Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Middle School Prank or Hate Crime?

I can't make this stuff up, lol. Just leave it to a few wingnuts and overzealous administrators to take an admittedly stupid prank committed by a middle school student and turn it into something it just isn't.

After seeing this story told over and over this morning on both FoxNews and CNN, I decided to put together this post. The interesting thing is, I was unable to find any text from either channel's website on the story...in fact, I couldn't find it mentioned anywhere on any of the 'major' news outlet sites. I did finally manage to find a write-up on the story on Associated Content's site, but here are the highlights...

A middle school student in Maine placed a ham sandwich, wrapped in a brown, paper bag, on a table in the school's cafeteria. The table was occupied by a group of Somali students who are Muslims. Since anything related to pork is considered highly offensive to Muslims, the Somali students were understandably upset by the incident. The sandwich-wielding student was suspended, and that should have been the end of the story, in my opinion.

Here's where it gets interesting....the local police are launching a hate crime investigation and are considering charges against the student. Since the long discussed hate crime legislation is due for a vote in both the house and senate this week, this incident is incredibly ill timed. The actions taken by the local authorities in Maine are exactly what the wingnuts have been blathering about since the hate crime bill's inception. Should the student be punished...absolutely, but the incident simply can't be put in the same category with the beating death of Matthew Shepard. The student's act was stupid and insensitive, but doesn't come anywhere near the magnitude of the Shepard killing or other true hate crimes for which the current legislation was created.

That's the first thing that bothers me about this story. What bothers me more is the sudden silence from the major media outlets after shining such a glaring light on it this morning. The crew over at FoxNews went so far as to have a ham sandwich sitting out on the coffee table in front of them for the better part of an hour of their "Fox and Friends" broadcast. Did someone suddenly decide that this was and untouchable subject? Was a threat made? Perhaps some advertising dollars were put at risk, not unlike the whole Don Imus/MSNBC ordeal, forcing these outlets to drop the subject. I doubt we'll ever know the answer, but it's this sort of reporting that reinforces what the wingnuts have been saying about the much needed hate crime legislation. If enough molehills get turned into mountains, the wingnuts might just get their way and citizens who are victims of crimes related to their race, nationality, gender or sexual orientation will be left without the legal recourse that they and their families deserve. I suppose, in the end, advertising dollars are much more important than justice, though...right?

No comments: