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.
The packed gymnasium erupted on Tuesday night with applause as the Oakland High School varsity boys basketball team ran onto the court for the first home game of the season. But their usual blue and white Wildcat jerseys were replaced by cerulean T-shirts with the message “NO H8” printed on the front, and a single name printed on the back, “Sasha.” That name refers to Sasha Fleischman, a high school senior at nearby Maybeck High School in Berkeley, CA, who was badly burned after being set on fire while sleeping on a city bus. Sasha, who identifies as agender, was wearing a skirt at the time of the attack, leading police to investigate the incident as a hate crime. A student from Oakland High School has been apprehended and charged with assault with a hate crime enhancement.