That was quick. Dharun Ravi gave an exclusive interview with a reporter from the Star-Ledger. It’s full of fail. In addition, I really have to wonder what his attorneys have been thinking. Undoubtedly somebody thought this might be a good public relations move.
Like Deryl Dedmon (recently sentenced to life in prison for the murder of James Craig Anderson), he’s found some kind of jeezus:
I’m not the same person I was two years ago,” he said. “I don’t even recognize the person I was two years ago.”
That person, Ravi admits, was immature. And did some stupid things. And was insensitive to Tyler Clementi’s feelings.
Dedmon had this to say:
“I was young and dumb, ignorant and full of hatred.
The difference between the two? According to him, Ravi didn’t “act out of hate”:
“But I wasn’t biased,” Ravi said. “I didn’t act out of hate and I wasn’t uncomfortable with Tyler being gay.”
And this person is committed to continuing to try and prove he did not commit a bias crime.
“The verdict actually made me feel energized,” he said. “We (his family, friends and attorneys) will keep going.”
As I previously noted, Ravi turned down a plea deal that would have meant no jail time. Here’s what he has to say about it:
I’m never going to regret not taking the plea,” Ravi said emphatically. “If I took the plea, I would have had to testify that I did what I did to intimidate Tyler and that would be a lie.* I won’t ever get up there and tell the world I hated Tyler because he was gay, or tell the world I was trying to hurt or intimidate him because it’s not true.”
*I’m going to set aside Ravi’s avowal that he wouldn’t be able to tell a lie, given that he deleted and removed evidence and attempted to get other people to give statements that were untruthful.)
You hear this “stupid kid stuff” kind of defense all the time. Nothing meant by it. Boys will be boys. A fight that went wrong. Ravi’s attorneys harped on it over and over and over, referring to him repeatedly as a “boy” throughout and suggesting it was just a prank, “stupid stuff.” Ravi clings to this defense:
Ravi says the tweet he sent to friends suggesting they tune into his webcam to see Clementi with M.B. was a joke, but one in which he severely underestimated the effect on Tyler.
“I knew my friends would think it was a joke because they know my sense of humor,” he said. “But eventually I thought it was stupid, so I went back into the room and pointed the camera back at my bed.”
Asked this question, “What were you thinking?” Ravi candidly stated, “I wasn’t.”
“At that point, I got caught up in what I thought was funny, and my own ego.”
The problem here isn’t one of intention. Because I’d submit that most racism (and other -isms) is of the unthinking variety. That’s why it is so deeply entrenched in our society. Most white people (and many folks of color) just don’t think about it at all.
And if they didn’t think about it, it doesn’t exist! Racism? Not in post racial America! Homophobia? Why, I never thought it would intimidate a gay guy to stream video of him during an intimate encounter or to tweet about it!
When I initially heard the reading of the verdict in the Ravi case, I was confused by the apparent differentiation between what the defendant meant and what the victim experienced. Here’s what the New Jersey statute reads:
a. Bias Intimidation. A person is guilty of the crime of bias intimidation if he commits, attempts to commit, conspires with another to commit, or threatens the immediate commission of an offense specified in chapters 11 through 18 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes; N.J.S.2C:33-4; N.J.S.2C:39-3; N.J.S.2C:39-4 or N.J.S.2C:39-5,
(1) with a purpose to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, religion, gender, handicap, sexual orientation, or ethnicity; or
(2) knowing that the conduct constituting the offense would cause an individual or group of individuals to be intimidated because of race, color, religion, gender, handicap, sexual orientation, or ethnicity; or
(3) under circumstances that caused any victim of the underlying offense to be intimidated and the victim, considering the manner in which the offense was committed, reasonably believed either that (a) the offense was committed with a purpose to intimidate the victim or any person or entity in whose welfare the victim is interested because of race, color, religion, gender, handicap, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, or (b) the victim or the victim’s property was selected to be the target of the offense because of the victim’s race, color, religion, gender, handicap, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.
Note that subsections (1) through (3) end in the word “or,” meaning that either bias intimidation could be proved to be intentional (Dedmon expressed a desire to “fuck with some n*ggers”) or that the effect would be intimidation.
The New Jersey law seems to be making a decent attempt to address the fact that effect is perhaps as important as intention. Because “not intending to do something” often just means “I never thought.” The guy who cheats on his wife and then says “I never meant to hurt you.” The adult who defends a kid who harasses another child for her ethnicity: “He didn’t mean anything by it.”
So the question to be asked isn’t “What were you thinking?” because the clueless, un-self-examined response is typically “I wasn’t thinking” (and therefore I am not responsible). The question is What was the effect? or perhaps What would a reasonable person think would happen as a result?
So I don’t want to hear any more bullshit out of Dharun Ravi. Until he can honestly answer what he thought would happen after publishing homophobic thoughts about his roommate on social media and streaming video of his intimate moments.
The question isn’t about whether he “intended” to be homophobic. The question is whether the duck quacks.
Edited to add: Some video here.