Friday, April 8, 2011

Comment of the Week...

... comes from "Bitter Greens" on Hate Crime at Swarthmore College?
Just so you know, on the term 'ville rat': high school students in the ville are routinely harassing college students, especially gay people and women, but mostly just anyone they can bother while sit around in the evening, bored outside of the dunkin donuts off-campus.

They often yell homophobic comments, such as "faggot." I know a number of students to whom this has happened. I know you think this is not a hate crime, and that it's just "those annoying gay people trying to say that they're oppressed," but this is a real issue. And let me tell you, 'faggot' is a much more offensive term than 'ville rat.' 'Faggots' get beaten up all the time after being designated as 'faggots' by the people who hate them. No ville rat has ever gotten beaten up after being called a ville rat. Ville rat is just NOT as threatening of a term, and not one that connotes violent intent in the same way. Now, the incident at hand did not involve the use of the term faggot, but given the previous incidents that college students have experienced from groups of high school students like this one, I don't think that the fear we have of homophobic high school students is unfounded.
I think Bitter makes some good points.

To the extent that kids are hanging out in Swarthmore at night and casually flipping insults at gay (or perceived to be gay) Swarthmore students, they should be sent on their way by local business owners and the cops. Such boorish teenage behavior should not be tolerated by responsible grown-ups. It should be confronted and their parents should be notified. One would hope Swarthmore parents would be disgusted that their own children would act in such a way.

Curfews, anyone?

That said, such conduct is NOT, by definition, a hate-crime.

As for 'Faggots' getting "beaten up all the time..." no, they don't. Not in Swarthmore. Just check the crime statistics.

To the issue that "faggot" is a much more "offensive term" than "ville rat," that depends on just who's taking offense. And Bitter ignores that the obvious insulting nature of the term "ville rat." If it is true that no "ville rat" has ever been beaten up after being called one that is hardly a justification for anyone using the term. It was certainly stupid for one or both of the college students in this case to use it to the faces of a bunch of booze-seeking teenagers.

I doubt the victims in this case would have said to a similar young gang made up of black males, "Aren't you Negroes?" They too might consider those to be fighting words.

Imputing homophobia as a motive in this attack, when no anti-gay comments were made just prior to the assault, is a rush to judgement at best, and cynically exploitative at worst.

It is just as likely, if not more so, that the gang of high schoolers became inflamed by what they perceived to be the dismissive and insulting attitudes coming from the college students. Does that justify such a vicious and cowardly attack? Of course not. Hopefully, these kids will be caught and appropriately punished.

But using this incident to claim that Swarthmore students' alleged fear of homophobic high school students is well-founded, is well, unconvincing.


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