Today, the roommate of Tyler Clemente was sentenced to 30 days in prison, three years probation, and 300 hours of community service as well as some diversity training.

Twitter is awash with varying opinions, but it may be fair to say that many believe the sentence is too lenient. Personally, I’m ambivalent. I don’t know if I feel this was enough or not. But there are two twitter comments that I want to use as a basis for this post.

The first is from Dan Savage:

Dan Savage Tweet about Ravi

 

 

 

 

 

The second is AMERICAblogGay

What do you think? Should Ravi, the guy who bullied Tyler Clementi to death at Rutgers by spying on him, get more than 30 days in jail?

How do we understand these comments in relation to the crime and the situation?

I think no one who cares about the abuse and bullying of queer teens is not moved by a tragic situation like what happened to Tyler Clemente. My ambiguity grows however based on what one thinks happened. We all know it ended with Tyler jumping to his death and that it was prosecuted as a hate crime. But the rest isn’t so clear, is it? At least not based on these twitter comments. The judge today made clear that this wasn’t a hate crime, but a biased crime.

I think the LGBTQ community should move cautiously when it comes to Hate Crimes. These were historically crimes committed against an individual or a small group, but with the desire of intimidating and terrorizing an entire group of people. In other words, no matter how heinous the crime, the intention was always bigger than the victim. This shouldn’t minimize in any way the heinousness of the crime, but I also think the context is crucial.

Not every group which believes in Civil Justice, supports Hate Crimes legislation. This is most often because Hate Crimes punishment creates a two tier level of justice, which would be counter to the base idea of social justice. Others oppose Hate Crimes because it opens a slippery slope to judging thought as opposed to action. I am less swayed by this notion. I think motive and thought are crucial to understanding a crime. But how are these things proved?

In my opinion what Ravi did was inexcusable, yet I was not convinced that his actions alone led to Clemente’s suicide. I think we as a culture want a monstrous villain to blame, and Ravi stands as an easy target, but the real culprit- the real monster,  is the level of isolation and lack of support our queer youth experience in so many environments. Horrific things can happen to people and they can survive and flourish when they have a support system. Rather than focus on how to properly crucify Ravi- what if we put that energy towards how we better support our youth and assure they feel they can reach out for help?

Closet-ness, and the desire to make our sexual experimentations and lives private is not a new event. Tyler Clemente is far from the first person who has had his privacy violated, and many lives have been ruined over time. This doesn’t diminish the horror of his situation, but it also places it into a longer context that the simple generic notion of gay bullying. The problem doesn’t go away simply by the way we treat one character, Ravi. The real solution is far bigger than that.

Blogger’s note: I tweeted to AMERICAblgGAY the following:

 @AMERICAblogGay where is the evidence of “bullied to death”

 

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