Fueling the Fire: Tyler Clementi Case
Clementi’s suicide highlights the need for tolerance education
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
In Sept. 2010, Tyler Clementi was a new freshman at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He was born in Buffalo and raised in New Jersey, was a talented violinist, and was described simply as a fine young man.
By the end of the month, he was dead.
What happened in such a short time can only be described as a nightmare and a tragedy. It was in that time that Clementi’s new roommate, Dhuran Ravi, had researched him online, discovered he was gay, and set up a webcam to spy on him during sexual encounters. He also took to his Twitter account to tell followers of private viewing parties, stating that “it [was] happening again.”
Clementi, too, took to social media after finding out what had happened: his last known words came in the form of a Facebook status letting his friends know that he was jumping off the George Washington Bridge and apologizing.
Ravi could have served years behind bars for the charges against him, charges that included invasion of privacy, witness tampering, and bias intimidation. Instead, he was just released from jail after serving 20 days of his 30-day sentence and now moves onto a few years of probation.
Could Ravi have imagined that his actions would lead to the death of his roommate? Probably not. It’s hard to believe he was being malicious enough for the result it produced.
But whatever the intended result, Ravi did what he did out of hate and ignorance. He reportedly sent messages to friends such as “F**K MY LIFE\He’s gay” and quipped that the security system he had on his computer to let him know if someone was in his bed while he wasn’t there “[kept] the gays away.” His words with Clementi were few and far between; there was no verbal abuse or direct slurs. Ravi did his work quietly and secretly.
Bullying is certainly not new; it’s just taken a new face in the technological age: threatening text messages, words of hate via social media, and video voyeurism. As we get more sophisticated (though that can clearly be argued), so does bullying. It’s getting smarter and savvier.
And it’s not going away any time soon. It won’t disappear if we try and wish it away or if we turn the other cheek to pretend it doesn’t exist. The more we ignore it, the more it is going to happen.
Clementi’s suicide was only one of several highly publicized LGBT teen suicides in just a month’s time. If none of those hit close enough to home or stick with you, then maybe you’ll remember the attention on greater Buffalo last September when 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer took his life.
It doesn’t help to dwell on the past, though. More and more kids are taking their lives every day because one too many of their peers called them “f*ggots” in the hallway. They keep quiet about it until they’re silent for good. They become names and ages and autopsy reports.
No, the only way to “get back” at bullying is prepare for the future. If nothing else, Tyler’s story highlights the absolute need to educate youth. Do you remember those lessons you had in school about bullying and discrimination and treating each other equally? Almost nobody had those types of lessons.
Part of Ravi’s defense was that he was just an immature college student who didn’t know any better. Those are bold words usually reserved for a toddler who has colored on the walls, not a freshman who was secretly videotaping his roommate and streaming it for a group of friends to see.
But even if this is the case – that he was young and dumb and “didn’t know any better” – then something has to be done about it. The excuse given by his attorney that “he hasn’t lived long enough to have experience with homosexuality or gays” is absurd, but the fact that it is 2012 and such an excuse can be still be seriously given is far worse.
Because excuses like “young and dumb” don’t mean anything when there is blood on your hands.