If we’re looking for models for community response to hate, we might start with Richard Thomas’s own high school. After their fellow student was arrested, the Oakland High School community came together to break the silence and open up conversations within their classrooms.* They collected funds for Fleischman to help with medical costs and reached out to the family. Students participated with the larger community in a “Rainbow March” that proceeded along the bus route. They brought together Thomas’ friends in a restorative circle to listen to their feelings.
In November, a high school student wearing a skirt was set on fire on an Oakland, CA city bus. Sasha Fleischman identifies as agender and prefers to go by the pronoun “they.” In the weeks after the hate attack, many conversations ensued about hate and acceptance alongside dialogue about the way we talk about gender. Here, Mazique Bianco explores gender terms directly, pointing to the empathy and compassion in each of us. By Mazique Bianco At a sun-drenched table at a cafe in Oakland, I listen to two people next to me discussing a hurt they have experienced. I’ve joined their table as a stranger in the packed cafe. I feel an affinity with them. One of the two friends gets up and the person next to me meets my eye. I ask them if they are going through something difficult, and their face breaks open into more softness.
Overwhelming support has poured in for Luke “Sasha” Fleischman, an agender high school student who was set on fire Monday night on an Oakland, CA bus. Police arrested a 16-year-old Oakland student for the immolation, and announced on Thursday that he will be charged as an adult for a hate crime. Sasha was wearing a skirt at the time of the attack, which friends and family fear may have been the reason Sasha was targeted. The teenage attacker later admitted that he did it because he was “homophobic,” according to lead police investigator Anwawn Jones. Sasha is currently a high school senior in Berkeley, CA. In less than a day after the attack, supporters came forward to help Sasha, who sustained third-degree burns and will require massive skin grafting. Update Nov. 14: Show Your Support in Oakland Not In Our Town and Not In Our School will be joining the Rainbow Road march today at 5:30 p.m. We invite all to come forward and support a safe and inclusive community for all.