Trash Comes In All Kinds Of Colors

The suicide death of Tyler Clementi still has me reeling.

When I first heard of the story last week I was shocked. Not shocked that an 18-year-old college freshman took his life. That is, unfortunately, not terribly shocking. Not shocked that he was gay. I’ve been aware that gay people exist in our society since…..well, since I could identify sexuality.

No. I was shocked, appalled, horrified that a personal, private, behind closed doors, intimate encounter was broadcasted all over the internet unbeknownst to him. That his roommate secretly set up a webcam and then tweeted to all of his twits out there, announcing when to watch.




What if that had been you? Or me? Any one of us in the middle of what we think is a private, personal consensual act and it gets broadcasted over the internet air waves for everyone to see. Our children. Our parents. Our neighbors. Our employer. Our mailman.


Think of how differently everyone would look at you if they saw that video. Could you still go to the grocery store without titters or stares?

“So move,” someone so eloquently said on a blog, “You don’t have to kill yourself.” I agree, suicide is extreme but let’s get back to your first suggestion. Move? Move where? Where don’t they have the internet? Where do you suggest dear Tyler Clementi move to?


And when I read it was his roommate and a friend of the roommate’s who did this? I have to admit. I didn’t form a very politically correct image in my head. I pictured two caucasian, homophobic yahoos. From uneducated, backwoods families.

And then I read about their background and saw their photos.

Two young people who may have suffered the same, baseless prejudice themselves. From educated families. Who attended some of the best schools.

What is it about our technologically crazed society that feels it is OK to video tape someone without their knowledge and consent and then post it for the world to see? I’ve had this discussion with my own daughter, who taped a man singing on the subway with her phone. She and her friends laughed over it. I made her erase it. It wasn’t obscene. But it wasn’t “quality” singing. And they were laughing at him. Not his t-shirt slogan. Thank goodness she didn’t post this anywhere. (At least, after our talk, I’m fairly certain she didn’t post this. And if she did, I darn well hope she took it down.)

My daughter’s lack of boundaries when it comes to strangers is common. More common than we’d like to admit. So common, in fact, that we’re focusing on the kind of sex that was broadcast by Ravi and Wei – not that any kind of personal, private, sexual moment between two people should ever be broadcasted over the internet. Ever.

The pain Tyler Clementi’s family is going through is unimaginable. The parents of Ravi and Wei must be devastated, as well. Hopefully, Ravi and Wei are feeling infinite regret and remorse for their actions.

But I’ve learned I am guilty of stereotype. I’m embarrassed that I wanted the accused to be white. It’s easier to perpetuate stereotype than to realize we are all fallible. We are all equal in that regard.

My mother was right.

Trash, does indeed, come in all kinds of colors.


Filed under Soapbox

29 responses to “Trash Comes In All Kinds Of Colors

  1. This is horrible, Jane…I was unaware of the “gory details” surrounding this young man’s suicide.

    I remember getting very upset about my daughter’s posting a video of one of our neighbours on “MySpace” years ago…it was a teenage kid in a rage, and I didn’t like the kid, but I still didn’t believe that what my daughter did was right…

    I hope that people will think twice about invading others’ privacy after this…


  2. Jayne

    I saw reference to this at the weekend but didn’t know what it was all about. Shocking. Truly shocking. I always taught my girls the tenet I live by: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. If you wouldn’t want it done to you, don’t do it to others.
    It’s not rocket science and yet it’s a message message that is being increasingly lost on the young in these times of mobile phone pics and YouTube. I don’t know, maybe it’s the instant nature of telecommunications that means people don’t take that extra moment to just stop and think about the consequences of their actions.

  3. This story has me reeling too. I just can’t fathom why these two kids would do this. And when I think of that poor boy and how he was problem so unsure of himself being a gay, freshman in college…and then to have this happen. It makes my heart hurt. And his parents. Oh his parents. You are so right…trash comes in many, many colors.

  4. So sad. I can’t imagine anyone posting any kind of sexual act and not realize it’s crossing serious boundaries. Stupid? Malicious? *sigh* I have no words.

  5. This whole thing makes my blood boil. Who is the class act who suggested that Tyler Clementi “just move?” It’s on the Internet, genius. Moving won’t solve a thing.

    I’m devastated for all three families. What a hard, hard, lesson those two young people had to learn.

  6. You raise some hard questions here, Jane. It would be so much easier on the rest of us if the offenders were white hicks. To see that they are educated minorities just doesn’t jive with our understanding of how tolerance is supposed to work. Thanks for making me think about this. I will be mulling it over for the rest of the day.

  7. I didn’t know about this at all. How awful. At some level, life becomes a spectator sport and with reality TV wherever you turn, there’s a kind of dispassionate element to watching others. It’s voyeurism and it’s wrong. Just wrong.
    Sunshine xx

  8. Like you Jane, I was devastated when I heard about this. And I decided to look up who could do this and I was so surprised when the college freshman was Indian. I was shocked, not because I don’t think Indian people can’t commit crimes, but like you I had a different image of the perpetrators. It breaks my heart and I keep thinking about the torment Tyler must have felt when standing on the bridge. It really just makes me so sad.

  9. took me a few days just to post about it. these two cretins deserve the DP if such a thing were possible in this case.


    they were up to something from the gitgo; why else would you have a cam mounted in your room that you can control remotely? he had already tweeted that he’d discovered this boy was gay…

    this surely reeks of a hate crime.

    this poor boys parents must be devastated. i know i would be. and angry too. for the simple fact that their lil invasion of my sons privacy costed him his life.

    i hope they both rot in h3ll…

  10. ck

    The whole thing is just so sad.

  11. This makes me sad. The situation also makes me very angry. Education does not equal enlightenment. Skin color does not entail kindness. People are cruel….all varieties of people. You said it perfectly. Now, too, I question the hidden repercussions of the social media craze…everyone trying to 1-funny-up someone else.

    How could they have not, for 1 second, seen this through his eyes?

  12. Mel

    Jane, you are so right. The combination of cruelty and violation of personal freedom is astonishing, particularly when it comes from those we expect should know better. Senseless, every bit of it.
    Thanks for a perfectly outraged post of caution.

  13. Penny

    Well, said. I think, in a lot of ways, our technological world has also ruined communication and human sympathy, especially with the rising generation. This made me reel, too. My thoughts and sympathy go to his family.

  14. Likewise I had heard about this death but not the circumstances which are just so awful. Like you say, somehow all the more surprising that the two people who subjected this young man to such cruelty are as you say people you might expect to appreciate what it means not to be the average boy or girl on the block. How very awful.

  15. I just want to say, dear readers, thank you for your kind, thoughtful remarks to this post. I hesitated pressing “publish.” I felt guilty accusing Ravi and Wei of being “trash.” I suppose I should have said they acted trashy.

    I taught teenagers for 12 years and realize they make so many bad judgement calls, so many mistakes. Goodness knows, I’ve made my fair share as an adult. But I can not wrap my head around what these two did. And thought it was funny. And thought they could get away with it. And thought that there would be no negative repercussions.

    It just blows my mind.

  16. Thank you for writing about this story today. I have started to write about it several times, but I can’t get my emotions under control long enough to make sense in words.

    I think you put your finger on an important point here: many (maybe even most?) kids who have grown up with the Internet have a very different relationship to civil and social boundaries than those of us who didn’t. For these two students to think that what they were doing was okay and even funny suggests a casual depravity that is shocking and upsetting. What’s even sadder is that I’m sure their behavior would not be out of character for many of their peers.

    Yes, all kids make mistakes, but I wonder if these kids even thought of it as a bad act when they were doing it.

  17. I started and then erased about seven comments as I struggled to find the right, yet non-offensive words to express my sadness, fear and loathing. It’s not the dumb kids that make me feel that way, though. It’s the so-called social media that frankly put everyone’s privacy at risk. What good is it to me if I am careful not to disclose any personal information anywhere on the web if someone out of ____ (insert any wrong, selfish, self-serving reason there) decides to and succeeds in turning any private part of my life public with a click of the mouse? Clearly, as a society, we are not ready to handle the technology and media at our disposal with all due responsibility. And that kind of makes me a little angry, too.

  18. I hadn’t heard anything about this either, and I can’t even formulate the words to describe how it makes me feel. I think it’s good that you’re generating discussion about this kind of thing — it needs to be talked about and young people need to be made to understand. I guess there will always be stupid, cruel people who think humiliating others is funny, but the internet takes it to a whole new level.

  19. People seem so eager to find someone different from them to make fun of, don’t they. I was saddened to read that he got the nerve to talk to a student advisor in his dorm, but obviously didn’t get the help he wanted.

    This is a collective national shame. So very sad!

  20. Does it seem a bit strange that in this time, when creditors, banks, any business you associate with, must issue “privacy policies” on an annual basis, with so much obsession (at least by the government) of privacy, that is the one thing that seems not to exist at all in the mentality of the younger members of our society? A sense of privacy. Going over the bounds of privacy is something any blogger must be concerned about, but there’s so much on Facebook and that kind of social network that oversteps, it frightens me. It’s apparently something that we parents have failed to teach our children. Respect privacy. Your own and that of others. This is what happens when we don’t, and that is damage that is irreparable!

  21. You are correct in saying this is a generational thing. YouTube and social media has made transparency the norm. There is very little that is considered personal space or private these days among Gen Y. This is the generation of *Punked* and reality TV. Nothing is sacred. Kudos to you for trying to instill a sense of respect for another person’s privacy in your daughter.

  22. It’s an old theme with the internet to modernize:

    People make themselves feel better by putting down people around them. Wonder how much better these two kids feel about themselves now?

    Sad waste of life for all involved. 😦

  23. Did you ever see “Sleepers”? A bunch of kids in the ’50s do a prank that goes wrong, and one of the characters said (paraphrased) “We didn’t know him; we just knew he wasn’t from our nieghborhood.” I think we do bad things to people because they are not “human” like us. We justify it. I hope Tyler has some peace and that his family will one day find peace too.

  24. Bravo for your wise and passionate words … I am glad you pressed publish. There are things in our society (like the internet, media) that have de-humanized our world. Everything has to be quick and entertaining and many people have stopped thinking before they act. (especially teenagers – who have had trouble with that forever). They don’t always recognize people as people … people become objects.
    Hurt like this is a waste of life. Hopefully, posts like yours will fill the internet and media and bring something positive from it … like stopping just one other person from doing something so horribly mean.

  25. Steven Harris

    This hasn’t made the bulletins over here in England so thank you for posting this today. How appalling that modern day voyeur culture leads to people assuming they can broadcast the intimate moments of other people’s lives. If they’d chosen to broadcast their own sexual exploits that would be one thing, but to do so to another person without their knowledge or consent smacks of gross insensitivity to the emotional make-up of others. I’ve long suspected that the 21st century gadget-driven, ‘you can (and must) have everything’ culture encourages selfishness. The self-satisfying motives of Ravi and Wei seem to confirm my suspicions.

  26. Ellen Degeneres posted a good video on this
    Although In my mind its not a gay issue but a much bigger one Ellen says what she came to say very well.


  27. Wow, I had heard about the situation but you shed new light on it for me. This situation is so sad. I think you’ve brought up a key issue with this generation of kids and young adults: the morals and obligations of technology. I hope that more people come to realize that just because you can do something easily, doesn’t mean you should.

  28. Some of the tight-knit so-called “ethnic” and “immigrant” communities are notoriously homophobic. I was not surprised by the fact that these two came from welloff families: they reek of the undeserved sense of entitlement that I feel is wracking the new generations.

  29. Thank you.

    I have no other words for this tragedy of heartless inhumanity. So thank you, as always, for being YOU: deeply, honestly, openly human.

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