Earlier this week, Pam wrote about what a miserable September it's been for gay youth around the country
. Now, late today, comes word that a promising young musician and student at Rutgers University, Tyler Clementi, jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate and another student videotaped him having sex with a male classmate and posted the video on the Web
It started with a Twitter message on Sept. 19: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”
That night, the authorities say, the Rutgers University student who sent the message used a camera hidden in his dormitory room to broadcast the roommate’s intimate encounter live on the Internet.
And three days later, the roommate who had been surreptitiously filmed — Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman and an accomplished violist — jumped from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River in an apparent suicide.
The Sept. 22 death, which the authorities disclosed on Wednesday, was the second high-profile suicide this year that followed alleged incidents of cyber-bullying. In January, a high school student in South Hadley, Mass., hanged herself in her home after months of reported harassment by a group of students on Web sites and in text messages.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office said that Mr. Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, 18, of Plainsboro, N.J., and another classmate, Molly Wei, 18, of Plainsboro, N.J., had each been charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for using “the camera to view and transmit a live image” of Mr. Clementi. The most severe charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in jail.
Mr. Ravi was charged with two additional counts of invasion of privacy for attempting a similar live feed on the Internet on Sept. 21, the day before the suicide. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, James O’Neill, said the investigation was continuing, but he declined to “speculate on additional charges.”
There have always been bullies, but nothing like what we see today. What kind of a sick, twisted fuck do you have to be to do something like this?
An added twist to this case is that the two perpetrators of this heinous act of bullying are both minorities. Dharun Ravi appears to be of Indian descent and Molly Wei appears to be of Chinese descent. They are from Plainsboro, NJ, a diverse town in which 16.97% of residents identified as Indian-American in the 2000 census (second only to Edison) and 8.55% self-identified as of Chinese ancestry. It's an affluent town as well, with median family income of $102,586 as of a 2007 estimate. (source
) You'd think that a diverse town with a high median income and one of the top school systems in the country wouldn't be raising a bunch of bullies. But then, the haves bullying the have-nots is nothing new, is it.
Not much information about Ravi and Wei has been released as yet, though I suspect that will change. I'm sure that there are those who will be tempted to insist that their own lily-white Anglo-Saxon children would NEVER do something like that, or worse, that because Tyler Clementi was gay, he somehow "deserved it". But those who are tempted to think this should read about Phoebe Prince, a high school student who was bullied into suicide in Massachusetts earlier this year; about Asher Brown, Seth Walsh
, or any of the other gay kids who have seen no way out but suicide.
Being bullied is always traumatic for a child or adolescent. Those of us who were small, or fat, or jut plain weird, have always been bullied. But today, when the bullying can take place in front of a huge audience, and when you throw in the anti-gay rhetoric being spouted by right-wing politicians, which gives an imprimatur of approval to homophobic bullying by straight young males who no doubt have issues about their own sexuality and send a signal to gay teens that the very power structures in this country will hound them even if their classmates aren't at the moment, it's not difficult to understand how a young man like Tyler Clementi might be driven to not just talk about jumping off the George Washington Bridge, but actually do it.
To get a sense of how distraught this young man was, consider that Fort Lee, where the bridge is located, is at least an hour drive from Rutgers. How determined do you have to be when you can spend an hour driving and not reconsider? But what's more frightening is what kind of kids are people raising these days that they think surreptitiously videotaping another kid's private activities and posting them without consent is OK? Do kids have NO sense of consequences whatsoever? I don't care what celebrities get away with.
The next time a Congressman or Senator gets up before Congress or goes on a cable news show and talks about the "homosexual agenda", I would hope that they would think about Tyler Clementi -- a talented musician with a brilliant future ahead of him who saw nothing but taunting and persecution in that future and decided it was too high a price to pay and that death looked good by comparison.
Labels: bullying, homophobia, tragedy