Monday, February 18, 2008

Dumb Kid Gets Hate-Crime Allegation on Top of Miserable Future

I can't resist the urge to defend the perpetrator of a hate crime...

Last week in Oxnard, CA, fourteen-year-old Brandon McInerney fatally shot Lawrence King, an openly gay fifteen-year-old. In response, King's friends organized a march that attracted nearly a thousand friends and supporters. Participants voiced their anti-homophobia: said one thirteen year-old boy, "It will be a better future if we are more tolerant."

Regardless of how soon such a future will come to pass for the rest of us, Brandon McInerney's future will doubtless be fairly bleak. McInerney is the fourteen-year-old boy who shot and killed King. According to a friend of King's, King had recently told McIrnerey he had a crush on him. McInerney, for reasons not mentioned by the LA Times, will be tried as an adult. He stands to spend fifty years in prison. For good measure, prosecutors added a hate-crime allegation; this could mean an extra one to three years.

A hate-crime allegation?? I know there are going to be some people out there who are getting a good deal of satisfaction out of the severity of this response. But leaving alone the fact that a fourteen-year-old is being tried as an adult in the first place, have we seriously gotten to the point where we're imprisoning teenage boys for being homophobic?! Without teenage boys, where do these people think we're going to get our homophobia?

Let's not forget what (may have) precipitated this tragedy: King had just told McInerney he had a crush on him! Said one schoolmate, "I see no point in shooting someone for telling them that you like them"--a particularly moving response. True enough, but let's allow for the possibility that McInerney's reaction was rooted in a fear that he might too be gay. Or that he was terrified of being associated with the very gay Lawrence King (he wore make-up and stuff). Pervasive homophobia is not just what killed Lawrence King; it is arguably also what has doomed Brandon McInerney to years behind bars and all that comes with that.

I know, I know--we would never accept such a defense for Matthew Shepard's killers. And hell, McInerney may very well be a psychotic menace to society best to leave to his own defenses in prison for a good long time. But is our thirst for retribution here so strong that we are ready to give bonus years in prison to a 14-year-old for his expression of "homophobia"? (A homophobia which, I can only speculate, might have been rooted in feelings of attraction? Or in the immature, adolescent need to prove one's manhood?)

I don't think I support hate-crime legislation to begin with--I ought to come out of the closet about that right away. I'm gay, if that makes you feel any better about it. And I don't know how fourteen-year-old killers should be dealt with. Maybe the little shit should spend fifty years behind bars. But one to three years for, on top of being violent, being the type of kid who calls people "fags"?

Let's hope the gay-rights movement isn't celebrating.


At February 18, 2008 at 6:36 PM , Blogger Leon said...

Ben Kawaller joined the group Remembering Lawrence King.

At February 22, 2008 at 10:46 AM , Blogger R. said...

I agree to a certain extent. You have to be sick to stand there and point blank end the life of someone who had never shown anything but love to you, and he SHOULD be punished and tried with a hate crime. DEF not life, and maybe not as an adult, but this is what he did. This is his punishment, and this is his lesson to learn.

At February 29, 2008 at 10:05 AM , Blogger That Girl said...

Your entry definitely made an impression on me. First of all, to use a "Remembering Larry King" group to self-promote and get people to come here to read your opinion on the subject, that just seems low. You write, "I blogged on this (kinda)." Kinda = understatement.
Beside that point, let me say that I think our criminal justice system is completely messed up, ignoring the concept of rehabilitation completely and more or less does very little good for our society. So I think we both agree that this Brandon kid has a bleak future in front of him.
But what upsets me is your cavalier dismissal of hate-crime at its very core. Who are you to make guesses at why this child committed this crime--you say perhaps he was gay? Perhaps he was questioning his own attractions? Perhaps he was asserting his manhood out of these fears? This does not change the fact that he acted out his fear, and his hate, by resorting to violence. Perhaps that hate was fed to him by society, but it was still something within him that he acted out in the name of.
And, by giving less power to language like "fag" and the people who use it, I believe we are only keeping the door open for hate crimes. This kid felt that being a fag and being associated with fags was a scary enough, terrible enough thing that he should resort to violence. If we, as a society, don't change the general perception of GLBT people, if we don't take a strong stand that the word "fag" and others like it are not appropriate, we are just fueling the fear...making children think that homosexuality is a terrible enough thing that if associated with it, life has to end.
In this case, the life that ended was that of an innocent person. And I do think that this poor killer does represent more of a society's undoing and a society's falling apart than his own personal downfall, but unfourtantely he made a choice that in many ways is supported by mainstream American culture and he does have to deal with the consequences of that.
There is no easy answer, but to say this wasn't a hate crime is completely off in my opinion. Now, whether it was a hate crime committed by one child or a whole culture, that is something I would be willing to debate.


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