any other kind of random act of violence needs to be addressed. This brought on multiple discussions towards race and fighting against racism and brought on talk of improving our resources to help the mentally ill. Some people think that Christian was mentally ill, while others think that he was fully aware of his actions and did out of hatred. Hatred is not a mental illness. It is something you are taught. It’s also something that can be unlearned.
I sadly have a feeling that this event will be quickly forgotten, just like the girls who were picked on for no reason. I took these pictures because I had a big need to document such a big thing like this. I don’t want this event to be forgotten. Let’s hope it doesn’t.
Words and Photos by Jo Agard