Rutgers students are way ahead of many of the national lgbt leaders in thinking about how to respond to the death of Tyler Clementi – with a call for justice, not vengeance. Read their press release below –
Wednesday, October 19, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUSTICE NOT VENGEANCE IN CLEMENTI SUICIDE:
Rutgers LGBTQ Community Response to Tyler Clementi’s Suicide,
March and Rally Planned for October 28
The disappearance of freshman Tyler Clementi from campus and then news stories about his September 22, 2010 suicide shocked the Rutgers community and many around the country. Two other Rutgers students, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, face serious criminal charges in connection with the death. Under the banner of Justice Not Vengeance, Queering the Air will march and rally on Wednesday, October 28, 2010. This action will decry the rush to judgment of Ravi and Wei, the racist and xenophobic vitriol used against them, and raise larger issues about homophobia, transphobia, and lack of safety on campus.Rutgers’ President, Richard McCormick says, “I believe we did all we could and we did the right thing.” We strongly disagree. Two students are being scapegoated for the failure of the university to provide a safe environment for Rutgers’ diverse community. We continue to demand answers and action on long-standing complaints about the campus climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people and other historically-marginalized populations.
Within days of Clementi’s death, Garden State Equality, a statewide New Jersey LGBT advocacy group, demanded they be prosecuted for hate crimes, and given “the maximum possible sentence.” Campus Pride, a national group for LGBT college students, has pressed Rutgers for the pair’s “immediate expulsion” with no mention of an investigation or disciplinary hearing. 18,000 people endorse an online group seeking even more serious charges – manslaughter. Ravi and Wei have become a foil for anti-Asian racism calling for their “return to their countries,” and ascribing homophobia to their cultures – as if homophobia were not deeply ingrained in the culture of the US.
The overwhelming response has been a disproportionate and discriminatory call for the criminal justice system to act swiftly and harshly. Such public outrage often fuels vengeance and inequality rather than just actions. We urge that the principles of fairness and due process be honored. Passing judgment before there has been time for an investigation, facts discovered and careful consideration is reckless.
While we do not condone the actions that Ravi and Wei are alleged to have taken, neither can we stand aside and watch the Rutgers community lay the entire blame for Clementi’s death on two eighteen-year-olds. It is especially ugly that comments about the pair have cast aspersions on their race, ethnicity, and citizenship. We note the criminal justice system has historically been tainted by such prejudice.
Ignorance of the lives of others’ often leads us to physically and emotionally wound them. This tragedy must be seen as a cause for reflection, education, reconciliation and reparation. By doing so we honor the Clementi family’s “hope that [their] personal loss will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity.”
Queering the Air is a queer-centric social justice organization in New Brunswick, NJ. We believe that to confront heterosexism and transphobia, we must also fight racism, sexism, poverty, and ableism. We use lobbying, protest, and non-violent direct action to achieve our goals. We are consciously not Rutgers affiliated, but composed of students, faculty, staff, and community residents, working together to build a safer campus and a more inclusive community. Queering the Air was formed in Spring 2010.