Kathryn Knott is Our Child

Fired in the kiln of inequality, elitism, prejudice, consumerism and fear, Kathryn Knott is just what America’s schools, media and values create.

Kathryn Knott is the 24-year-old young woman who, along with companions Philip Williams, 24, and Kevin Harrigan, 26, has been charged with the brutal beating of two young gay men in Philadelphia on September 11, 2014.  The three were part of a much larger group of party-goers (accounts have the swarm numbering somewhere between ten and fifteen) who witnesses say surrounded the young men, intimidating them, calling out homophobic slurs and ultimately beating them so badly that they had to be rushed to a hospital.  There was so much blood at the scene, one of the policemen said he thought someone had been shot.  One of the men still has his jaw wired shut, and suffered multiple broken bones in his face.  I think it’s safe to say that these young men, the victims of this crime, will never be the same again; not only are the physical injuries likely to be permanent, but the emotional scares of such trauma are lifelong.

Only these three members of the group have been charged so far, and there is no word yet whether the rest of this swarm will be arrested.  The three have been charged with two counts each of aggravated assault, simple assault, conspiracy and reckless endangerment.  They have not been charged with a hate crime, despite the number of witnesses who heard homophobic slurs being screamed while the beatings went on.

Pennsylvania does not include LGBT attacks in its hate crime laws, something that members of our State legislature have been trying to change for several years. It’s because of our lax laws in this area that many of us here in Philadelphia harbor a hope that the U.S. Attorney will become involved, and will levy hate crime charges at the federal level against these people.  This is likely a fear of the attorneys for the trio, since they are relentless in their refutation that this attack was motivated by homophobia.  They are claiming that their clients acted in “self defense”, a claim both sadly typical and absolutely despicable.  While self-defense is a ludicrous claim, these people did act in defense of a reprehensible system of prejudice and hatred.

Photo from Kathryn Knott's Twitter feed, @kathryn_knott, 4/28/2013
Photo from Kathryn Knott’s Twitter feed, @kathryn_knott, 4/28/2013

The Twitter feed of Kathryn Knott has been widely shared, in the Twittersphere, on Facebook and elsewhere.  The comments and photos show a young woman whose homophobic comments are rampant, whose habits of rabid consumerism and entitlement are unapologetic, and whose love of excessive drinking seems out of control.

She is my child.  No, I am not her biological mother.  I believe that my own beloved children are far and away more decent, loving, caring and responsible young adults.  But, don’t we all want to believe that of our children?  The reality is that Kathryn Knott is OUR child.  She is the poster child of the kind of people born and raised in America.  Fired in the kiln of inequality, elitism, prejudice, consumerism and fear, she is just what America’s schools, media and values create.  I’m sure she’ll have a book deal shortly.  It won’t be long before she’s an anchor on Fox News.

I’m not blaming the schools.  I’m an educator who has been tirelessly (well, okay, sometimes I get damned tired) fighting to get rid of the corporatism that’s taken over our system of education.  But it is precisely this value system that has found its way into our schools which carries some of the guilt. Many of the dozen or so party-goers who were involved in this crime are graduates of the same Catholic high school, Archbishop Wood, in Bucks County, PA.  Many have rushed to condemn the school for what is assumed to be homophobic teaching; the school rushed just as quickly to distance itself from the event, going so far as terminating the employment of one of the young men of the group, who was a part-time coach for the school.  They were quick to say – probably through the diocese PR offices – that their values would never endorse such violence and hatred.

I call bullshit.

Not on the Catholic school separately – but on this school as an example of the kinds of misinformation, half-truths and fear of the “other” that far too many of our schools couch in their curriculum.   I can hear the screams as I write this. So let me expand my point: our schools are in disarray, they are far and away one of the best examples of the gap between the haves and have-nots in our country.  Schools teach little beyond conformity, fear and obedience to power. Educators who valiantly try to do more have a hard time of it.

Illustration from the Youth Justice Coalition

The “worst” of our schools – often the inner city schools in the poorest neighborhoods – offer little beyond the warehousing of students, exhausted and heart-broken teachers, a paucity of support, programs or hope. Far too often they are part of the school-to-prison pipeline that is big business in America.  The “best” of our schools – often the very expensive private schools – are filled with a majority of white, upper-middle-class children – and their concerns have more to do with pure academic achievement and the pipeline to which they belong – that pipeline of moving elite children through their privileged childhoods into elite universities and, ultimately, into their pampered and privileged adulthoods.

Aside from a few school programs that provide such children opportunities to “volunteer” or “explore” the lives of the less blessed, there is little discussion about the overall system of inequality that maintains America’s growing number of needy human beings.  I am NOT saying that children from more privileged backgrounds don’t work hard, don’t have stress and worry about their futures, or that the parents of such children are horrible, spoiled, wicked people.  What I am saying is that there are many children outside that circle of privilege who work hard under much more difficult conditions, whose stresses include dangerous neighborhoods, exposure to crime and misery, homelessness, food insecurity.  They will have little chance to see the full flower of success, despite their effort and potential.  There are children whose “differences” – whether they are learning differences, physical handicaps, or racial/religious/sexual orientation differences – cause them to be seen and treated as outsiders – often unwanted, reviled outsiders – by those who are in positions of greater privilege.   These differences are often carried through life as well, labeling, restricting, intimidating innocent people whose “crime” is simply being who they are, or being born where they were born.  Children excluded from the circle of privilege are too often judged and blamed by those inside as being somehow lesser than, deserving of contempt and ridicule.

Our schools don’t do enough to shine a light on the severe damage caused by such inequalities, or on the ways in which we ostracize “others”.  There is little discussion about the kind of cruelties that move through social relationships in our communities.  And lest anyone think that I am saying that schools have the lion’s share of responsibility in helping our youth understand these things – I am NOT.  I am saying that as part of the larger system, our schools are not functioning in a way that includes anywhere near enough learning about diversity, about community, about issues of inequality.  Extending that thought is the sad truth that the equality gap makes is fully impossible to have schools which ARE diverse, which provide opportunities equally.  The mere fact that our kids have to “learn” about diversity means that our equality issues continue to be systemic and unchanging.  So, you have a school like Archbishop Wood, in a primarily white area in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where students are not exposed to a larger world, or to larger truths beyond their own kinds of lives. They live in a bubble.  The values taught include the harsh, often ill-informed judgments about those who are different from them  – and all you have to do is read some of the speeches of Rick Santorum to know that there is a disturbing amount of classism, as well as homophobia and anti-gay teaching that goes on in Catholic schools, all in the name of religion.  And, again, lest anyone think this is Catholic-bashing, I will say that I was raised as an Episcopalian – a denomination proud of its anti-war, progressive stances, which has been all but torn apart in the last decade over issues about ordination of homosexuals in the Episcopal church.  Christianity in general does a pretty rotten job here.

Given the age of these three individuals, I would guess (but haven’t yet confirmed) that they have also graduated from college.  So, let’s expand this discussion just a bit to include the kind of job universities do these days in teaching more than what is “marketable” or “practical” as measured by a business-only culture.  It is unlikely that many of our college-age children are regularly challenged to explore issues of ethics, of courtesy, or of morality in the larger sense — not in today’s university classroom.   The kinds of subjects which require such exploration – largely the Liberal Arts, the Humanities, the Arts, the Social Sciences – are devalued in what Henry Giroux has termed the Neoliberal University.  The percentage of students majoring in such studies continues to plummet, while the majority of students jam themselves into classes to study marketing, business, PR, advertising, finance.

What hope is there that their childhood value systems will be challenged, or that their horizons will be broadened by a rigorous, exploratory university experience?

As someone who has dedicated much of my life to teaching at the university level, and who has witnessed corporate dementia taking over what used to be an institution of “higher learning”, I must be excused if I laugh sadly and disdainfully at my own question.  Graduates of our universities are not more fully developed humans; too often they are simply more indebted, more frightened, older but no wiser.

I repeat my point, Kathryn Knott and her two male compatriots are products of the typical American schooling system.

What about the media?  What values are being hammered into our children from the time they are sitting, watching cartoons in their footy pajamas?  Look at the commercials their wide and innocent eyes are absorbing.  Look at the shows they are watching. Just look at the kinds of people being venerated and admired: the Kim Kardashian of the day, the Hollywood ‘stars’, the billionaire over-consumers.  Where are the decent, heroic, sensible people?  Sit and think – really think – about the messages that are filling their immature minds.

Is it any wonder that Kathryn Knott’s Twitter feed is filled with messages about shopping and spending too much (sometimes complete with photos of her purchases), or about drinking too much and being hungover again and again, or complaining about being annoyed and inconvenienced when mom and dad give her a check instead of cash?  The narrowness of a life built on consumerism, hedonism and intense dislike of the “other” is not the exception in America.  It IS life in America.

Who among us has not absorbed messages of prejudice or fear, messages of consumerism, a value system so skewed that those most successful are often the country’s most outrageous yet celebrated socio- and psychopaths?

Now to the obvious question:  what about family, about parents?  Shouldn’t they bear the largest portion of responsibility for creating such children?  Of course there is family responsibility.  But what can American parents give beyond their own rarely examined values?  If these young people are in their mid-twenties, that puts most of their parents in their mid-40s, born just before the Reagan revolution, a time when any remnants of our older, more socially conscious values were shredded. Communism “lost” with the breakup of the Soviet Union, and these parents watched, as youths themselves, as capitalism was declared the winner, the ONLY way of life for the world.  They watched as Reagan destroyed unions, as Thatcherism burned its way through the UK economic system.  In 2014, we see the dire results of their actions.  But during the years when those 40-something parents were raising these 20-something children, unfettered-capitalism-all-the-time was the biggest, best and noisiest party in town.  Such parents might be suffering a hangover of their own right about now, but it is too late to impact the ways in which their children were raised.

Kathryn Knott is a blonde, blue-eyed poster child for all of it. She is the product of our deeply unequal society, our deeply polarized society – a society kept simultaneously in a constant state of war-readiness and fear, yet encouraged endlessly  to “go shopping”.  This is the world that Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud and “father of American PR” helped to create.  He almost single-handedly helped to turn America from a “needs-based” to a “wants-based” society, working with Madison Avenue to turn active, thinking citizens into passive, mindless consumers.  He simultaneously worked with the Pentagon and military-industrial powers to create fear and consent for the many wars of aggression fought to expand American and corporate empire around the world. His methods on both counts are still used today – because they continue to be wildly successful. Americans are terrified, manic mall-shoppers, taking occasional breaks to gulp down our anesthetizing substance of choice whenever we can.

It’s not at all surprising that a night out for such typical young Americans as Kathryn and her friends included new clothes, expensive food, copious alcohol, and some near-ecstatic frenzied violence directed at people who were unlike them.  It pretty much sums up the worst of what we are as a society.

Oh, and of course, the aftermath wouldn’t be complete without lawyering up.  Enter the expensive attorneys, the endless denial and disavowal of accusations made against the accused, and I predict, a legal defense that attempts to paint these three as “misunderstood”, “innocent”, “normal kids” – kids whose lives are too valuable to be ruined by harsh punishment. They are martyrs to a value system that few can bear to look straight in the eye, which is precisely why it hasn’t been furiously dismantled.

If we steel ourselves and look long and hard, it is impossible to misunderstand just who these young adults are, and what shaped and created them.  They are not innocent, but neither are we.  The horrifying fact that they are “normal kids” is all the proof we need.

Editor’s Note: Check out more from Debra Leigh Scott at Debra Leigh Says

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38 Comments on Kathryn Knott is Our Child

  1. Excuse me, but what bubble are you telling me that I live in, as a person who can basically spit on Archbishop Wood High School from my bedroom window? Have you ever been to Warminster, not just Bucks County in general? Are you aware that just because my neighbors are one color it does not mean that down the road from me there are neighborhoods that are made of different colors? Bucks Landing? The Muse? Warminster Heights? Have you heard of them? Probably not, because you’re making broad generalizations about a place and people that you have not taken the time to learn about yourself. Low income neighborhoods with almost as little opportunity as the inner cities. Warminster is not Chalfont, where Chief Knott works. I grew up here and never lived with a sense of entitlement. My mother worked three jobs when my brother and I were children in order to keep a roof over our heads. Now, my brother is studying to be a doctor at NYU and I am about to graduate from Temple with a degree in public relations. Kathryn Knott is not MY child. She may be scum of the earth, product of bad parenting, or America’s grand bureaucratic education system, but she is not my responsibility. She is one of society’s many stains.

    • Hi AJP – thanks for taking the time to comment. To answer your question, yes, I do know Bucks County – by admission, not all of it, but large areas of it. I also know Chester County and Montgomery County (which is where I raised my own children), Delaware County (which is where I grew up). I know large areas of the State of Delaware as well. You ask: “Are you aware that just because my neighbors are ONE COLOR (emphasis mine) it does not mean that down the road from me there are neighborhoods that are made of DIFFERENT COLORS (emphasis, again, mine)?” That, AJP, is precisely the point I was trying to make. That there is a greater gulf between people of different races, and a greater likelihood that there would be neighborhoods of “different colors” – but not as often a neighborhood that is equally blended racially, socio-economically, religiously. In the city, where I live now, I’m in the company of people of all socio-economic strata, all races, all religions, all sexual orientations — just by walking a few city blocks. I live and work and socialize with a circle of extremely diverse and wonderful people. The suburbs more often have isolated pockets of people of one race or another. Certain areas are wealthier than others. And, I still contend that in the counties (rather than the city) there is a higher majority of white residents than people of color. It’s less likely, too, that people growing up in these suburban areas will confront Buddhists, or Muslims, or Hindus in any significant number; they will probably not be introduced to many openly gay people, either. When I talk about a bubble, that’s what I mean. I don’t mean to indicate that ALL people in any area are wealthy (although what you say is that those in Chalfont are more likely to be, where those in Warminster are less likely — again, supporting what I say about more distinct separations), and certainly not that all people would display the kinds of behaviors Kathryn Knott has. I do mean that in areas where you find more separation of races, less diversity of economics, religion or sexual orientation, you are more apt to find prejudices that go unchallenged. Kathryn Knott must taken responsibility for her own actions. When I say she is our “child”, I don’t mean to say that she is our “responsibility”. I mean that she is a product of a society that is still far too fragmented, and a country that is desperately out of balance…..that we have to confront that. You and your brother have clearly taken responsibility for yourselves and are moving toward wonderful futures. You have every right to be proud; you are more rare than you might imagine.

      • Debra Leigh,
        Your ideas about what needs to be done to combat the sort of violence described in your article seem centered on the idea that hate and inequality can be conquered merely by somehow (via law?) forcing suburban neighborhoods to become racially and economically mixed mélanges of humanity. However, you are ignoring the fact that suburbs tend to be racially segregated by race because different ethnic groups (not only white people) tend to choose to live among people who look like they do and share similar cultural aspects. Where I live, for example, Indian people have chosen to set up a large community that has stores, restaurants and other services that appeal to their unique tastes and preferences. The same can be said of the Pakistani, Chinese, Japanese, Chaldean, Arab and, yes, African American communities. You seem to be saying that this is wrong and leads to the ignorance and violence that you are railing against. However, in a free country, people should have the right to live among people they identify with and to keep the unique aspects of their culture intact while living within their new nation, don’t you think? You seem to be arguing that all aspects of individuality must be destroyed in order to stamp out senseless acts of violence and economic inequality. What evidence do you have that such a Utopian vision a) exists ANYWHERE in the world (other parts of the world are far more segregated by culture, religion and race than we are!) or b) would certainly result in the improved world you believe that such a mixing of cultures would produce? It is all fine and good to try to hate on your own white culture for allowing such vile things to happen, but when you start saying that EVERYONE must surrender their individual identity for the good of all, I think you are suggesting an eradication of individual culture that most people would never willingly agree to inflict upon themselves. I don’t think that removing differences is the answer. The answer is education and awareness and learning to accept that the world is not a perfect place where everything is equal.

  2. That bitch is stupid and needs to be taught a lesson and all the other dudes included. Who people choose to fuck or spend their lives with is no ones fucking business. Please tell me how being gay effects straight people ? That bitch is a prime example of
    The people I have always hated and she has her parents to thank for that. I hope they all get charged and put in jail. Christin my ass ! Ha !

  3. I get what you’re is saying, but there are lots and lots of young women in their 20s who are building schools in Haiti, volunteering in underprivileged schools, raising money for cancer research, and generally helping others. I know a lot of them. They are the children of my friends, members of my church, neighbors. They’ve gone to public and parochial schools, have married and divorced parents, watched all the TV and used the internet all they wanted or had it limited. When I was 24, I was married, working full-time, paying rent, and saving for a house. I wasn’t getting drunk and counting on “dad” to bail me out. Neither are MOST people in their 20s. They have jobs they need to be at in the morning, they have classes to take, a lot of them have children of their own to take care of. This crime is so shocking because it is rare in its brutality and the seeming mob mentality of a group of clean-cut young people from the suburbs. Something went wrong with these people. Some wire got crossed. Somewhere they got the idea that they could beat other human beings until they were bleeding out on the sidewalk and there would be no consequences. If society and the schools and the broken families were such failures, these criminals would be the norm, not the anomaly. Don’t make excuses for them. They’re already making enough for themselves.

    • Hi Kuzibah. I appreciate your thoughts. I agree with you that there are many wonderful 20-somethings – I have children of my own I’m very proud of, and I see examples like those you mention in all of my university classes. What I’m talking about is exactly what you mention – that with this group of youths – white, privileged, “clean cut”, wires got crossed. My point is that they are NOT the anomaly we’d like to think. There were, by most witness accounts, about a dozen of these young people, of whom only three were charged. I do not believe that only three were active in this crime. I’ve heard whispers from insiders that, with each and every one of these people, there were expensive lawyers, some of whom succeeded in cutting deals — testimony for dropped charges sorts of deals. So what I’m trying to do is pull that lens back and say, let’s talk about the fact that this young woman is NOT individual in her behaviors, but part of a dozen or so compatriots. And then pull the lens back again to say, these are NOT the sole one dozen youths who think the way these young people do. The level of violence is shocking, yes. But it’s not isolated. Neither is the fact that most people — including former police and law professionals in Philadelphia — believe that, in the end, these young people will walk away with little to no real punishment for these crimes. They are “privileged” in their ability to pay for expensive lawyers. They are “privileged” in their ability to go out for expensive dinners and drinks, “well-dressed”. They are, it is suspected, “privileged” in that their path through the justice system will not be the same as that of a young, impoverished black youth accused of an equivalent crime. And, speaking of the justice system, there is clearly a serious problem with the number of young black men being victimized by stop and frisk laws, by beatings, by draconian mandatory charges on crimes, or….worst of all….being shot dead while innocent but black. How many more stories do we need to hear of police gunning down black boys?….police who ultimately receive little to no punishment? My attempt to discuss this gay-bashing issue was an attempt to pull that lens WAY back, to look at the inequalities, the white privilege of groups like this marauding dozen, and to say WHY? At what must we look more closely to understand just how such people exist? And just how much impunity is there for their behaviors? Their existence does NOT negate the existence of people their age doing wonderful things with their lives. It does not negate good parenting, or good community effort to create young citizens who are more socially aware and morally responsible. It’s simply to say that, as a society, we are not finished yet. We have to acknowledge that these people are NOT a singular, horrifying group, unlike any other. They got caught. There were witnesses. There was some amazing sleuthing on social media, done largely by engaged and outraged citizens, without which they might still be at large. Some of them are already off the hook — what message does that send? The three who were charged are already out on bail. It is still unclear just how “privileged” these three are, in the end, and whether or not they will face the full force of the law. My reason for writing this piece was that it might be a wake up call for citizens to see that our problem is deeper and more widespread than one group of thugs, that we have to look more broadly at these issues, and that we have to stay engaged with this particular episode to see that the lawlessness of these three does not become condoned lawlessness in a system that is unequal in its doling out of justice.

      • I work in the DA’s office and what you have “heard” about insiders cutting deals with the other people in the group is unmitigated bullshit. We charge what we can prove. Period. Ask the victims how they feel they have been treated by law enforcement before you print lies.

        • Thanks for offering that information. It is not what I’d heard, but it is somewhat comforting. I wish more details had already been offered publicly about the others; but I understand the constraints. By the way, I don’t think anybody here is attacking Philadelphia law enforcement, or the DAs office in regard to their behavior in this matter. The worries expressed here (and widely elsewhere) about the ways more privileged people experience a different kind of justice are hardly groundless. That’s a systemic issue that is a serious problem across the country. Most citizens are cynical. I hope we are proven wrong in this case.

      • As an academic, the concept of ‘white privilege’ is certainly a hot button topic for you to discuss in your classes. I’m sure your work here is an extension of that effort you make in your classrooms with your students. We all have points of view and opinions about society that we may wish could become the dominant point of view. I wonder though, have you ever stopped to consider that you have absolutely no evidence to support the idea that ‘white privilege’ is causing acts of violence such as this to happen rampantly all over our nation? If you have such evidence, please present it. I don’t believe it exists, precisely because there is no such problem. Are there white people who exhibit racist behavior living in our society? Undoubedtly. Do white people currently hold a position of dominance in our nation that has a long history? Absolutely. Is that inherently wrong or evil? I don’t happen to think so. However, you have written about these things as though they are the root cause of all that is wrong with our society. There are dominant races and groups of people in every region of the world. There currently is NO place on earth that is mixed so evenly racially and economically that you can point to it as an example of what ‘could be’ if we would only let go of our sick capitalistic system and ‘white privilege.’ Rather than attacking one group of people (ostensibly, ‘privileged’ white people)as the causative factor,why not admit that the problems we face are far more complex and will require effort on the part of ALL parties involved? You seem to be saying that white people bare a special burden to address issues such as the violence in this isolated act (again, I say, prove it is NOT isolated!). I would say that such a point of view ignores the need for people to work together to find solutions.
        I find it interesting that you keyed in on this one event as a microcosm of all that is wrong with ‘white privilege’ but have not looked closely at the rise in crime against white people in this nation being committed by people of color. Do you think such violence is justified as a reaction to ‘white privilege”? Sometimes I think that people with similar ideas to yours actually feel that way: white people deserve whatever they get, simply for being the dominant race and culture in our nation. Have you ever stopped to think about this on a wider scale? Should every dominant race or people on earth within a given region be systematically reduced to rubble simply because they are dominant in that region? Should the world be made into a place where there are NO differences of race, creed or economic level? If that is your idea of a perfect world? While I can imagine such a place, I can’t say that it would be interesting or engaging, but rather bland and, by definition, homogenous. Do you want to eat vanilla ice cream the rest of your life and wish that upon all future generations?

        • Hello Carl – thanks for sharing your point of view. First, I want to say that I never, ever expect MY point of view in a classroom to be the “dominant” point of view. The point of our class discussions is to share a variety of perspectives, and invite exploration of issues – especially complicated issues with no easy or single point of view. The article I wrote here is meant as an exploration of a specific act of violence, and those who are accused of this act. The “white privilege” conversation is a much larger and more complicated one – and was not taken on here in its entirety. I don’t support violence of any sort, no matter who is the perpetrator. What I’m saying here is that the kind of privilege we are seeing, with parents who can immediately hire expensive defense lawyers, offers a kind of protection to the accused that is not available to the poor, no matter what their race. What you offer as a solution is simplistic, and obviously unrealistic – I assume that was your intention — and it is certainly not my point that we should all be homogenized to become one color, one sort of person. Our strength is in our diversity, but that diversity will only reach its full flower of potential if we have greater equality and respect for each other.

          • Debra Leigh, I first want you to understand that I respect your position. You certainly have a right to your point of view. I am only saying with my simplistic summation of your discussion that your comments about suburban bubbles of division is itself simplistic, unrealistic and not rooted in any recognizable understanding of actual demographics. You seem to ignore the fact that many people in the suburbs are segregated because they CHOOSE to be segregated. Not everyone wants to live in the mixed world that you seem to feel is ideal – and I’m not only speaking of wealth white people here, as I have already said. There are plenty of people of all ethnicities and classes in the suburbs who have chosen to live where people like then live. I don’t think it is possible to fault white society for that. It could be a form of human nature that like wants to live with like. The truth that you may not be able to accept at the moment is that people may not want the world you feel would be ideal for them. They may not want to live among people who do not share their values, religion or cultural mores.
            You seem especially angry that these three criminals and their cohorts may have had parents who hired lawyers to help shield them from the full weight of the law. Rather than railing against ‘white privilege’ here, why don’t you attack the legal system that allows criminals to get off with bargaining instead of facing the full consequence of their behaviors? The real issue is a legal system that is corrupt and influenced by money and power. Justice is not blind right now. Perhaps it never really has been in our country or anywhere else where humans are what they are. Still, it is a system that functions above many other systems and we aren’t living with complete lawlessness. Rather than attacking a given race as the source of the trouble, why not go after the people of all races within the system who make a mockery of justice?
            I do not think that diversity cannot reach its full potential unless everyone is equal. Many would argue that such a simplistic view of the world would actually plunge the world into mediocrity and misery. In my view, diversity can reach its full potential when people of all races, sexes, creeds and orientation have equal opportunity to succeed. If in the end, we do not all enjoy equal status, some amount of that inequality must be accepted as a part of the human experience.

  4. Wow, there were a few times during this when my initial reaction was “oh God your ruining an valid important point about society with drivel like ‘She’ll be an anchor on Fox New’s'” but I kept reading. I have to say, YES, without a doubt I agree wholeheartedly. I just had a long discussion today about the effect Niki Minaj and those like her have on children. Did you know she has a children’s clothing line at Kmart? If that doesn’t blow your mind I don’t know what will. Btw her new single Anaconda isn’t about a reptile of any sort. So back to the point; thank you for writing this, and more importantly thank you for calling out the roots of the problem.

  5. This is a very challenging article, and I applaud you for the many valid points and arguments raised. I grew up in rural NY and went to college in Philadelphia and New Orleans; I graduated with a BA in 2009. I once lived in the neighborhood where this attack took place. It makes me sad because the reason I love Philadelphia so much is the diverse and wonderful culture. I work with children now in various informal settings, like at camps, community centers, and museums. I really value the opportunity to be a good role-model and teacher for kids, who are SO sponge like. I have spent some time working in classrooms in several different regions of the country and I find it so frustrating (just like I did when I was young) because the K – 12 school system is designed in just the way stated in this piece. It can be heartbreaking to talk to kids who are really cleaver and bright who have what-ever maladjustment and it ends up devastating them academically and/or socially. Forever too. I know many brilliant sensitive people who just couldn’t “calm down and conform” and because of that bad start they haven’t been able to get a firm footing ever since. Or they did calm down and conform and they now they are miserable.
    The thing that I like about this article is that by calling the problem out point blank, it adds more heat to the fire to create change. So thank you for taking the time to talk about this awful event and starting the dialogue. I believe that this is a problem that can, for a large part, be solved.

    • Thanks, Kate. I know the kind of kids you are talking about. It’s heartbreaking the way they are at-risk within the educational and legal systems simply for being unique. I spent many years involved with special education issues in my community; I saw firsthand how many children were vilified because of learning differences or other unusual qualities that didn’t fit the “program”. I also saw children pushed into so-called special education classes that were little more than holding tanks that felt (and were) punitive, negative and miserable places designed to break the minds and spirits of such children. So, thanks for your involvement and your insights in regard to this issue. It’s another way we destroy the “other”.

  6. No…. She is your child, not mine, not ours…. My mother, my neighbor, my lover, my friend. We do not, have not, and will not foster an ignorant child like this.. ever… ever! We are all free to overcome anything…. This is America.. Land of the free if you choose to be… I didn’t make a suburban, consumerist Wonderland….Radical self reliance…. Enlightenment comes from within…. There is no one to blame but oneself, no matter how hard or blind ones life is.. There is someone who had the same Life, but made much brighter and loving choices. She is not our child… I came from nothing… I created my everything…. Don’t talk about the poor like you know…. You don’t…. Some of the most amazing people on this world came from nothing…. We need people to take responsibility for themselves… So tired of hearing about privileged and poor…. Its the individual, its the soul

    • Greg,
      I so agree with what you have written here. It is dangerous to take a collectivist view of problems like hate crimes and say that they are caused by one group or another. It effectively reduces to almost nothing the concept of individual responsibility and culpability. As you eloquently point out, many poor or underprivileged people emerge from their challenges and create incredible lives for themselves and for their families. Being poor isn’t a death sentence or a guarantee of failure. In this country, the poor can raise themselves up with hard work and perseverance. I do feel that the author speaks of the poor as though she has a first hand knowledge of what the poor face in making a life for themselves. I have the strong feeling that she has no tangible first hand experience of this, but rather observes the poor from her position of ‘white privilege.’ If she is so ashamed of ‘white privilege,’ perhaps she would be willing to give up her university teaching position to a young, poor recent graduate of color who is seeking employment in an unfair world. That would be a first hand effort at leveling the playing field that she seems to want to level. The thing is, most white people who revile other white people for their ‘white privilege’ would not give up their privilege to see others benefit from their altruism. Therein lies the hypocrisy of judging a whole race of people from within: you are just as unwilling to give up your position as the next person. Does she not say to herself: “I have earned this university position, why should I give it up to a less fortunate person of color?” If she looks in the mirror and hears herself speak, that is precisely what she most likely would hear.

      • It’s interesting the assumptions you make of me as the writer of this piece. You write ” I do feel that the author speaks of the poor as though she has a first hand knowledge of what the poor face in making a life for themselves. I have the strong feeling that she has no tangible first hand experience of this, but rather observes the poor from her position of ‘white privilege.’” You couldn’t be more wrong about who I am, or what I’ve experienced. I don’t write of anything I haven’t experienced first-hand, despite the fact that I am a white woman. I have faced living in a home without heat, foreclosure, near-homelessness. And I am not ashamed of any of it — not my skin color, not my financial struggles, and certainly not my point of view. It is a perspective that has been learned through a lot of personal hardship as well as a lot of hard work to understand the bigger picture of the society in which we live.
        As for “giving up my university teaching position” – you probably have absolutely no knowledge of what it means to teach at a university. Over 75% of university professors, myself included, are hired one semester at a time, for poverty wages, and earn less than $25,000 a year – last year I earned $14,400. No benefits, no healthcare, no retirement, no job security. Any of my fellow adjuncts who might be reading this thread can support this. You can also inform yourself by some research in regard to what has happened to our profession. Like workers across many spectrums and in many occupations, what used to be a middle-class profession has been transformed into a low-wage, precarious job. I actually warn my students against going into graduate school, or considering going into teaching – because it is a fast-track to poverty and misery. It is the reason I’ve experienced poverty, despite the fact that I continue to teach. This hardly a position of “privilege” – and as far as what I’m willing to do to level the playing field: I am an educational activist. I’m co-producing a low-budget documentary about the issue called ‘Junct: The Trashing of Higher Ed. in America (2255films.com) I work to warn students about the meltdown of the university and the dangers of student debt. I work with fellow adjuncts across the country to raise awareness across the country about this labor exploitation with an eye toward not only saving our profession, but saving higher education. I resent your assumption that I hold a position of privilege, that I speak as an observer rather than an insider, or that I am a hypocrite. I have absolutely no idea into what kind of mirror you might gaze, but I have no reason to fear looking into my own.

        • I think we are talking about two different things here, Debra Leigh. You are talking about your CURRENT economic situation, which you are experiencing at least partly of your own choosing. Unless you are nearing 70 years old, you knew when you went into academia that academics (particularly in non-science, math or tech disciplines) are generally not well paid in this country. You may not have expected to be living essentially a life of poverty, but you did know there was a risk of not living an easy existence financially. If you did not know that, you did not do YOUR research. Further, if you were a tenured professor in your chosen field, you would not be speaking of being saddled with such horrible pay, but would likely be doing reasonably well, living a well protected life where your position is quite insulated and safe, regardless of job performance. So, like so many, you are having to compete in a very difficult work environment for little money. But you do so by CHOICE.

          However, those truly born into poverty (which I would guess is not you since you did not speak of it as your experience as a child or young adult before becoming a university teacher) did NOT choose poverty and yet still worked their way out of poverty into extraordinarily successful lives of affluence and power. You speak of labor exploitation, but really we are talking about the law of supply and demand. There are plenty of you to go around and not much demand for the skills that you offer or you would be one of those University Professors who goes around in a BMW and lives in a half million dollar house and has his nice home on the lake to boot (I know some of these people, too, so don’t tell me they don’t exist). It is not really accurate to call your situation one of exploitation, but rather one of unfortunate results of your own decision making. You seem to want to make a life of blaming others for your own challenging circumstances. If you are unhappy with your financial circumstances, why not seek out work that is more rewarding financially? Why attack those who have made decisions to follow career paths that have resulted in better pay and power for them? It is a fact of life that not everyone can be at the top of the pay scale. However, you can certainly choose to use your education and exceptional intelligence to promote yourself to a place where you are living much better than you currently are economically.
          Despite all of what I have said, if it is your decision to try to fight to change things from the inside, you must know that you are facing much worse than an uphill battle. You are facing massacre at the hands of an educational system that is increasingly about profit and power and less about service and development of potential. If you choose to stand in front of that tank bearing down on you, don’t do it while complaining about ‘white privilege’ and economic injustice, but do it while proving that you have a skill that is marketable and useful to the public at large. If you can’t do that, you really just don’t have much of an argument at all. As you now know, merely having a college education does not qualify you for a good life financially. You must choose a field that is profitable and then work to be the best that you can be in that field. Anything else is a denial of the systems that have been in place in this country (and now in much of the world) from the beginning. You can be indignant at what I had to say, but you can’t deny that you have artificially made yourself poor by your own hand.

          • Hello Carl, Well, this blog is trying to deal with too many issues at once. However, I want to recommend a book that is really quite old but has stuck with me all these years because it makes sense: “Blaming the Victim” by William Ryan and it is considered to be an impassioned, brilliant expose’ of middle-class ideology! It is common practice (unfortunately) for Conservatives to simply dismiss “victims” as inferior, genetically defective or morally unfit. Such an ideology comes with a belief that the person is just “born that way”. Then there is another belief that the victim “is marked” and this is an acquired stigmatization coming from the environment, eg. slums, poverty, etc. but, the defect, stigma is still located within the victim! So, now the humanitarian/liberal can address the vague social, environmental stresses which produced the defect (in the past)! All the while ignoring the continuing effect of these victimizing social forces that are happening in the “now”. So, this stance merely justifies a perverse form of social action designed to change not society but rather society’s victim! Basically, blaming the victim is a common practice on so many levels including ones you have addressed here, ie. the brutally beaten gay couple you are discussing here. I will go with Adjunct Faculty victim for now since I am one of those defective, moronic, idiots who did not see what was happening soon enough and that would be the corporatization of higher education, supply and demand, science over the arts, reduction on all levels of academics to a more or less slave status in the new ivory tower run by either a CEO or President! The stupid, ignorant, multiple degree nutball was living on a cloud somewhere for at least a decade or more, finds herself with a SHIT JOB. So the victim then goes on to blame him or herself, get it!? Just exactly what the powers that be would like ever so much to have happen! Everyone blames the victim, who blames him/herself, and the powers that be who have ripped off not only hard working, dedicated folks(I might add people who are passionate about teaching, have a love and concern for students) are now on fucking food stamps because afterall in corporate America we have a really greedy bunch 1-2% at the top who want it all. Mentality: “there are winners and there are losers”! Worse than that it is your fault that you are a loser. Sound about how you think it is. No, I hope not!

  7. I wish people would spend this much time discussing the victims. I don’t care about this person. I care about the victims. Yes, it is true: Straight people are out of control. Straight people are filled with hate and lack the social grace to be nice to Gay people. But, don’t spend this much time painting these perps as victims – they are not.

    Profile Gay people. Show pictures of our mangled faces. Tell our stories. For once, tell our stories.

    I’m saying this as a college professor at an institution where this type of talk about what causes straight people to be so out of control has amounted to as much mental masturbation. We don’t need platitudes on paper – we need straight people to put action into their convictions. This article is a waste of time. Stop typing and start policing your people.

    • Hi Dan. I appreciate your comments. To respond: first, you misread me if you think I am painting these thugs as victims. I am not. I believe they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law; I’m upset that more of the group are not charged. I, along with many others, fear that they will manage to walk away with minimum consequences. Because of Pennsylvania’s lack of legal protection for the LGBT community in our hate crime laws, I am hoping that the U.S. Attorney’s office will levy federal hate crime charges, as has been requested by Councilman James Kenney and others. Brendan Boyle and Brian Sims, along with other legislators, are working very hard to get new state legislation to the floor for a vote on a bill that would address the lack of protections our LGBT community has in PA – a bill which has consistently been blocked by a handful of people, despite the fact that the will of the people and the intent of most elected legislators is to fix our laws. Currently (as I’m sure you know), it is completely legal in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth to fire someone for being gay, to refuse service in a restaurant, to deny them a room in a hotel, to throw them out of their apartment, to deny them the purchase of a home. We’ve only just recently changed the laws in the city of Philadelphia to negate that – to offer full protection to our LGBT citizens. But if you step one foot outside the Philadelphia city limits, those protections vanish. The best way to get involved in changing all this is to make calls to Harrisburg and demand that Boyle’s bill be put to a vote. Call the U.S. Attorney’s office and the DOJ and make your wishes known about federal prosecution of these attackers. Then, in November, vote Corbett out of office. He has remained entirely silent about this issue, and about these horrible attacks. The Democratic candidate is likely to be our new governor; he has already promised to make LGBT rights one of his first actions in office. Our job is to hold him to it.

      As to your other comment: We can’t write about the victims, because they have requested that we don’t. Caryn Kunkel, a close friend of theirs, has acted as spokesperson for two men who have every right to ask that they be given their privacy after such a horrible ordeal. They know the love and concern that surrounds them from the Philadelphia community, the state and the nation. They see and know of the outcry against this crime has been loud and long. I’m sure that when these men decide it is time to go public (if and when they do), much will be written. As to writing about the endless violence endured by the gay community at large, I think that you’re right – it’s necessary. Just as I’m saying that these attackers are not the solitary aberrations we’d like to think, this attack is not a solitary, unusual crime.

      I teach at a university too. The climate at universities has tacked to the right over the last 30 years; a generation ago, campuses would have exploded over something like this. Now, there is barely a whisper. I spoke in my classes about it, I offered advice about how students could get involved — the demonstration in Love Park that Brian Sims organized, for instance. Calling and emailing their legislators, as another example. We talked about issues on campus, and how the college community could be made safer for all people. It’s nowhere near enough; we do the best and most we can at every opportunity, but it never feels like enough.

      As to these attackers – as I said, I am not painting them as victims. What I am saying is that they are horrifying symptoms of a much larger disease. Western medicine is often criticized for treating an isolated disorder instead of looking at the condition of the entire body, and understanding the “whole” rather than the “part”. That’s what I’m saying here, and I think you agree with me, that our society is diseased – this homophobia and violence is created through that disease. We’ll never put an end to acts of violence until we look at the bigger picture and work harder to fix the systemic issues. I hope that you are wrong, and that the article is not a waste of time. It was meant to call attention to the bigger picture for those who are finding some sense of their own superiority in limiting their negative attention to the attackers rather than seeing our complicity (even if that complicity is unintended) in the continuation of a social system that normalizes hatred, then declares shock and horror at its expression.

  8. Thank you for finally saying this. You have perfectly put into words my feelings about both my generation and my parents’ generation, and you have also touched on some of my own fears of graduating from liberal arts college in a country centered almost entirely around what is “marketable.”

    What do you think about study abroad trips for middle and high school students? The crucial element here, I think, is perspective. Middle school may be too young, but travel is often a humbling and life-altering experience…perhaps it would help, if we can get enough money into education.

    • Hi Matt. Thanks for taking the time to write, it’s good to hear from you. As someone who has seen the meltdown of the liberal arts and humanities from inside academia, I fully agree with what you are saying. We’ve got a crisis of values that is dire. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve partnered with another professor to begin building international gap year programs. The project is brand new, and doesn’t have a name yet, but the goal will be to work with parents, students, high school counselors, and help to provide a much wider landscape of possibilities for education and “readiness”. Universities seem incapable of preparing our students for the “global culture” they like so much to talk about. Why, for instance, have so many closed down their foreign language departments? Why have they cut back on international culture studies, or world religions? Our program will look to bring small groups of students into international learning environments; we’ll be partnering with universities and other organizations across Europe. We don’t have a website yet, but if you go to http://guerillau.wordpress.com, and follow us, that is where many of the announcements will be made. Meanwhile, if there is anything I can do to help you make a transition to your best life, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me (contact info is at the site). I work with my students all the time in an informal way to help them identify their passions and build a roadmap toward a life that feels more authentic.

      As for getting more money into education; you are right there, too. We have to fight, as citizens, to return the kind of funding that was provided to our public schools, both K-12 and university, since defunding has been part of the breakdown. When I was an undergrad (back in the late 1970s), many state universities were free, the others were very low cost. That is what we have to now fight to reclaim. Meanwhile, I tell my students to look overseas for education, and to plan beyond the American universities and their debt sentence.

  9. I’ve gone to Catholic schools my entire life and I have never once heard a teacher say anything negative about gay people. I may have heard a sermon about it once at church. I even had a nun in biology say that gay people are “born that way.” I am not sure where you are getting your Catholic school brainwashing information.

  10. I call bullshit on this article. What a bunch of tripe. It is not the school’s fault, the catholic church’s fault, white people’s fault, or even the parents fault. It is HER fault. Period. At 24, she is old enough to know right from wrong regardless of upbringing and take responsibility for her own actions.

    • Respectfully, Kris, I think you’re missing Debra’s point. No one is saying that it is not Ms. Knott fault. Debra has excellently outlined the societal factors that impact (and even foster) the development of such a closed-minded young lady.

  11. The following comment is addressed especially to Beth McGarry, who left me a reply above that I would like to address.
    Beth, I believe that my comments to Debra Leigh were not in any way saying that she is a ‘loser,’ as you suggest. In fact, I went out of my way to make the point that she is obviously very gifted and intelligent and able to make choices that would improve her financial situation. It is BECAUSE she is clearly talented that I believe she should NOT accept the sort of victim status you seem to espouse. The three people who were attacked were clearly victims on a number of levels. They did not have a choice over their sexuality nor did they have a way to make the sick mob that attacked them simply disappear into thin air as they were attacked. People like yourself are not truly victims and so can’t be classified the same way. The book you are quoting from is indeed an old book. I read it years ago in Sociology 101. While there were many important ideas presented in the book, it did not give you or anyone else out there cart blanche to define yourself as a victim simply because your career choice does not support the life you would like to lead. The book was focusing on people who have no control over their victimhood and yet are blamed for things beyond their control. You conveniently left that part of the book out of your description.
    I can understand your frustration and anger at the system that you are working within, but identifying as a victim has almost never caused someone to be able to improve their circumstances. You simply tend to stay that victim and use the descriptor to explain your unsatisfactory position to family, friends and anyone else who wants to know why you are so unhappy with your current existence.

    It is unfortunate that you have to label me as a conservative when I have not actually presented ideas that are strictly conservative. Granted, my thoughts are not exactly liberal by your definition, but by discussing the issue of personal choice I have not suddenly earned a box that I must be placed within. That is the problem with political thinking today. People like you want everyone to be in little boxes, as if human thought were so simplistic as to fall within two large categories: liberal or conservative. Why not have this discussion without the ugly labels? The truth is, you need these categories so that you can express hatred and disdain for those who do not agree with your point of view.
    I would never call you or Debra Leigh moronic. Perhaps you feel that way when you think of the professional decisions you made with good intentions. You can essentially brand me as an evil, thoughtless conservative, but if you look at what I’ve said, the ideas really are apolitical. If you want to be a martyr for your chosen field, you have the right to do that and pay the price in terms of your lack of financial gain. That does not make you a lose – it simply reflects your choice. The problem is, you want to force others (the system) to value what you do equally to work that is in demand and therefore met with good pay. You want to blame the president and or the CEO for their terrible greed when in fact you could be in their shoes if you wanted to be in their shoes (but you don’t want to do the sort of things it would take to be successful in that way because you find that repugnant, and that’s fine). In short, this all comes down to your wanting to be able to call the shots as to how people get paid for what they do. You want to be able to say that the wealthy banker or corporate CEO shouldn’t be able to make his millions. Problem is, you are living under the wrong economic system to make such desires possible. If you hate American capitalism so much, seek out a country (as Debra Leigh suggests when advising students on where to study, apparently) that matches your desired economic system. There are plenty of them out there now that claim to be seeking the very things you seem to want. Argentina comes to mind, or any number of similar states who are trying hard to make socialism a success.
    You and Debra Leigh are by no means enjoining a new battle. This battle for social justice has been going on since the dawn of the 20th century and the rise of American economic wealth. Every generation has its share of souls just like yourself that feel that they have been given a raw deal by a system that should owe them something. You don’t want to actually have to work within this system, you want it to change to meet your needs. I would say that you are, of course, entitled to take on these battles, but I think you run the risk of making yourself a perpetually embittered victim of forces that are unlikely to change anytime soon.

    • Hello, Carl. Thanks for sharing your interesting comments. Here are my thoughts, offered gently:

      1. You said, “People like yourself are not truly victims and so can’t be classified the same way.” and “While there were many important ideas presented in the book, it did not give you or anyone else out there cart blanche to define yourself as a victim simply because your career choice does not support the life you would like to lead.” I would respectfully suggest that YOU don’t get to decide who is victimized and who is not, or who can claim the label of ‘victim’ and who cannot. Believing that YOU (or any authority that you might refer to) get to decide labels for someone else is the is the very essence of privilege.

      2. Regarding white privilege, in an earlier post you wrote, “Do white people currently hold a position of dominance in our nation that has a long history? Absolutely. Is that inherently wrong or evil? I don’t happen to think so.” I’m imagining you are a white, privileged male who is blind to his privilege. (Please let me know if I am incorrect.) It’s very easy to support dominance when I am the one on top. And your request for evidence and proof in that post smacks of those who continue to insist upon evidence and proof for global warming. Further, there is nothing ‘simple’ about the causative factors of violence, which is exactly what Debra is trying to illuminate in her excellent article.

      Further still, your argument in the final paragraph of your white privilege post (the argument that begins with the line, “Have you ever stopped to think about this on a wider scale?”) appears to be little more than a slippery slope logical fallacy. This is not what I read Debra as arguing.

      3. Returning to your comments to Beth M, you wrote, “I can understand your frustration and anger at the system that you are working within, but identifying as a victim has almost never caused someone to be able to improve their circumstances.” Could you provide proof of this statement, please? I would argue that your words are, in fact, incorrect. It is often only after understanding their victimization that people begin to improve their circumstances. Ask any psychotherapist you know.

      4. You wrote, “I would never call you or Debra Leigh moronic. Perhaps you feel that way when you think of the professional decisions you made with good intentions.” This statement drips with a patronizing, condescending attitude. This non-subtle allusion to a possible projection that Beth is making comes across as (again) privileged.

      5. You wrote, “You want to be able to say that the wealthy banker or corporate CEO shouldn’t be able to make his millions. Problem is, you are living under the wrong economic system to make such desires possible. If you hate American capitalism so much, seek out a country (as Debra Leigh suggests when advising students on where to study, apparently) that matches your desired economic system.” Exactly incorrect. This “America – love it or leave it.” argument is a black/white fallacy. You seem far too intelligent to not be able to see shades of gray, so this argument comes off as spurious.

      6. You wrote, “You and Debra Leigh are by no means enjoining a new battle. This battle for social justice has been going on since the dawn of the 20th century and the rise of American economic wealth. Every generation has its share of souls just like yourself that feel that they have been given a raw deal by a system that should owe them something. You don’t want to actually have to work within this system, you want it to change to meet your needs.” The one-up positioning, arrogant, patronizing, dismissive and condescending language of your final paragraph stunned me. Again, I would invite you to consider your position of privilege. (Or — at the very least — please look up the definition of ‘mansplain’ because these words you wrote provide an excellent example of that very term.) How are you qualified to give a history lecture to Debra or Beth (or myself, as one of the readers of this article)? How are you qualified (or, said differently, what gives you the right?) to tell Beth that YOU know better than SHE what it is that she actually wants? Again, consider your privilege.

      Finally — in light of your posts — your ending sentence is astounding. As I read your posts in this comment section, you spent almost your entire time arguing for the individualist perspective — about individual choices and individual responsibility. This is, of course, a perspective to which you are entitled. (Do you hear the privilege and condescension when these words are offered to you? I hope you do.) But then — in what seems to be almost mock concern on your part — you express apprehension of some un-named, non-idividualistic ‘forces that are unlikely to change anytime soon’ that may do harm to Beth or Debra. Your final sentence negates virtually everything you said about the individualistic perspective and gives increased weight to Debra’s article as well as Beth’s comments.

      It is almost like you want to have your cake and eat it, too.

      Which, of course, you can’t.

      Again, thanks for offering your thoughts in multiple posts. And thanks for patiently reading through my rather long post.



      • Hey Tim,
        Thanks for your civil and gentle response to my thoughts. I know that you probably don’t feel like being nice, but you are at least making the effort and I appreciate that. I will address your comments using the numbers you employed.
        1) If you read the book that Beth referenced, you know that the author goes to great pains to describe the sort of people who are victimized by society: rape victims, victims of domestic abuse, victims of racial bias and insensitivity; victims of sexual discrimination, victims of poverty, etc. What I am pointing out is that these gifted young people do not fall into any of those categories because those categories are described as situations that the victim did not in any way play a part in bringing about. There was no choice involved for true victim. However, if we assign victimhood to each and everyone who is simply unhappy with their lot in life, we do serious damage to those who really are victims and require help. For example, my son plays on a soccer team of 22 players where the coaches see fit to refuse to allow at least ten of the players time on the field. Are those ten players ‘victims’ because they are not given the same amount of playing time as the others? Are they victims because they will never realize their dreams of being pro soccer players if these stupid coaches don’t recognize their superior talent? I think not, but according to your logic, anyone can claim this status if they so feel. What of that question of ‘white privilege’ you throw around like a weapon? What if I turn that on its head and say that people like you who attack me as being “privileged” are making me feel horrible as a human being for a situation I did not create. Why must I be victimized for being white and treated as the source of all societal evil? I am a victim, right? Or do you get to say I am not?
        2) I find your comments on whether I am aware of my ‘white privilege’ interesting in that you seem to think it is something to be ashamed of. I am proud to be white and I have no problem with the fact that I am part of a demographic that is still enjoying some amount of power and influence in our society. I am aware that as our nation changes demographically (some would say by force), this situation will likely change. I will not be able to do much of anything about that demographic change when it eventually happens other than to work within the system – or seek another system that is more beneficial to me.
        In relation to Debra Leigh’s point, I find it confusing why she believes ‘white privilege’ is behind the hate crime described without providing one shred of evidence that the entire mob was white! You don’t have to dig very hard into demographics to realize that homosexuality is more taboo and violently treated in the black community than it is in the white community. It is actually more likely that something like this would happen in the black community than in the white community – and it HAS. Do they go around wringing their hands and maligning themselves for their ‘sexual privilege’ (heterosexuality being a dominant sexual feature of the black community)and claim such crimes are the result of their special position? You see, the argument of ‘privilege’ becomes meaningless after a few iterations. It makes much more sense to discuss this in terms of a hate crime against the ‘other,’ the part of the population that is different. That is not white, black or any other color. It’s just hate of whatever is different.
        3) Here you have asked me to prove a logical fallacy on your part: you can’t successfully prove a negative. If there are no examples of people who rose to superstardom because they claimed they were victims, you can’t prove the opposite – that people have not risen to superstardom because they are victims. The easiest way I can explain this to you is to suggest that you look around whatever human misery you see around you. How many of the people who live as self identified victims are thriving and making the most of their lives? In my experience, no one who REMAINS a victim finds prosperity and/or happiness. Now, you may find people that realized they were victims and then pulled themselves out of the situation they were in and then became successful. But, you see, that is very different than simply saying “I am a victim and the world must fix the situation that made me a victim.” In most cases, when people do that, we hear silence and then the crickets. Nothing gets done and nothing changes.
        4) I can see why you would think that my comment about Beth’s comment about whether she should feel moronic was patronizing, but really I think it is important to point out that I was not labeling anyone here. She pulled out the labels en masse (just as you did, by the way) because she needed to strike back at ideas she did not like. If she feels that I think she is moronic, it is only because I have said there is a choice involved and in what work she is doing and she continues to choose a field and job that is not currently lucrative. My comments were not pejorative or judgmental, but were personal observations. If you think that’s harsh, I think you should re-read some of the labels you used on me! BTW – my observations could just as easily come from an Arabic woman or an Indian man who saw things the same way I do (not everyone who is not white will agree with you, you know!), so ‘white privilege’ is not in play here either.
        5) How exactly is it a ‘black/white’ thing to say in this era of globalization that you have choices in other areas of the globe if you seek out a political system more agreeable to you (or Debra Leigh or Beth) that might support you points of view? You seem completely stuck on this race-baiting stuff, Tim! Not every single thought has to be seen through that tiny prism. Plenty of black people have said the very same thing I am saying and were never attacked for having that opinion while black.
        Funny with this ‘white privilege’ stuff how you seem so comfortable throwing labels at me but bristle when you feel slightly uncomfortable about the things I say to you. I admit my position is one of dominance in our society and I don’t apologize for that. Why should I? I didn’t make the situation but was born into it. Should I give up my position so that my children and their children can have fewer opportunities than I have had? Now THAT would be moronic! Every group out there struggles to take the dominant spot: that is the very essence of what “Survival of the Fittest” is all about. It is at the root of human evolution, whether we like it or not. Every society will have a dominant class. Human nature has never and will never allow any other scenario.

        6) There is nothing ‘mansplain’ about daring to tell a woman what I think, Tim! Apparently, in your world, men are sexist if they dare to have a strong point of view about something a woman is doing or saying. That is nonsense. Nothing about my comments could only be applied to these two women. It could just as easily have been a man (such as yourself) that I was responding to with these words. Men claim themselves as victim and refuse to leave that position, too. Would that still meet your label of ‘mainsplaining’?
        As to how I am qualified to say the things I’ve said, well I would just remind you first of all that we are making comments on a blog on the internet. This is not a classroom and it certainly isn’t some revered Ivory Tower. In this rarified space, I am as qualified as the next person out there to make reference to history or to sociology. We don’t do things here with footnotes and page references in spaces like this. You can take your academic indignation to whatever levels you wish, but it does not invalidate my point of view. I know you dislike that. Intensely.

        In your last full paragraph, you manage to get everything absolutely upside down. My ending sentence which so utterly flabbergasted you was not a change in narrative. It was in fact completely consistent with all that I had written above. If you had read a bit closer, you would see that I was suggesting that both Debra Leigh and Beth could empower themselves by avoiding senseless battles with a system that is not going to budge one little bit for them anytime soon. I was urging them as individuals not to waste their energy and time fighting against a monolithic system that will not even acknowledge they exist, let alone consider the changes they want. Instead, I sincerely think that there are places in the world that would better respect what they have to offer and would embrace them and encourage them to thrive. However, they would need to make the choice to stop fighting against a system that is crumbling in favor of other systems that are more forward looking for their needs. I don’t believe it is condescending or even rude to point this out. It certainly isn’t sexist or a result of my whiteness.

  12. Are we all forgetting that, in the scope of relevance, we would all enjoy a warm and soapy enema rather than continue this silly dialog? This is not important. Getting our intestines filled with soapy warmth is all that matters… and you know it.

  13. The person from the DA’s office who posted above that it was “unmitigated bullshit” that the others (assuming he’s referring to the two men other than Knott) were getting deals cut is him/herself full of unmitigated bullshit because that’s exactly what has happened a year later this past September. How can three people who were heard calling the victims faggots and other slurs related to their homosexual status just prior to beating the living daylights out of them NOT be charged with a hate crime and prosecuted to the full extent of the law? And given Knott’s documented bigotry and hate spew via her social media, her hope of being exonerated at trial should be diminishing quickly. The City of Brother Love had proven itself to be anything but regarding this case and though it expanded the city’s protections to LGBT people shortly after the assault took place, the state is still dragging it’s heels and as such I do hope the DOJ steps in and prosecutes these three to the full extent of the law and slams them with the maximum sentence because THIS is exactly why there are hate crime laws and why the federal law was expanded in 2009 to include hate crimes against LGBT folks aka The Matthew Shepherd law.

  14. I want to thank GK for acknowledging that exactly what many of us feared is what happened. That these privileged white criminals are walking between the raindrops – just as far too many do — free to beat people, free to inflict violence and harm – in ways that range from the physical to the emotional to the finance. Our country is filled with these privileged felons, operating at all levels of society, all level of the economy and government — and the more pathology they exhibit the more successful they seem to become. Mark my words — this isn’t the last we’ll see of these particular little creeps. Given support and protection for their behavior, I’m sure that we’ll hear of other episodes and other violent acts.

  15. Embarrassed to admit I graduated from Archbishope Wood High School for Boys over 30 years ago. It was a racist, homophobic, sexist high school then and many of the teachers and administrators (save a few) fostered a closed-minded, insular, parochial and intolerant learning envirnmemt. Sadly, it appears little has changed.

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