Siding with hate: Michael L. Brown


In February of 2008, 15-year-old Lawrence King was killed at E.O. Green Junior High School by his classmate Brandon McInerney. He was shot in the back of the head at point-blank range in the middle of a computer lab full of students, and then shot again as he lay on the ground. Lawrence had often been bullied by other boys for being openly gay, and Brandon had been teasing him for weeks. Lawrence responded by flirting with him. Brandon invited his friends to gang up and attack Lawrence, but none of them took an interest, so Brandon announced that he was going to get a gun and shoot him.

Several months after the shooting, Brandon told a psychologist that he was driven to kill Lawrence because he was insulted by his advances and because he wore makeup and high heels at school. On the day of the shooting, Brandon claimed to have had second thoughts about it, until he overheard Lawrence claiming to have changed his name to Leticia. The psychologist testified that this caused Brandon to enter a “dissociative state” for the duration of the killing. A mistrial was recently declared after jurors couldn’t agree on whether to charge Brandon with first-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.

In a case like this that so exemplifies the defense strategy of blaming gay victims, even children, for provoking their own death, it’s no surprise that those who bristle at the very idea of gay youth would be desperately searching for a way to twist this to their own ends. And Christian commentator Michael L. Brown has seized this opportunity in the most vulgar way imaginable.

In a column on the American Family Association’s news site, Brown tries to blame just about everyone except for the murderer. Instead, he blames the school because they didn’t stop Lawrence from wearing makeup, which would have been a violation of California’s anti-discrimination laws. He blames gay people for opposing “any form of counseling that does not affirm homosexuality”, as if that would have been even remotely helpful here. He blames gay-straight alliances for allowing students to identify as gay “without their parent’s knowledge”. I didn’t know anyone needed their parents’ permission to have a sexual orientation. I’m pretty sure that’s not how this works.

But most of all, he blames gay rights groups for supporting gay students and encouraging them to be themselves in an environment that’s potentially dangerous to them. According to Brown, they should be telling these students to live in secrecy for their own protection during the entire time they’re in school. You know, it takes some real effort to miss the point so badly. Is this how we address bullying and harassment in schools now? By making the victims responsible for concealing themselves, and letting fear and violence prevail unchallenged?

If this wasn’t about the harassment of minorities, no one would even entertain such an insulting idea. If schools were plagued by anti-Christian violence, would we see Michael L. Brown blaming Christians themselves for working to make schools safe for Christian students and encouraging them to stand up for their rights? Would Christians be at fault for allowing students to wear crosses at school and identify as openly Christian? Would he tell these students they should just keep it a secret for the duration of their youth?

And yet gay rights groups are now expected to be complicit in the silencing, erasure, and closeting of gay students, for no reason other than to placate those who despise them. They’re supposed to fall back and appease these threats instead of fighting for a learning environment that’s safe for every student. No one could possibly believe this is an effective, responsible, ethical or humane way to address any kind of bullying.

Unless, of course, you don’t think the harassment of gay students is something to fight against. Unless you think the goal of reducing bullying is somehow compatible with having counselors tell students that their gay classmates are sexually disordered deviants who are acting contrary to God himself. Unless you think that not committing violence against gay people is simply too much to ask of everyone else, and their victims should be expected to pay the price. Unless you lack any genuine concern for students who just want to go to school without being in danger every day. Unless you’re a miserable, hopeless wretch with a Bible for a heart!

Anyone who thinks this is a viable solution must not realize that this has been tried before. Gay people have had to stay closeted for centuries simply for their own safety, and this did absolutely nothing to eliminate the hatred that put them in danger. That wasn’t good for anyone. But when being gay didn’t have to be a secret anymore, that started changing. People who personally know someone who’s gay are much more likely to have positive attitudes, and schools that support their gay students and specifically prohibit anti-gay bullying are safer as a result.

We don’t need secrecy to be safe, and no child should have to live with the terrible bargain of fear that forces them into hiding. Yet that is what Brown demands of them when he asks that we do nothing. There is a better way, and it’s not hard to see that the problem lies with the bullies rather than their victims. So why not start acting like it? When students are being harassed, attacked and even killed for being gay, the last thing we need is more of the same. And if your first thought after the murder of a gay student is that they shouldn’t have been so gay, what the hell is wrong with you?

Comments

  1. says

    look what this horrid woman says:
    Jeanette Victoria · Top Commenter · CSUN
    Bulling is as old ad time. It’s not nice but it happens. Encouraging young boy to dress as a girl and to be in your face sexuality is asking for trouble. Children are not emotionally equipped to handle that kind of deviancy. This is simple commonsense. Unfortunately there seems to a devoid of common sense these days.
    Reply · 9 · Like · September 9 at 3:50pm
    http://www.facebook.com/jeanette.victoria

  2. Me says

    Does this mean we can kill Christians because they make us feel uncomfortable? GET BACK IN THE CLOSET RELIGIOUS FREAKS!!! You don’t belong in the general population!!!

  3. caravan says

    If that kid hates gay sexual advances, wait till he gets to prison! As a homophobe, he’d have been better off in a relationship with the kid he tormented and shot.

  4. Someone says

    This is terrible… Seriously, killing a boy because he wear high heels and dresses and because he’s gay??. It may seem strange because it’s not common, but killing someone! If you think about killing someone for something like that, then something obviously wrong. Good fucking thing Brendon in prison, he more than likely wouldn’t be able to function in the real world, if he’s killing someone over something like that, esp. 2011.

  5. Jenna Satterfield says

    I have to side with Lawrence King’s father, he said that Brandon Mc Inerney did not recieve enough time in prison for killing Lawrence. 21 years with no time off for good behavior is not long enough. The real irony is that Lawrence’s mother, Dawn King, asked the school to try to contain her son’s behavior. I only know that there have been too many lives lost to the hate that seems to grow and fester in the world. Personally I have children were I live that call me every name in the book, because I’m transgender. This culture of hate has to stop! To any one who is gay and being bullied, remember that you are stronger than the bully. You have the strength to be yourself and not follow the crowd. Keep that strength and grow to be great.

  6. Rebekah says

    That poor boy. How could someone have the audacity to blame the victim in this situation and why didn’t the kids teachers try to stop the bullying or be able to tell it was escalating to that level?

    Lawrence sounds like he was a brave young person. I couldn’t have come out at fourteen, it took serious guts. The tragedy here is not only the damage that has been done but also the fact that someone who is bold enough to stand up to prejudice has been erased from life, we need more people like Lawrence but how many more murders are there going to have to be before others can accept them.

  7. Gregory says

    Such a tragedy. Even worse that ZJ completely distorts the article Brown. How exactly did “Brown [try] to blame just about everyone except for the murderer” when he says in the second paragraph “Of course, there is only one real killer, Brandon McInerney, just 14 years old at the time of shooting. He confessed to killing Larry in cold blood in full view of his classmates.”

    ZJ didn’t even attempt to mention anymore of the article than what ZJ heard, what about the sexual harassment and gossip that was said to have occurred? Is that acceptable in any circumstances? Larry was clearly troubled with a very difficult life and while there is no excuse for his killing, its not hateful or cruel to say that he is not completely innocent. Did he do anything deserving of death? NO. But did he do things that could provoke anger, hatred, violence? Maybe. Were one of those things being gay? NO.

    Here’s an interesting quote from the article: “Some of the teachers in Larry’s school, along with his adoptive father, specifically accused former assistant principal Joy Epstein, an open lesbian, of encouraging Larry’s flamboyant behavior in order to promote her “agenda.” Picture this, a child with a troubled history goes around flirting and sexually harassing other boys in his school, teachers even mention that his behavior is disruptive (not because he is gay) and then, if true, he is encouraged to continue in this behavior by the assistant principal. Imagine if Larry were heterosexual and were sexually harassing girls this wouldn’t even be a story because it would have been addressed from the very start. But it seems that because of Larry’s sexual orientation this behavior was encouraged and the outcome of this “protection” that homosexual advocates have built in schools lead to the killing of the very child they claim they want to protect.

    To end Brown wraps up with another clear statement about who is to be blamed first and foremost: “It is true that Brandon McInerney murdered Larry King in cold blood, but gay activism is complicit in his death.”

    It’s unfortunate that we can’t even have a conversation because of the biases and prejudices that are held on both sides of the homosexuality debate. It’s also terribly true that things like this will continue to occur until we can take an honest look at how people who disagree can get along despite disagreement. I’m not naive enough to think that ZJ would be willing to do such a thing but it would be impressive if it were.

  8. says

    “Of course, there is only one real killer, Brandon McInerney, just 14 years old at the time of shooting. He confessed to killing Larry in cold blood in full view of his classmates.”

    He could have just ended it there; there is no need for any sort of “but” after that unless he also intends to blame others.

    Did he do anything deserving of death? NO. But

    And if he did nothing deserving of death, you don’t need to put a “but” there – except you think others are to blame, even as you putatively acknowledge he did nothing deserving of death.

    Imagine if Larry were heterosexual and were sexually harassing girls this wouldn’t even be a story because it would have been addressed from the very start.

    Imagine if Larry were a girl. Would people like you and Michael Brown still be spinning all these excuses for why McInerney shot him and why he had it coming and why straight people are “complicit in his death”? You say this isn’t about him being gay. It is. Were these prior interactions heterosexual in nature, it would reframe the entire event. Yet because he’s gay, the floodgates are opened to all manner of victim-blaming. Again, if you agree that he didn’t deserve to die, just leave it at that. Nothing more needs to be said.

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