Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Call for Justice, Not Vengeance

An activist group has called for justice, not vengeance, in the case of the Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi (left) who was driven to suicide. See the press release here:


Wednesday, October 19, 2010


Rutgers LGBTQ Community Response to Tyler Clementi¹s Suicide,
March and Rally Planned for October 28

The disappearance of freshman Tyler Clementi from campus and then news
stories about his September 22, 2010 suicide shocked the Rutgers community
and many around the country. Two other Rutgers students, Dharun Ravi and
Molly Wei, face serious criminal charges in connection with the death.

Under the banner of Justice Not Vengeance, Queering the Air will march and
rally on Wednesday, October 28, 2010. This action will decry the rush to
judgment of Ravi and Wei, the racist and xenophobic vitriol used against
them, and raise larger issues about homophobia, transphobia, and lack of
safety on campus.

Rutgers¹ President, Richard McCormick says, "I believe we did all we could
and we did the right thing.² We strongly disagree. Two students are being
scapegoated for the failure of the university to provide a safe environment
for Rutgers¹ diverse community. We continue to demand answers and action on
long-standing complaints about the campus climate for lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people and other
historically-marginalized populations.

Within days of Clementi¹s death, Garden State Equality, a statewide New
Jersey LGBT advocacy group, demanded they be prosecuted for hate crimes, and
given ³the maximum possible sentence.² Campus Pride, a national group for
LGBT college students, has pressed Rutgers for the pair¹s ³immediate
expulsion² with no mention of an investigation or disciplinary hearing.
18,000 people endorse an online group seeking even more serious charges ­
manslaughter. Ravi and Wei have become a foil for anti-Asian racism calling
for their ³return to their countries,² and ascribing homophobia to their
cultures ­ as if homophobia were not deeply ingrained in the culture of the

The overwhelming response has been a disproportionate and discriminatory
call for the criminal justice system to act swiftly and harshly. Such
public outrage often fuels vengeance and inequality rather than just
actions. We urge that the principles of fairness and due process be
honored. Passing judgment before there has been time for an investigation,
facts discovered and careful consideration is reckless.

While we do not condone the actions that Ravi and Wei are alleged to have
taken, neither can we stand aside and watch the Rutgers community lay the
entire blame for Clementi¹s death on two eighteen-year-olds. It is
especially ugly that comments about the pair have cast aspersions on their
race, ethnicity, and citizenship. We note the criminal justice system has
historically been tainted by such prejudice.

Ignorance of the lives of others¹ often leads us to physically and
emotionally wound them. This tragedy must be seen as a cause for
reflection, education, reconciliation and reparation. By doing so we honor
the Clementi family¹s ³hope that [their] personal loss will serve as a call
for compassion, empathy and human dignity.²

Queering the Air is a queer-centric social justice organization in New
Brunswick, NJ. We believe that to confront heterosexism and transphobia, we
must also fight racism, sexism, poverty, and ableism. We use lobbying,
protest, and non-violent direct action to achieve our goals. We are
consciously not Rutgers affiliated, but composed of students, faculty,
staff, and community residents, working together to build a safer campus and
a more inclusive community. Queering the Air was formed in Spring 2010.

* * * * *

This Queering the Air statement has been endorsed by the following
organizations: Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) (New York,
NY); LLEGO (The LGBTQQIA People of Color Union at Rutgers); Rutgers
University Asian American Leadership Cabinet; Members of the Collective for
Asian American Scholarship, Rutgers University; Rutgers University BAKA -
Students United For Middle Eastern Justice; and the Rutgers University
Women¹s Center Coalition.

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