Saturday, February 23, 2008

Remembering Young Lawrence King

This feels strange to blog about during the shallow-in-comparison posts of our trip to Florida, but I can't help but write about it.

Today when I read my New York Times online as I do daily, I read the news about the 15-year-old student who was killed on February 12 in Oxnard, California. Lawrence King had recently identified himself in school as gay and had begun wearing makeup, nail polish, and high heels to school. A 14-year-old classmate, Brandon McInerny, walked into his science class and shot him in the head.

We saw and read just a bit of news while we were in Florida (mostly via USA Today), so perhaps that's why we missed it. The news might have been overshadowed by the college shooting a few days later, but I still marvel at the lack of press coverage I have seen.

This was not Matthew Shepard country--this was close to Malibu, California, in a liberal community. Two days later, McInerny was charged with premeditated murder, firearm use, and a hate crime.

It's been 10 years since Matthew Shepard was killed in 1998. The Wyoming House of Representatives has not yet been able to pass hate crimes legislation, and although there is a federal hate crimes bill in the U.S. Congress, it still has not passed. However, legislation will punish these crimes, but not necessarily prevent them from occurring in the first place.

According to this article in The Santa Barbara Independent about the importance of teaching tolerance and acceptance in the schools, 97 percent of all youth report hearing anti-gay remarks in public schools. I was chagrined to read in a recent book, which I loved in every other way (Eat, Pray, Love) the otherwise very progressive author and an Indonesian friend speak in ghetto slang with each other, hurling various insults about each others' mothers, and also calling each other "homo" in the same way others might use the word "ho" (which I also abhor). How much does the easy acceptance of these insults in our schools contribute to the climate of hate that leads to these types of assaults and killings? Children often learn hate from their parents, so I also question what this young man learned at home.

The good news about this tragedy is that the Oxnard community came together united to protest this tragic death and to call for an environment of acceptance and support. Since his murder, there have been 30 candlelight vigils around the country in his honor. It just seems that I should have heard about this before now, 11 days after the fact. It troubles me deeply that I'm not hearing more people or press outlets talk about it.

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