gay-bashing and class

rayrena rayrena at
Tue Oct 20 10:55:32 PDT 1998

>>LARAMIE, Wyo. -- Matthew Shepard went to high school in Switzerland. He
>>spoke three languages and had traveled the world. He was raised in a family
>>made comfortable by his father's job in a multinational oil company. At the
>>University of Wyoming, he was studying political science. [etc]

When this was first posted to the list, I thought it an interesting news item: A spin on conventional wisdom, and good information (for me) on the (alleged) murderer's social and economic background. Seemed like a valuable addition to the debate about this incident. Then I had to ask myself: Since when did AP start concerning themselves with classist debate? When was the last time they, or any of the major new sources, cast the two sides of a crime in a classist light? Why have they started now? What do they have to gain from this? I think part of the answer can be found in Doug's post:

>I'm all for exploring the relations between class and homophobia, but this
>is just too congruent with the bigots' argument that same-sexers are a
>privileged decadent stratum, a point of view shared by the Christian right
>and certain purist "Marxist" sects like Avakian's RCP.

But there is another, to my mind more chilling, possible interpretation: That lower/working-class people are all redneck, fag-hating thugs. I'm not sure that this interpretation would be as common as Doug's, but I could certainly see certain upper-middle-class outraged liberals falling into that trap. I personally know several such people whose estimation of the working class and the poor is that they are unenlightned (no, I didnt call these people "friends"). My fear is that irresponsible news reports like this might further the cosmopolitan liberals' misunderstanding, thus increasing the class divide on their end. Brrrr. It scares me...

Last night in NYC there was an impromptu march down Fifth Avenue to protest Matthew Shepard's murder. I think it great that people felt strongly enough about the murder to shut down a good chunk of Manhattan for several hours and to make their voices heard. But I have one problem: The demand of the protestors was that a hate-crimes bill be passed by the state. I am against this. I don't think we need to give our brutal, ineffective criminal justice system any more power than it alrdeay has. Neither do I believe that giving people harsher sentences for these crimes is going to solve the problem. I oppose the death penalty and long prison sentences across the board, so as outraged as I am by this murder, and hate-inspired crimes in general, I can't support passage of this bill. There needs to be another way. Hate crimes are a societal problem, and attacking them the same way we attack every other problem--ie, with tougher laws--is not only too easy but completely ineffective, as the long, sorry history of our criminal justice system shows. And I think it is hypocritical of liberals who are against things like the death penalty, mandatory minimums etc, to support a hate crimes bill. Unfortunatley, I am hearing it much too often recently.


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