Resetting the bar for hate

21 May

Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers student convicted of second-degree bias intimidation in the Tyler Clementi aggravated suicide (my term) case has been sentenced to 30 days in jail, plus $10,000 restitution to a program to help victims of bias crimes (http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/former-rutgers-student-gets-30-day-sentence-hate-163712291.html).

AP News reports that Ravi-supporters believe that he “should not have been convicted of hate crimes because he does not hate gay people and that prison is too harsh a  punishment for someone who did not mean to hurt anyone.”

And I think it’s time to reconsider the bar for hate.

Does hate have to wear a white hood and burn flags in order for us to recognize it? Does it need to scream epithets and get physically violent before we take it seriously?

While this is a real form of hate that we need to recognize, I think there’s also a widely prevalent, much more subtle and socially accepted kind of hate that lives among us every day is. It hides under the guise of jokes (“I was just kidding”) and misunderstanding (“That’s not what I meant”), but it’s hate all the same. It’s the kind of hate that manifests in a fundamental lack of compassion. It’s the hate expressed in the denial of respect for someone else’s identity, by which I mean how they see themselves, how the world sees them, the status and experiences they have as part of our society, and the freedom they have to live their lives without ridicule, isolation or persecution simply because of who they are.

It’s an easy hate born of bias that we don’t examine and put too much stock in. It’s a hate that comes about because we indulge in the belief that we’re normal and other people are weird, different or wrong.

It’s the hate that we encourage when we look at what Ravi did and claim that his actions do not demonstrate hatred of gay people.

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