Statement of Cynthia McKinney
on the Hate Crimes
Candle Light Vigil for Matthew Shepard
October 15, 1998
Ladies and gentlemen, I would
like you to close your eyes for a moment. Yes,
go ahead, close your eyes. Now, imagine a young
man. Out for the evening, maybe having a drink,
talking to his friends. Perhaps, thinking about
some reading he has to do or about the Thanksgiving
and Christmas holidays that will soon be upon
us. Now, imagine him talking to someone. Two men.
They are friendly. They suggest a ride in the
countryside. Perhaps, against his better judgment,
he decides to take a ride. It's a beautiful night.
There is just a touch of fall in the air. Now,
imagine for a moment, the shock when the first
fist flies in anger and hate. Maybe he tastes
his own blood in his mouth. He hears the hateful
words ... and then a flurry of fists and boots
tear his world apart.
Imagine, for a moment, the pain
... imagine the terror. Imagine, imagine ... that
he thinks it's raining ... because his clothes
are wet. And, then, imagine ... that he realizes
it's his own blood. Imagine the sounds ... of
his skull cracking. Imagine ... the pain, the
roar of death in his ears, the feel of a rope
around his body as he is tied to a fence. Then,
the terrible, awful quiet that comes before death
under the wide western sky.
Do you see it? Do you feel it?
Now, imagine, imagine that it's
your son ... or your daughter ... or yourself.
Murder is murder. But a crime of hate ... is a
crime against humanity. This young man's murder
is a national tragedy. And in a circumstance like
this ... you have to take sides. No fence straddling.
No carefully crafted words of disapproval. You've
got to choose sides. You must be the fist of hate
... or the shield of freedom. There is no middle
ground. You are the fist. Or. You are the shield.
I made my choice long ago. I chose against bigotry.
I chose against hate. I chose not to be the fist.
Today, again, I choose to be the shield. Now ...
Trent Lott needs to decide. Now ... The Christian
Coalition needs to decide. Those who lift their
voices in condemnation need to decide. Even those
who hide their hate inside their own hearts need
to decide. That is Matthew Shepard's gift to us
today. Through his death, Matthew Shepard offers
us the gift ... of a choice. And I, for one, choose
to be with Matthew. Thank you.