This week has been hard. Listening to the racist celebration of the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial - and the on-going trashing of the memory of a dead 17-year-old whose sole crime was walking home through a neighborhood one person didn't believe he had a right to - it's been a strain not to scream.
To top it off, the other day I saw this:
An openly gay New Mexico high school student who spoke out against bullying died Tuesday after his family removed him from life support following a suicide attempt over the weekend.
Carlos Vigil, 17, posted a suicide note online on Saturday where he described being the target of bullying, and wrote, “The kids in school are right, I am a loser, a freak and a fag and in no way is that acceptable for people to deal with.”Here's the young man's suicide note in full:
I’m sorry to those who I offended over the years. I’m blind to see that I, as a human being, suck. I’m an individual who is doing an injustice to the world and it’s time for me to leave. Pleas e don’t ever feel sorry for me, or cry – because I had an opportunity at life and that opportunity is over. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to love someone or have someone love me. I guess it’s best though, because now I leave no pain onto anyone. The kids in school are right, I am a loser, a freak, and a fag and in no way is that acceptable for people to deal with. I’m sorry for not being a person that would make someone proud.
I’m free now. Xoxo.
CarlosThe first time I read this story, I couldn't read the note through. It broke my heart.
Then I became angry. Just like the blind hatred of young black men that lets self-avowed Christians celebrate the death of one at the hands of a remorseless vigilante, the visceral hatred of sexual minorities led one young man to apologize to the world for offending it just by being alive.
This cannot go on. It has to stop. Those who talk about gays and lesbians as if they are some kind of deviants - you are the reason Carlos and people like him die, whether by their own hands or at the hands of others. Those who insist that people who are attracted to others are some kind of danger to the rest of us - you are the reason young men and women like Carlos turn to drugs and violence and self-mutilation and finally tell the world they're sorry they were ever alive and kill themselves.
To anyone who thinks that this is about mental illness - it is. That mental illness is called bigotry, the inability to see human beings who are different than oneself or one's self-identified group as bearers of worth and dignity. Just as the Zimmerman verdict has overturned a rock letting us see and hear the racist bugs crawling through the mud of American life*, let us honor Carlos Vigil by calling out all those who hate. Let us not let them blame another dead kid for his own death. Let us remember Carlos the best way we can - by showing the world he was not a freak and he had nothing to apologize to anyone for. It is we who did not do enough or say enough in defense of Carlos and others like him who owe the apology.
We owe them more. We owe them a world where the thoughts and words and deeds of Carlos Vigil are no longer possible.
UPDATE: And the world turns and more decent pretenses drop to the floor as naked racism appears at National Review, a publication with a history of it, going back to Bill Buckley's attacks on MLK and the Civil Rights Act.
UPDATE II: When I say that the right-wing bigots aren't bothering to hide, all anyone need do is read Roy Edroso's Village Voice column. Be warned, though. It's biased the same way Media Matters is biased. Roy uses actual quotes from right-wing bloggers which is obviously proof of bias and lies.
*I should note that I am not suggesting there were no expressions of racism before the verdict. The coded messages of racist rhetoric were always clear enough. That facade, never very sturdy, has collapsed under the weight of celebration for the killer George Zimmerman. Shorter point: These folks aren't bothering to hide behind code anymore. They are waving their racist flags high.