Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
Christopher r. Martin
Gay & Lesbian Community Notes
Eleanor J. Bader
There are no articles.
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
When Is a Hate Crime Not a Hate Crime?
F rom being physically harassed in my middle-class New Jersey Catholic high school in the mid-1960s to being assaulted in Boston’s outdoor cruising areas, I’ve seen a lot of anti-gay harassment. The closest I’ve come to deadly violence was on November 18, 1980. I had been standing in front of the Ramrod bar in New York’s Greenwich Village as several dozen men in leather jackets and jeans were chatting and cruising, taking a break from the smoky bar. Soon I left for the Mineshaft, another West Village club, noted for its rowdy Thursday two-for-one night. Thirty minutes later, Ronald K. Crumpley fired 40 rounds from a semiautomatic rifle and two pistols into the cluster of men outside the Ramrod, killing two and wounding six others. Bartenders at the Mineshaft told us what had happened and urged us to be careful since no one was certain there was only one shooter.
In the 1960s and 1970s, public expressions of homosexuality and
physical violence were so intricately bound together that, as a
community, we expected it. In this part of the world, in 2006, things
have changed for gay men. That is why the recent attack at Puzzles
Lounge in New Bedford, Massachusetts was truly shocking.
On Thursday, February 2, just after midnight, Jacob D. Robida, an 18-year-old high school dropout, entered Puzzles Lounge. After being served two drinks, Robida asked if it was “a gay bar.” When told that it was, he assaulted patrons with a handgun and a hatchet, wounding three men, two seriously. He fled home, left a note for his mother that apologized and expressed his love, but added, “I have to go out by my means.” He then took her car, picked up his ex-girlfriend Jennifer Bailey in West Virginia, and drove to Arkansas where he shot and killed a part-time police officer. After a 16-mile chase, Robida crashed his car and then shot Bailey in the head before he shot himself. He died the following day.
According to news reports, when New Bedford police searched Robida’s bedroom they found “homemade posters disparaging African-Americans and Jews, neoNazi literature and skinhead paraphernalia,” as well as an empty coffin.
The first response to the attacks—by police, the media, and spokespeople for gay groups—was that this was a “hate crime” that specifically targeted homosexuals. Although Bristol District Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr. has stated that Robida seemed to have no connections to any known groups that promoted anti-Semitic, racist, or anti-gay ideology, filling one’s bedroom with Nazi regalia suggests at least a serious predisposition to social malignity.
After the attacks, the media reached out to national gay spokespeople such as Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), who stated that “the hatred and loathing fueling” the New Bedford attacks “is not innate, it is learned” from the likes of James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Reverend Pat Robertson, and others on the Christian right who are “obsessed with homosexuality.” Clarence Patton, the acting executive director of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, argued that such violence was a reaction to queer political organizing: “It happened in Massachusetts during the fight to secure same-sex marriage rights, it happened in San Francisco for the same reasons.” Neil G. Giuliano, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), saw the New Bedford incident as an attack on the entire gay community: “This act of defamation highlights the need for all of us to do what we can to combat the hatred and bigotry our community still faces.”
Over the past three decades we have created the term “hate crime”—a violent, or sometimes simply verbal, expression of vehement and vicious dislike for a specific group. We have a federal law that adds extra sentencing penalties to crimes that target people because of race, religion, and nationality; 22 states include sexual orientation as a protected category. There has been a decade-long fight by gay rights groups to include sexual orientation in the federal law, although there is almost no evidence that these laws function as a deterrent. Up until last May, the ACLU had opposed federal legislation for fear that it would interfere with protected free speech. Other civil liberty groups argue that hate crime legislation is discriminatory and selective in the categories they protect. For instance, vigilantism against suspected or convicted criminals—say sex offenders—would not be a hate crime.
Interestingly, gender, despite the struggle by many feminist groups to become a protected classification in many states, is almost never used in cases of rape or domestic violence. If it were, rape could be classified as a hate crime directed specifically against women and the criminal penalties for rape and sexual assault—almost all against men—would increase tremendously.
But the biggest problem with hate-crime legislation is that it is predicated on the idea that physical and verbal attacks against protected groups are all fueled by ideological animus. The reality is that not all violence against gay people is, by its nature, homophobic or ideologically hateful. Matt Foreman’s blaming Pat Robertson and his cohorts for the Puzzles Lounge attacks feels wildly off-base. Such easy connections between words and actions are not only difficult to prove but often specious and selectively constructed. People may argue that there was a particular animus against homosexuals in this case. After all, when Robida went into Puzzles Lounge that Thursday night he asked if it was a gay bar. But given that we now know that Robida was on a suicide trip, Puzzles Lounge may well have been the easiest available outlet for his hate-filled emotions.
Robida was a poor, high-school dropout living in an economically devastated city. The Boston Globe reported that New Bedford social services investigated complaints that he was neglected. He lived alone with his mother who was blind and physically disabled, confined to a wheelchair. News reports quote Robida’s friends—including lesbians—who claim he never said anything negative about homosexuals. While people should be held responsible for their actions, if we are going to deal effectively with this kind of violence, we are going to have to understand it better in all its manifestations.
The case of Jacob Robida raises questions about not only how we look at—and classify—violence, but also how we deal with it legally. Hate crime legislation is intended to deter crimes against specific groups of people by adding extra prison time—usually called “penalty enhancement”—to their sentences for the “intent” to harm people based on ideological animus. Like all laws they are imperfect. It is not clear if Robida would have been tried under hate crime legislation since he never vocalized a specific animus against homosexuals at the time of the crime (or elsewhere in his life, on-line, or in the personal effects in his room). It is clear that hate crime laws did not deter Robida from his violent attack and if he had gone to prison for these actions he probably would have been denied the basic mental health care he needed.
Did Jacob Robida commit a hate crime? We will never know. Ronald K. Crumpley was the son of a conservative Baptist Christian minister. After the 1980 shootings, many gay groups blamed his family’s religious beliefs for his actions. He was later found to be mentally ill, is still considered dangerous, and is confined to a New York state psychiatric ward. Twenty-five years ago I would have agreed with gay groups and the media that what Crumpley did was a classic hate crime. But as horrifying and deadly as it was, I am not sure I would say that now.
Michael Bronski is the author of Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps (St. Martin’s Press, 2004).
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.