Tag Archives: hate speech

Homophobia at Oregon City High School

18 Apr
Home of Homophobia

Home of Homophobia

I have to thank my dear friend and amazing LGBT ally, Jennifer Carey, for inspiring me to write this story. She actually heard about this sad news before I did. Yet another story that hurts my heart.  Once again, here in the self purported progressive Portland, we witness some very ugly homophobia. Even more sad is that this awful incident comes in the wake of the Farmers Pantry homophobic debacle.

This story has a lovely beginning. Students at Oregon City High School were honoring the National Day of Silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.  Just to prove how much we need this Day of Silence, other students at Oregon City High School decided to protest, creating and wearing shirts that read: “Gay Day is Not Ok.”  I won’t even bother to link to the very hurtful homophobic interview one of the teens gave, but I will share some of  his words:

I don’t have a big problem with gay people. It’s just when they start parading around the school about how we have a day of silence for gays, lesbians, transvestites — it’s like, we don’t have a straight day!

Let us hope this young man will have a transformative experience in his life and will not be full of so much hate. Let us hope he will evolve. I also tire of the often heard heterosexual victim attitude of: “I’m not homophobic — I just don’t want to treat gays equally.”  How do we even address the ignorance of “it’s like, we don’t have a straight day”?  I hear this from many white people about Black History Month — “why don’t we have a white history month?”   Really people? Every day is white heterosexual day.

I contacted the school and tried to speak with Principal Tom Lovell about this incident, but he never returned my calls. I am interested in how he is addressing or not addressing this very serious problem.

The impact of this incident sends a very clear message that LGBT students are not safe at Oregon City High School. It also sends a message that LGBT people here in Oregon have a long way to go to being treated as human beings. We have yet another reminder that we LGBT folk must navigate the world with extreme care. I guess we cannot “parade” our lives in public like heterosexuals who are allowed to be who they are all the time.

Call to action: Here is an opportunity for LGBT folk and our allies to call Principal Lovell and ask that he address this homophobic problem.  On a larger scale, we have another opportunity to ask all schools in every state to create and enforce policies that help protect LGBT students from bullying and harassment.

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Bigot of the Week: March 23, Stumpy’s Stickers and their Customers

23 Mar

Bigot of the Week

I couldn’t believe my eyes. It is hard not to wince in pain when you see it. Surely, I thought, this is a tasteless digitally edited bumper sticker joke. The Facebook photo that went viral recently showed a silver car with a red, white, and blue sticker featuring the famous Obama emblem and the following text:

Don’t Re-Nig In 2012. Stop repeat offenders. Don’t re-elect Obama!

Sadly, it was real. Far worse, it wasn’t just one hatefully creative racist bigot making a sticker, it was commercially produced and available on the web. A company named Stumpy’s Stickers offered this and several other shockingly offensive anti-Obama stickers. Curiously, after all the attention to their vile products, the website quietly vanished. Vile things don’t like the light of day.

So, what do we have here? Someone racist enough to dream up this slogan and disgusting enough to make it into stickers and then sell them. On top of that, we have people who are willing to buy them and put them on their cars. Anyone still think we live in a post-racist America?  How sad that our country has so far to go regarding racism and civil rights for all.

Bigot of the Week Award: January 6, Rick Santorum

6 Jan

Bigot of the Week

Congratulations to Iowa’s Republican caucus voters. They’ve just given momentum and credibility to one of the most bigoted presidential campaigns of all time. Rejected Senator Rick Santorum was already infamous for his rabid anti-gay, anti-woman stands. He made nearly 150 campaign stops in Iowa promising to stick by his history and was rewarded with a virtual tie in Tuesday’s vote. While his campaign is still a long-shot, the boost he received from his last-minute surge has provided Santorum with an ongoing platform for his words of hate. He has argued with college students about marriage equality, continuing his irrational comparisons with polygamy. On the O’Reilly Factor, he managed to surprise even that bastion of illogic with his extreme stand, maintaining that as President he would force a Constitutional “one man, one woman” amendment and then work to ensure that all legally performed marriages between same-sex couples were invalidated. It takes some doing to stand out as the most potentially dangerous in this pack of candidates. Rick Santorum earns yet another BWA by doing his best to prove he’s the one.

Am I the only one wondering what is hiding in his “closet?”

Stand Up for What’s Right: The Power of Social Courage

18 Apr

As my story with Nike and Kobe Bryant continues to develop and we wait to see if Nike will do the right thing and say no to bigots, and as we witness the hate spewing from the noxious Santorum, I thought I would point people to my friend Cory’s blog to watch a video that inspires each of us to stand up for what is right.  I hope this video will inspire us all to stop hate and give us the social courage to stand up to bullies.

“A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back – but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you.”–Marian Wright Edelman

Klassy Kobe’s Queer Crime

14 Apr

Homophobic Bigot

Thank you Jennifer Lockett for inspiring this story.  Kobe Bryant, my what a charmer.  I suppose his next endorsement will be as the Orange Juice King with his partner in crime, Anita Bryant. Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for his emotional outburst of “f**king f**got,” after getting a technical foul during the game. What is most disturbing to me is not that he got emotional, but that the word faggot came right to mind as an appropriate word to use.  The fine means nothing to Bryant–it is pocket change at best. I would like to know what Nike is planning on doing? Nike, I welcome a response from any of your employees as to whether you will retain Bryant as an endorser of your products.  I hope the Lakers and Nike both do the right thing and dismiss Bryant.  How pathetic that we have people looking up to sports stars that possess great influence such as Bryant, but we don’t recognize our do-gooders that work to make the world a better place, such as our teachers.  Click here to see the full article.

Wednesday Word of the Week: March 9

9 Mar

The Face of Profanity

This week’s word is: PROFANITY

Language that is offensive because it is rude or shows a lack of respect for God or religious beliefs – Macmillan Dictionary Online

One of the hottest news topics over the past week was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Snyder v. Phelps. In a rare display of unity (other than Justice Alito, whose contempt for the Phelps family’s behavior created a resonant dissent), the Court ruled in favor of the members of the horrific bigot cult known as the Westboro Baptist Church. For anyone with a sense of humanity who is also an ardent supporter of free speech, this is an agonizing dilemma.

As we’ve noted on this blog before, free speech is a bedrock principle of this country and even people with distasteful messages have that right. From a strictly legalistic perspective, relying on significant precedent, Phelps seemed the most likely victor in this case. As Salon.com noted, however, there is an interesting, debatable point in the central argument put forward by Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion:

“The protest was not unruly. There was no shouting, profanity or violence.”

Westboro protests are notorious for adhering to the letter of the law. It is true that they do not shout (anymore) or practice physical violence. They also follow any local guidelines about protest and assembly assiduously. So far, so good. But no “profanity” in their protest? That is highly debatable.

Westboro is also notorious for signs that state baldly “God Hates Fags” or that bear cartoon depictions of anal sex (usually with the universal “no” sign of the red circle with a slash.) That is certainly rude and disrespectful. It is fairly clear from the majority opinion that the use of the word “profanity” really activates one of the slipperiest areas of free speech, that of OBSCENITY

Indecency, lewdness, or offensiveness in behavior, expression, or appearance. – American Heritage Dictionary Online

Obscenity is often not protected under the First Amendment. Are Phelps’ signs obscene? The Salon.com article does a good job of analyzing the legal issues here, and the most probable answer is “not quite” since courts tend to put pretty narrow walls around free speech exceptions. Enough uncertainty exists, however, that local jurisdictions wanting to put tighter controls on certain kinds of protests could probably construct laws that would restrict Phelpsian hate speech while not violating the First Amendment.

Freedom is tricky, and speech is one of its trickiest elements. There are clear exceptions (such as speech while on the job) and there are muddy areas like Westboro’s technically legal and morally abhorrent actions.  It is interesting to note the somewhat counterintuitive reactions to the decision. Former Phelps counter-protestor Romaine Patterson wrote a wonderful editorial supporting the decision. Some strict constructionists on the Far Right, however, have reacted against the ruling, typically lacking any sense of history or irony. NOM’s odious Maggie Gallagher rails against a ruling protecting hate speech, even though she is a regular practitioner of such speech. The perpetually confused half-governor Sarah Palin blasts the majority opinion and then backpedals confusingly.

In the end, I am deeply torn by this decision. I’m grateful that a conservative court did not take advantage of this situation to chip away at free speech. I truly believe that we must protect everyone’s speech or the freedom is illusory. Nevertheless, I find Westboro so repellent that any ruling which supports their actions – even tangentially – makes me ill.

Taking solace in the knowledge that democracy is hard, I’ll offer one word for Phelps and his ilk that is much less slippery than “profanity” or “obscenity”…

Extremely unpleasant or offensive – Macmillan Dictionary Online

REPUGNANT.

Oglethorpe Community Thwarts Hate From Matthew Franck

8 Mar

Bravo, OU Students

As expressed in my article, Oglethorpe University: Not Safe for LGBT Students (?), I have some wonderful news to report from TSM Correspondent, Jonelle Thomas.  Here is Thomas’ report:

As I approached the Emerson Student Center on Monday, 07 March 2011–the afternoon of the much ballyhooed Dr. Matthew J. Franck lecture–I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  After reading some of Franck’s prior writings, I was struggling with the idea of remaining as free from pre-judgments as possible.  Even the title of the talk, however “Charging Hate in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate: How to Stop an Argument You’re Losing and Endanger Freedom While You’re At It” made this effort very challenging.

I entered the lecture room and settled into a seat in the back row and watched the room began to fill with what would ultimately be approximately 120 attendees.  Of these attendees, roughly a third wore some symbol of support for LGBT equality.  A man appearing to be in his 60s, sat next to me, leaned in with a confused expression and asked, “What does all the purple mean?”  I told him it was being worn to express support for LGBT equality.  He responded, “So, I guess if they’re wearing purple and a rainbow sticker, it means they’re twice as gay?”  I said, “Or at least twice as supportive.”

The event began with Dr. Brad Smith introducing this lecture as the first in a series of four, which collectively fall under the heading “Contemporary Constitutional Controversies”.  In his introduction, Dr. Smith was warm and welcoming and thanked the audience for their presence (a large turn-out by Oglethorpe’s standards).  He then lamented the current polarization of American politics.  He asserted that for one to successfully engage in a meaningful political argument with another whose views differ, a person has to be able to know and understand the argument of the other side.

As Franck approached the podium, I felt a spark of hope that this desire for mutual respect, expressed by Dr. Smith, would be in evidence during Matthew Franck’s lecture.

Alas, my hope was short-lived.

Throughout the lecture, I found Franck’s demeanor to be smug and condescending.  As he espoused his views on the harmful nature of homosexual marriage, virtually everything about Franck’s demeanor smacked of the contempt in which he seems to hold the homosexual community.  He repeatedly asked the audience to “try to follow my logic, if you can”, as he listed his grievances with arguments supporting gay marriage.  He gave multiple examples of how people who (by their own admission) believe “it is not okay” to be gay are facing “discrimination” by the “despotism of secularists”. He even freely admitted that Christians (including himself) believe themselves to be better able to decide moral arguments than those “without faith”.  He simultaneously expressed sadness at the increased rights being experienced by gays and indignantly insisted that the Christian majority in this country would not be “swayed” into changing its mind and accepting equality.

After several minutes of these lamentations, he concluded his lecture and began to take questions from the audience.

The question-and-answer portion of the event began with a respectful exchange of ideas.  I was very pleased and proud to see Oglethorpe’s students asking thoughtful and provoking questions, respectfully challenging some of Dr. Franck’s assertions.  As the questions continued, however, and Dr. Franck became increasingly less adept at dismissing them, he began alternating between folding his arms across his chest, responding dismissively without addressing the question being asked, or just snickering at the questions, before addressing a different questioner.

Throughout this question-and-answer period, Dr. Franck insisted he had “won” the argument he came to present (an insistence he never bothered to explain) and repeatedly asserted that Catholics (such as himself) were being discriminated against because of their “defense of traditional marriage”.  In a condescendingly “magnanimous” gesture, he said he would be willing to “consider” civil unions on a federal level, as long as threesomes, “octos” (his expression) and platonic relatives were included in the definition of such unions. Even in this discussion of equal legal rights, Dr. Franck managed to make clear the contempt in which he holds the LGBT community.  He responded with derision to the well-researched and clearly-articulated counter-arguments presented by Oglethorpe’s students.  Ultimately, after a student repeatedly pressed him as to the exact nature of his objection to homosexual marriage, the only response he could muster, was that marriage is an institution that “was never supposed” to include homosexuals.  This was a very weak response from someone supposedly well-versed in the details of constitutional law.

Contrary to the opening words of Dr. Brad Smith, Franck seemed to have very little experience engaging in substantive political conversations with those who disagree with him, judging from the ultimately petulant nature with which he responded to his questioners.  Even worse, he appeared to be completely obtuse to the effect his arms-length qualified “approval of gays” has on the lives and civil rights of others, who struggle daily to be treated with a small measure of the respect Franck seemed to demand from his audience.

TSM Correspondent: Jonelle Thomas

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