Good Kids Are Worse
When I blog, I usually blog about books or the lighter side of things. I’d like to take a moment, tho, and comment on the recent suicide of Tyler Clementi, the gay college student who was recorded by his roommate having sex. I’m not going to discuss the dynamics of being a gay teen—others are doing that. It’s the support and defense of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei---the two students involved in the recording—that I want to address.
When you hear about bullying in school, what image arises for you? The muscled boy known for getting into fights? The kids in that class for underachievers? The antisocial tough girl who doesn’t take crap from anyone?
Yeah, bullies are in those groups. When you are a target of bullying, those are the kids you naturally avoid. They wear their attitude on their sleeves. You know by their reputation—and likely your own personal experience—what will happen if you go near them or find yourself accidently trapped alone with them.
When one of these “usual suspects” gets accused of bullying, the victim at least has a fighting chance that something will be done about it. After all, these are “bad” kids, troublemakers, problem kids. They’ve probably had previous run-ins with adults that have nothing to do with bullying other kids. The problem with these kids is isolated and individual. They buck the system, defy authority, resist conformity. They are “other,” easily identified, easily accusable, easily punished.
They aren’t the only bullies. They’re not even the worst ones.
The worst bullies are the so-called “good kids”—the sports players, the cheerleaders, the popular cliques. The kids who have an edge with teachers and coaches and parents because they’re smart or sociable or athletically talented.
Why are they worse? Because they're excused from their behavior.
Look what’s happening with Ravi and Wei. The first thing out of the mouths of parents, friends and supportive administrators is that they are “good kids,” they didn’t mean anything. People attacking them are “unfair,” “over-reacting,” “pushing an agenda.”
Every fat kid, every nerd, every minority kid, every unattractive kid, every quiet kid, every smart kid, every “slow” kid, every gay boy, every poor kid, every lesbian girl, every nonathletic kid, have heard this story before.
The “good kids” didn’t mean it.
The “good kids” would never do that.
The “good kids” are just being kids.
The “good kids” were provoked.
The victim had a history.
The victim asked for it.
The victim had problems.
The victim should have known better.
Dharun Ravi recorded two people having sex and broadcast it on the internet to humiliate his roommate. Read that sentence again. Now compare with this sentence: “He’s a good kid.”
Molly Wei, who allegedly didn’t record anything or post messages encouraging people to watch the video, sat and watched her friend record two people having sex, upload it online and encourage other friends to watch in order to humiliate someone and didn't even think to say stop it. Now compare with this sentence: “She’s a good kid.”
Ask a gay kid who he’s more afraid of: the school drug dealer with a reputation for fighting or the popular football player who ridicules him for being gay. Ask an overweight girl who she’s more afraid of: the tough girl who couldn’t care less about her existence or the popular cheerleader who takes every opportunity to tell her she’s fat.
People are upset Tyler Clementi is dead. You know what? It’s easy to have sympathy for a dead kid. What’s not easy is recognizing the living kids who are going through the same humiliations as Tyler Clementi right now at the hands of other “good kids”—and their friends, parents, administrators and, yes, religious leaders who have their backs.
After all, they’re good kids.