This has been making the rounds on the internet the past couple days, and I think it’s interesting from the perspective of showing just exactly what kind of climate can take hold in schools. Home video was taken of a football game at North High School in Eastlake, Ohio, which clearly shows students chanting “Powder blue faggots!” at the other team:
Former North High student Heather Ike took the video. “I sat there for a little bit thinking it would stop, and it happened again, and it happened three times,” Ike said, adding that she left the game after a few minutes, disgusted.
The video comes after national headlines about gay teens committing suicide because they were bullied. This video shows what appears to be acceptance of gay bullying.
“For her to catch it in the act is a major thing, because then you can actually see it, you know, it’s not just hearsay,” said a friend of Ike’s, Roger Thomas. Thomas has created an anti-gay bullying Facebook page in response to the video.
“I wasn’t surprised. It’s another incidence of hate speech,” said Jan Cline, executive director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland.
Here’s the thing about hate speech: Half the kids doing the shouting probably weren’t remotely thinking of the way that would sound to a gay kid. Unfortunately, phrases like “that’s gay” and words like “faggot” have simply entered the vernacular for young people, and it’s going to be a steep, uphill battle to try to change that.
Meanwhile, there are the individual situations, where a specific kid is targeted with those slurs, and it is meant personally and hatefully. The thing is, for the kids being targeted, it really doesn’t matter. When they’re hearing it from a bully who means it personally, and then they hear it from an entire cheering section chanting it against an opposing team — “Faggots!” — it all begins to sound the same.
I’m sort of just thinking out loud, and typing it on the internet, right now. Feel free to share your thoughts about this in comments, about how to really combat these phrases and words that can mean such different things depending on who’s yelling them, to whom they’re being directed, etc. Personally speaking, I guess I’ve always been sort of “used to” the word “faggot,” and I, as a gay man, use it sometimes. And personally, it doesn’t bother me when a straight person whose heart I know to be pure and warm toward all things gay, uses it.
But man, words are powerful.
Here’s the video, in case you’re interested: