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Though many of my gay brothers and sisters might disagree, Tyler Clementi’s roommate Dharun Ravi didn’t deserve ten years in prison for what he did. The judge in the trial, Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman sentenced Ravi to thirty days in jail, a ten thousand dollar fine and three years’ probation. Judge Berman also didn’t recommend deportation for Ravi either.
The judge stated:
“This individual was not convicted of a hate crime. He was convicted of a bias crime and there’s a difference. I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi. He had no reason to. But I do believe that he acted out of colossal insensitivity,”
I believe the judge hit it on the nail with this statement. Obviously it was a cruel and insensitive thing for the Indian-born Ravi to do but did it rise to the weight of heavy prison time? Not in my opinion or obviously in Judge Berman’s opinion.
I don’t mean to throw politics into the mix here but if Ravi deserved ten years in prison, which was maximum sentence allowed, then we probably should arrest and imprison Mitt Romney for cutting a boy’s hair in high school because he thought it looked “wrong”. That was a form of bullying just as bad except for in Romney’s case, he actually assaulted the boy.
I understand more than most the need to have special hate crimes laws on the books for gay bashing, as I’ve been a victim and know what it’s like to take a beating for being gay. But, I also understand mercy. I don’t believe that Ravi wanted to hurt Tyler by what he did. It was a college prank gone wrong. It also isn’t the first time nor will it be the last time that a college student secretly records his or her roommate having sex.
Dharun’s mother Sabitha Ravi pleaded to the judge to be lenient toward her son saying “He doesn’t have any hatred in his heart toward anybody.” She related how she had tried to explain to Dharun’s younger brother about what was happening in which Dharun broke down and cried.
Dharun I believe has learned a valuable lesson about the feelings of others, though it’s a tragic way to learn that lesson.
I also believe he’s not entirely responsible for Tyler Clemente jumping off of that bridge, though he had his part in it. The question in my mind is, why was Tyler so insecure with the fact he was gay that he felt the need to take his own life? This surely wouldn’t be my son because I wouldn’t have allowed my son to feel so negatively about being gay in the first place.
What’s important is that we create an environment for kids to grow up in that gives them positive role models when it comes to gay people or any other minority for that matter. We need to see that all gay teens have a place to turn to, that they know they’re not alone in the world and that they have no reason to feel ashamed for who they are. If these things were affirmative for Tyler Clementi, then there’s nothing that his roommate could have done or said to change that.
Dharun Ravi’s attitude toward gay people is typical of many young men who haven’t been around gay people; he didn’t quite show hate toward Tyler, just ignorance which showed a bias. I speculate when I say this but it’s very likely that if Tyler hadn’t committed suicide and he and Dharun had stayed roommates, they likely could have become friends and Dharun would leave college with a different perspective of gay people.
It’s tragic that Tyler Clemente took his own life and nothing can change that. Dharun Ravi will forever be changed because of what his roommate did and his own involvement in it. Hopefully he will also let the judge’s leniency translate for him into compassion and respect for others who are different.