I was the epitome of a “Mean Girl” during my first two years of high school. Just call me Regina George because I was just that spiteful and coldhearted. I went after anyone who I felt was different and it became my personal goal to make his or her life a living hell.
It doesn’t sound too different than anyone else’s high school; there’s always that one girl or guy that picks on people. Ultimately though, bullying can lead to one of two places; the person being bullied commits suicide or the bully turns violent and commits a hate crime.
Recently Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old boy, committed suicide because of his classmates constantly bullying him about being gay.
Tormented, like Lauren, he ended his life early after trying to stay positive for so long. Not only has anti-gay bullying lead to an increase in teenage suicide across the nation, but also hate crimes have become a localized problem in the past few months.
On Sept. 21, 2011, in Downtown Sacramento, Gary Silvey became a victim of a hate crime after a man jumped out of an SUV and assaulted him, sending him to the hospital with serious injuries. He had been attacked simply because he chose to walk down the street holding hands with another man.
My sophomore year I decided to fixate my wrath on a girl named Lauren. She had a shaved head and dressed punk rock with a bit of goth mixed together. I decided to convince my friends and most of the school to tease and torment her. Although she looked like she wanted to cry, I continued to bask in her pain and suffering.
I probably would’ve been a mean girl forever, had I not watched “The Matthew Shepard Story,” a movie about University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard who was beaten, robbed, and tied to a fence; all because he was gay. A cyclist found Shepard three days later and he died in the hospital. In those two hours my life had changed.
At the end of the movie I couldn’t stop crying. How could hate ultimately lead to such a horrible crime?
That following Monday I went back to school intent on making my wrongs right. I stood up to my friends and told them to stop teasing her, but Lauren’s reaction was not what I expected. She told me to “shut up, I don’t need you standing up for me.” That was the last time I saw Lauren.
Three weeks had gone by when I was informed that she had run away and killed herself. Something I will have to live with for the rest of my life.
Hate crimes are not only a regional problem, but also a national epidemic. There are still 27 states without a hate crime law protecting sexual orientation. Until the law has changed everywhere, we are not providing the protection that people are entitled to.
Regardless of our own opinions, whether they are based on morals or religion, none of us have the right to determine how someone else should live their life. We can never grow as a country if we don’t stop hurting each other and accepting each other for our differences. I cannot change what I have caused, but every single person has the ability to stop the spread of hate.