Our constitution protects the right of individuals to live unmolested and undisturbed from the predations of those who would harm them. Americans (theoretically, at least) agree with this humanistic perspective. I am speaking out about this through all my “identities,” i.e., as an African American, a woman, a lesbian, a progressive, a teacher, and as a citizen of the world, to borrow the Socratic phrase.
Recently, Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow ruled that a hateful flyer disseminated at Plainfield City Hall, although considered “ugly” speech, did not rise to the level of a hate crime. He also said that Plainfield would have to move forward with its own thorough investigation of the flyer. Our city, which prides itself on its diversity, is currently undertaking this investigation.
The outcome, I hope, will lead to the identity of those individuals who have decided that it is acceptable to malign, degrade, and deny the humanity of their fellow brothers and sisters, thereby contributing to a poisonous atmosphere designed to divide our city. The circulation of hateful flyers filled with homophobic and racist ranting against residents (including elected officials) promotes a climate of fear and repression that goes against every principle of American freedom.
It just so happens that today is the birthday of Adolf Hitler, the premier 20th century exemplar of hate. Promoting hate and divisiveness has led to tragic consequences throughout human history—in our modern context, genocide has been the logical outcome for those who believe that others do not deserve to live because of who they are.
|Tyler Clementi, 18|
Last year, Rutgers student Tyler Clementi committed suicide in the aftermath of humiliation after the public exposure of his homosexuality, which he was still struggling with; homophobia equaled death for Tyler, as well as for many other young people, who felt so much despair that death was preferable to facing possible rejection from their own community and people. Even young people who did not identify as gay (such as young Carl Walker-Hoover, 11 years old, and Asher Brown, 13) could not take the bullying that is part and parcel of homophobic attitudes. I am glad that a Middlesex County grand jury has determined that Tyler’s roommate should be prosecuted as the perpetrator of a bias crime, among other charges—click here for this story.
|Carl Walker-Hoover, 11|
We have seen the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda and other countries that deny the humanity of our gay brothers and sisters—it has led to genocidal acts. The 2011 Days of Remembrance (also known as Holocaust Remembrance Week) will be observed during the week of May 1-8. This year’s theme is "Justice and Accountability in the Face of Genocide: What Have We Learned?" Click here for the link.
|Asher Brown, 13|
If we truly are to be citizens of the world, we must call out injustice of ALL types everywhere, and not allow anyone's freedom and civil rights struggle to take a backseat to dogma, rhetoric, and hatred.