March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg, a survivor of the 2018 Parkland school shooting that killed 17 people, on Friday called for people to stop using mental illness as an excuse for racism.
“It’s time we put an end to it and we go after the one thing that these politicians care about, which is their votes and their power. We start calling out the bullshit that is out there constantly that says shooters, like the person at my high school who had repeatedly drawn Nazi symbols and swastikas on things and who repeatedly said hateful things about Black and Brown people, about immigrants and Muslim people – stop using mental illness as an excuse for white nationalism,” Hogg said at a Lansing event. “Frankly, we just need to stop calling f–king racism mental illness.”
Hogg, a Florida native, headlined a “Defend the Future” get out the vote event before the Nov. 8 election at The Lansing Studio, which was sponsored by Voto Latino, Planned Parenthood, March for Our Lives, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, EMILY’s List and APIAVote. Early voting is now open in Michigan.
Hogg drew attention to an audience member from Oxford, Mich., where there was a deadly shooting at Oxford High School last year, saying, “I’m tired of meeting new people that I know are going to join this ever-growing club that nobody wants to be part of.”
Hogg also brought attention to “so many others that we don’t know the names of because their shootings don’t get on TV because they happen in predominantly Black communities that don’t get anywhere near the coverage.”
Hogg was slightly shaken before taking the stage, telling the crowd that a close friend’s father had just died of COVID-19. He was vaccinated but was also immunocompromised, Hogg said.
“Understand that being able to live in this world without being masked is also an incredible privilege that is not afforded to everyone,” Hogg said.
Other speakers at the event included House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) and student organizers Junsoo Ahn, Allie Collins, Rebeka Islam and Amritha Venkataraman.
State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) said he thinks of this generation “as the first generation that had to grow up in a scarier place than we did” because of school shootings and other issues.
Hertel said he’s concerned about this year’s election because he doesn’t want his son to have to go back into the closet or women to have fewer abortion rights than they had when he was growing up.
“We’re exactly on that precipice,” Hertel said.
Hertel borrowed some campaign messaging from President Joe Biden, arguing that “it’s not just the story of America that’s on the ballot, it’s the soul of America that’s on the ballot. It’s who we are.”
Hertel listed Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and people who marched on the Edmund Pettus Bridge as examples of who represents that soul of America, but said Republicans “want to snuff it out. They want to take all that and take us back. I refuse. I hope all of you refuse with me.”
Hogg urged the young activists present Friday to make room for joy in their lives even while fighting for change, investing in their relationships with friends.
“What I’ve come to realize is that change is not just a marathon, it is an ultra marathon with a baton pass in between generations,” Hogg said. “If we as individuals are not taking care of ourselves and remembering to have fun, despite all the fucked up things that are going on around us, the movement will die because we will kill ourselves trying to get this work done. It will destroy you. It’s nearly destroyed me, myself.”
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