Scapegoating is as bad as bullying

This is going to be an unpopular statement and I know there are a few people that are going to be a little pissed off at me for saying this, but I feel sorry for Dharun Ravi. He is the Rutgers student who was convicted on several charges related to his videoing (and streaming on the Internet) a sexual encounter that his roommate, Tyler Clementi, had with another man. Clementi shortly thereafter committed suicide by leaping from the George Washington Bridge.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning or justifying the acts that Ravi committed. It was mean, bullying, and a terrible invasion of privacy. He was a stupid kid doing a stupid thing. He did not cause Tyler Clementi to commit suicide, however. He contributed, sure. Maybe his act was the proverbial last straw. But he could not have reasonably thought that the next day Clementi would kill himself. That demon was already clawing at Tyler, and this was what put him over the edge.

Dharun Ravi is now going to jail, and may be deported. He deserves punishment. But the past few days it has been really bothering me that this kid has now been demonized and is sort of being a scapegoat being served the justice and anger that people have against a much larger problem. Like I said, Ravi was not the sole cause of Tyler’s suicide. Or any of the LGBT kids that have committed suicide because of the loneliness and despair brought being ostracized, bullied, told by parents, teachers, churches, and many other adults that they are abominations, freaks, sinners, and deserve to catch AIDS and die.

Dharun Ravi is now the face of that bullying and hatred and people are celebrating his conviction and bemoaning that his punishment is not more severe. That is unfair. What he did was wrong but pales in comparison to what goes on day after day, in schools, churches, homes and even on the news. Presidential candidates espousing the kind of rhetoric is more insidious, more damaging than what Ravi did, and drives more and more kids into despair. Passing laws making it illegal to even mention homosexuality in a school environment, even when necessary. A nine year old kid said (with no preceding context) to my son, “Lesbians are gross”. That is not something he came up with on his own, nor is it a conclusion a nine year old would come to on his own. He heard it somewhere and parroted it.

That is the real villain here, not an eighteen year old kid who did something stupid and mean. That is what we should focus anger and resolve on, not a dumbass freshman.

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