Bad blood

By Asra Q. Nomani

By Salon Staff
Published August 14, 2000 7:21PM (EDT)

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Certainly one can argue that many, if not most, violent crimes have their origins in the social ills suffered by the perpetrator. The point is, however, that Warren's murder probably would not have been committed had he been a straight white boy. The fact that he was both black and gay made him a suitable target in the eyes of his murderers. And that, my friend, is a hate crime.

-- Richard Pelletier

I think this article perfectly illustrates the notion put forth by Tony Kushner about "the other Other," or a sort of archetype Southern/Appalachian white Other that coastal, more culturally dominant whites can compare themselves to in order to exonerate themselves from guilt associated with hate crimes.

Though the article tries to resist such a reading -- claiming that though "It's simpler ... to see it as a crime motivated purely by an unimaginable hate. It's more realistic to see it as the product of society's own, self-perpetuating cycle of violence," I would argue that such a view is impossible to conceive of for the average reader. Confronted with such a pastiche of rural life -- the alcoholic, the Vietnam vet who experiences flashbacks and the kids who sniff gas fumes -- readers can hardly imagine Grant Town as emblematic of social ills. Instead, the article makes it easier for readers who lead white suburban lives to view themselves as enlightened while other parts of the country remain in the dark ages.

-- Ryan Martin

Did alcohol, drugs and family problems of the murderers contribute to the violent slaying of Warren? Most likely. But more so than homophobia and racism? Very unlikely.

Racism and bigotry quite purposely reduce their targets to something less than human, perhaps even something less than animal. So, if you're feeling violent enough to kill, why kill a human when you can kill a "fag" or "nigger," something "other"?

Nomani claims that "It's simpler ... to see it as a crime motivated purely by an unimaginable hate." Simpler, because it's true. Less palatable, because it forces us to face that unimaginable hate that we have allowed to flourish unchecked in our midst. Calling it a hate crime implicates us all, as it should.

The Rev. Nelson Staples III "compared the violence to Warren's body to the violence Warren's sexuality inflicted upon his soul." No, Rev. Staples, it was not his sexuality that tortured his soul, but the bigots and racists of this society. This "passionate pastor" then imagines "a conversation between the dead young man's body and soul ... the soul telling the body, 'You can't bother me anymore. I'm free now.'" More likely, Reverend, Warren was speaking to the church, the bigots and the racists who would see him dead rather than accept his as a human being possessing the same right to life they claim as their own.

-- T.B. Strubble

Salon Staff

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