This just came to my attention all though it is over 30 days old, so I assume you may not have known about it either.
Philip Cooney, 19, was arrested on September 9, 2007 in connection with a gay bashing that took place near Georgetown campus. The assailant beat up and unidentified gay student while yelling homophobic slurs. The gay student recognized his assailant as a possible Georgetown student and scoured facebook and other sites with Georgetown student pictures in the hopes of identifying the student.
Philip Cooney pleaded not guilty to all charges and was released on his own recognizance.
Though friends of Cooney, also students at Georgetown, are calling the circulation of the suspects image and charges its own hate crime they are clearly misguided about hate crime legislation and its purpose. Should Cooney be found innocent (as in actually innocent and not just “insufficient evidence”) clearly he is owed an apology but has not as yet spoken out against the release of his name and photo. Moreover, the circulation of his name and photo amongst the queer community is a survival tactic to ensure that anyone considered about their safety is aware of who to look out for a common practice with other violent groups like sex offenders without much protest. At this point, his friends comments are yet another example of the pseudo-justice movement on the right.
Georgetown was the sight of another homophobic bashing less than two years ago, once again involving a gay student and his student attackers. The student in question was severely beaten on his way home by a group of male students who yelled homophobic slurs throughout. The school sponsored a homophobic speaker that same year.
And a little over 10 years ago the school lost a District Court battle to exclude GLBTQ clubs and activities from campus citing religious reasons. Though many on the left like to represent all Christians, Catholic or otherwise, as haters this is not in fact what Jesus called us to be and neither the vocal conservatives in the religion nor the common usage of conservative as synonymous will change that nor the fact that there are GLBTQ Catholics & Protestants & liberal and radical factions in both.
This year, the school had a non-physically violent incident at the Duke/Georgetown football game in which a sign was held up calling the opposing team “ridiculously gay.” The author of the sign said it was a joke and not meant to be homophobic . . . sound familiar? All though some may say the sign was simply meant to rhyme and not a hate crime, we must look closely at why calling someone gay publicly was: 1. the option chosen to humiliate Duke players when non-identity specific language could have been used & 2. what does it mean to equate gay with shameful which is what the sign holder was doing. In both instances his intent – to be humerous – are outweighed by his reliance on the hateful thinking of gay=shame, gay=put down, etc.
Let me be clear, this post is not designed to vilify nor exceptionalize Georgetown University. Gay bashing is common on many campuses even in some of the most sexually liberal institutions and towns. (Think of the gaybashing against the Asian American man in San Fran just a few weeks ago that I posted on.) Instead, this post is meant to highlight how a pattern of intolerance on a college campus encourages varying acts of violence against a single targeted community. Georgetown’s sanctioning of homophobic speakers & acceptance of the “it was a joke” defense for homophobic actions made room for not one but two severe homophobic beatings on campus in the course of 2 years. Hate is not a human trait, as so many these days argue, it is learned behavior.