I know I’ve been talking a lot lately about online bullying and teenagers who commit suicide as a result of bullying. Maybe it’s because it recently hit so close to home. Or that a significant amount of bullying is focused on individuals within the GLBT community. Or that I find the trend so disturbing. Or that so much of online bullying results in tragic consequences.
The sentence was handed down today in the Rutgers case. Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail. A very light sentence compared to what he could have received. I have to admit that I’m disappointed with the verdict and I don’t really understand the leniency of it. The jury found him guilty of bias crimes. And more than one. So, I don’t understand how he only ended up with 30 days in jail. Any lawyers want to weigh in?
I watched part of the trial on In Session. I saw lots of testimony. I read lots of the tweets and facebook posts Dharun Ravi posted about his roommate, Tyler Clementi. Nearly all of which were tainted with anti-gay and homophobic comments. Not to mention that he videotaped Tyler in his dorm room with a man while he was engaged in a sexual encounter. A few days after a bullying incident, Tyler jumped from the George Washington Bridge.
I’m disappointed. I was hoping that the judge would use this to set a precedent against online bullying and specifically bullying targeting individuals who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender. It was a chance to say we take this seriously and we will not tolerate hate. Instead, it was a slap on the wrist and stern warning not to do it again.
Throughout the trial Ravi’s parents stood by his side claiming he wasn’t homophobic. But, hate almost always starts at home. And even though his dad continually professed Ravi was accepting and not homophobic despite the fact he was convicted of a bias crime, I find him hard to believe. Mainly because of the way his dad speaks about it.
For example, his dad says, “Dharun was not raised to hate gays.”
Look at this sentence again. There is no individuality in the response. Who are these “gays” of which he speaks? As if gay represents some type of separate people. Even in his defense of his son, the unconscious bias seeps in. There is a clear us versus other in this response.
Again, I go back to hate starts at home. Let’s take a look at our own homes. Are there any areas where we’ve let bias creep in? What messages are we teaching our children about other people? Are we teaching our children to love and to respect differences?
I’m taking a look in my home. How about you?