You know it takes a lot to make Good Enough Mother to stop in her tracks during my morning routine of getting kids up and off to school but I saw something on TV that did just that. A student at Rutgers University jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly videotaped him in an intimate moment with another man – and then put the video online. Here’s the background…
This story makes me sad and furious because these actions were so obviously rooted in homophobia. I really doubt that had the victim Tyler Clementi been with a woman, Dharun Ravi would have turned on his webcam or tweeted about it. Ravi would have been high-fivin’ his roommate and asking for details at the end of the evening. But no, instead he sends out a tweet about his roommate “making out with a dude” shortly after invading Clementi’s privacy with the webcam. According to police, Ravi and his accomplice, Molly Wei, hid the webcam in the men’s’ dorm room so they could “view and transmit a live image” of Clementi having sex. WHAT?
There are reports Clementi had complained on a message board that his roommate was spying on him and he didn’t know what to do. The horrifying conclusion Tyler came to was to jump from the George Washington Bridge into the waters of the Hudson River. Clementi, in an instant, went from being a gifted musician and college student to a statistic. My heart breaks for his family and also for those of Ravi and Wei.
So what can we do? I didn’t know any of the people involved in this tragedy but I can and will take it and make it a teachable moment for my kids. I will reiterate to them what we believe, which is that people do not choose to be gay; it is who they are. We are accepting people who show love and respect to others and expect it in return. On a practical level what that means is when I hear things that are racist and homophobic (and I do occasionally among my kids and their friends), I shoot the comment down then and there. Then later, I explain why I did what I did, again pointing back to who we are, what we stand for and what we will not tolerate.
Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei now face three to five years in prison if found guilty of the two counts of invasion of privacy they are charged with. Tyler Clementi’s family faces a lifetime without their bright, beautiful son. I’m going to talk to my kids tonight; when are you going to talk to yours?