Dear Molly Wei

You are so young and so beautiful.  A promising life.  Starting at Rutgers.  You’ve probably been told how intelligent you are.  How far you’ll go.

My father never would have said any of that to you.  He would have said, “You may think you’re smart, but you have no common sense.”

It was a refrain I heard time and time again.  It was a reminder that he expected me to live to a higher standard.  That good grades and accolades weren’t enough.  He expected me to do the right thing.   As he often reminded me, it is easy to be a book-smart asshole.

And far too easy to go along with the crowd.

I wonder about what happened that night.  Your friend borrowed your computer.  I imagine you were standing over his shoulder, watching as he spied on his roommate.  Did he tell you what was going on?  Was he laughing?  Did you laugh too?

Or did some part of you feel uneasy?  Why didn’t you say anything?  Did you see his twitter feed?  Did you know he was going to attempt to stream the video again two days later?

What were you thinking?  (Shades of my father!)  Or weren’t you thinking at all?

A little while back I was party to a discussion about an elementary school child who was being bullied.  The parents of the bully were called.  But another child who had joined in was simply reprimanded by the teacher.  I argued that his parents should be called as well.  I said that were I his parent I would want to know.  Some of the teachers said that this child was simply a follower.  He did not initiate the bullying.  It was not his idea.

But he joined in.

I believe that sometimes followers are the most logical kids to target with anti-bullying education.  They have already shown that they can be swayed by others.  What they need is to be given the strength to do the right thing.

I know that your defense attorneys will probably argue for leniency.  They’ll argue that you are a good person and a decent human being.  They’ll argue that your life shouldn’t be destroyed for a foolish prank.  That you never intended that your action (or inaction) might harm somebody.  Might cause them to be driven to suicide.

But I would argue intention has little to do with anything.  Because even if you never stopped to consider that Tyler Clementi might commit suicide, surely you knew that turning a webcam on him when he had asked for privacy was not the act of a decent human being.  That a decent human being might have turned to her friend and said, “Ravi, that is  wrong.  Get the fuck out of my room.”

Because inaction implies acceptance.

Now you need to do the right thing.  I don’t know what that might be, but I do think it will probably be very hard.  But Tyler deserves no less.

Another thing my father said was that you always need to be careful about choosing your friends.  Because you need to choose who you will become, and not let them choose for you.

28 thoughts on “Dear Molly Wei

  1. I agree with your point about bullying and making all involved responsible.
    I have a lot more concerns about this particular case. I can’t help wondering if it has become a media sensation because the victim is a white male and the defendants are Asian. Lots of thoughts rolling around in my head, because I don’t think there would be the same level of outrage if the situation was reversed.
    I also think the colleges should be much more proactive about prohibiting using dorm rooms for sex. I know that is an unpopular opinion, but that is what I think.

  2. As usual Resistance you wrote very well about an issue that we all have to deal with, who we decide to follow and what actions we do. I like your father from what he said, and from your description of your mother’s reaction to volkswagons she sounds like fun to be around.

    I also wondered if it got play because both the perpetrators were asian.

  3. umm kathy – do you think he deserved what he got because he had sexual contact in his dorm room?

    college students are adults. they should be able to have sex in their rooms – it’s not a crime. policing students’ bodies won’t solve anything.

  4. hi Emma, never said that he deserved what he got, in fact, I deplore bullying and believe what was done was horrible. I also think that college students should not be asking their roommates to find some other place to hang until midnight.

  5. “What they need is to be given the strength to do the right thing.” Yes, yes exactly.

    And @kathy, I’ll defer to others with more experience analysing stereotyping and role reversal, but when I first heard about the Rutgers case, I only heard/read that a student committed suicide after his room-mate filmed him and his friend in an intimate encounter. The ethnicity of the students was not identified until much later. I believe the case has gotten the attention it has because there are now more than eight young people (two in Canada as of last week) who have completed suicides in September as a result of constant harassment and bullying rooted in homophobia. No doubt there are more, but the number in September alone has been shocking so that quite a number of new initiatives have come on board to address this.

    It would be helpful to know what initiatives are available that address specific concerns of gay/lesbian/trans youth from Asian, black, and other ethnic/racial communities. So far the ones I have seen have been directed to urban white youth but I’ll be keeping my eye out for future developments.

  6. @pinkpoppies, so why are the internets so full of racial hatred for the defendants? i have read many horrible racially charged comments about them. perhaps the first time you heard about it the ethnicity was not provided, but the first time I read about it was in the NYTimes and it was.

  7. Exactly. Mainstream media (and many queer media and vigils) are up in arms over a white man’s death, and yet completely ignoring the murder of a transwoman of colour 10 days earlier in Maplewood NJ, minutes away from Rutgers. Nor was Tyler Clementi’s very being ever so disrespected in the media as Ms. Victoria Carmen White was.

    It makes me think of something Chrystos wrote, about how we’re all still paying attention to the (white) men, in “They’re Always Telling Me I’m Too Angry.” There can be no outrage for Tyler Clementi unless there is outrage on the racism and sexism that Ms. Molly Wei navigates and outrage for Ms. Victoria Carmen White.

    http://maplewood.patch.com/articles/friend-remembers-slain-chs-student

  8. I stand corrected Kathy. My first news alerts come from Canadian media and they are usually truncated reports. I shouldn’t have based my observation on my limited sample. I try to look at stuff through many lenses (including multiple media sources but haven’t yet expanded my search on this story). Thank you for pointing that out. I also appreciate Resistance’s observation of the context re: Prop. 8 and African Americans as the purported cause of its demise — it certainly places the issue within a much greater pattern of assumptions. And thank you t. for the link to the report of Ms White’s murder. She sounds like a great person and her death is a real tragedy that should be given greater coverage.

  9. Tyler killed himself. His own choice. He overreacted IMO and now two lives are going to be ruined over a prank.

  10. Perhaps the Asian students would have thought twice about choosing an Asian victim for this ugly act… Maybe there are threads of racism and maybe it lies with the perpetrators.

  11. It seems like BS to me that Wei allowed this guy to use her room and her computer to spy on his room mate and didn’t know what was up.

    Forget all this racism talk — that’s just a convenient smoke-screen for their behavior. If it had been a white girl and guy, it still would have been just as terrible with the same amount of anger at them and if you don’t think so then you haven’t ever been to a university campus lately.

    And what we don’t know for sure is how often these two watched him? How do we know this was the only time — the time they got caught? Because this time they chose to broadcast it?

    You can’t escape the likely possibility that Wei and her boyfriend did this a lot, and that maybe they’re just plain perverts.

    So Asian or not, what they did was wrong and stupid and pretty much perverted, and a guy killed himself because of it — so stop making excuses — what they did was really screwed up and they need to pay for it, just like anyone else would have to — they’re lucky their moms and dads can buy them good lawyers.

    If you’re thinking Wei is being treated unfairly because of racism, then you must believe that all non whites are wonderful excellent people that would never do anything wrong — which is dumb.

  12. Resistance — I should have noted that I was responding to *other comments* in your thread, and not you specifically.

  13. Frank, “forget all this racism talk” is a majority view that we don’t subscribe to. But I’d also note that people who say it then immediately proceed to talk about racism.

  14. Whatever, I am Chinese and this post is coming to you from Beijing. We understand all about racism. My opinion is that there is little to discuss regarding this issue and racism. You may certainly disregard my opinion, and I suspect you will, because it doesn’t fit your narrow theory. So be it — enjoy yourself.

  15. what those two did was wrong. however they didn’t do it because they were homophobic, it was because they were stupid. i’m not saying that this is right, but these things happen all the time. why should molly be targeted? everyone who has bullied once should be ashamed, molly’s case only brought this into the spotlight. i hear rude comments like “she deserves to burn in hell” and its immature. she made a mistake, and everyone makes mistakes.

  16. This should be a 101: Stupidity and -isms are not mutually exclusive. And this: Just because crap happens all the time isn’t an excuse. Rather, it means crap is happening much too often. Yeah, everybody does make mistakes, and everybody should be accountable.

    I have now completed my demonstration of how allowing a few pre-101 commenters into a thread takes the discussion level down to the 101 level.

  17. i just think it’s unfair to dharun&molly that they get so much nationality for their “prank” (and i put prank in quotation marks because i honestly dont know how to label this tragedy). there have been others before and probably will be others after them that make similar mistakes; but they get away with it unnoticed by the public. it’s really sad that these two teens with a bright future ahead of them is getting destroyed; sure partly by their own actions, but even more so by how much it’s been exaggerated and how people have been making false assumptions about them.

    by the way please don’t start judging us commentors about how we are “low leveled”. i’m sure you made this blog to spread positive messages and calling us “low leveled” you’re being a bit prejudice.

  18. @biblo baggins: Two lives may be “ruined” over a “simple prank” but they do at least have them to enjoy and reshape as best as they can. Actions have consequences and they can be harsh whether deserving or not. Life can be painfully hard sometimes. You write that Tyler made the choice to end his life, and indeed he did. However the two involved with his death also made choices, and now they have to come to terms with the reprocussions, whatever they turn out to be in the long run. You see how it goes both ways?

  19. These two chose a white, homosexual victim from a lower class than them – a racist, homophobic, classist crime. The choice was deliberate (they are not stupid) and the victimization of him was cold, calculated and without a shred of empathy. I hope they suffer a loooong time. They are blights on the face of humanity.

  20. I meant to add that I am really disgusted that there are those who also have no empathy as to the pain of this young man – to the point that the perpetrators of such a horrible act are put out as the victims in this situation. Talk about reaching… I am sure they will have a full life of privilege and success. The real victim will not.

  21. I do not consider this a prank- a felony would be more accurate. Even if the person spied on was in a girl/guy sexual act…it is still against the law to secretly tape and then broadcast a video of people in the privacy of their homes.
    He happened to be homosexual…but it is the crime of spying, taping and broadcasting they will be tried on.
    I would feel a lot more empathetic to the students involved if there was the show of remorse and apology for their cruel behavior.
    Instead I see articles where they try and act like it was nothing and that they are innocent of any wrongdoing.

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