There's a saying that goes "it's easier to hate an issue than it is to hate a person." That statement has never been more relevant to the state of the American social and political climate than it is right now.
Recent video exposed in the press depicting high school students seemingly taunting Native American elder Nathan Philips at the Indigenous Peoples March is disheartening.
The dead looks behind the eyes of the high school boys indicate that they were not actually seeing the man they were looking at. They saw him, but they did not see him as a real human being. They did not see him as a man who has a family just like their own. They did not see him as a man who has laughed and cried and had many life experiences that they would probably share, were they to ask. They saw him and his personhood only as opposition to their social and political beliefs.
It's much easier to have compassion and empathy when you stop and truly remember that everyone has experiences just the same as yours. It's easier to hate a group of people walking hundreds of miles to escape poverty and fear of death when you forget that those people are real people that have children and families just like your own.
Many people who have voiced and held homophobic or transphobic views have changed their beliefs when members of their immediate family have realized that they align with the LGBT community. Their minds change because they realize that the people they have seen vilified on their televisions or in their communities are real and not caricatures. Many closed minded people have never had their beliefs challenged in real life. It's up to family members and friends to help them figure out why they may have preconceived biases about groups outside of their own.
The only way that we can move forward as a country is to emphasize commonalities rather than differences. Everyone is different, and uniqueness in the form of race, gender, sexuality, religion, and ethnicity should be celebrated rather than used as a means to fear each other. Change is inevitable, and the only way we can move forward as a country is to have respect for one another.