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Did Kevin Jennings advocate murder? Another rightwing lie exposed

crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

Don't be fooled by the fact that we haven't heard anything new regarding the right's war on Obama appointee Kevin Jennings.

We probably haven't heard anything because those who oppose him are digging through the manure trying to find something that will stick when they throw it at him..

Such as this bit via the rightwing site Gateway Pundit:

Obama's Safe Schools Czar Wrote That Killing Someone Who Called You Names Was “Not Aberrant Behavior”

Verum Serum discovered this article by Obama's Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings in 1998:

We need to own up to the fact that our culture teaches boys that being “a man” is the most important thing in life, even if you have to kill someone to prove it. Killing someone who calls you a faggot is not aberrant behavior but merely the most extreme expression of a belief that is beaten (sometimes literally) into boys at an early age in this country: Be a man – don’t be a faggot.

As Suzanne Pharr so eloquently explained in her landmark work Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism, antigay bigotry is inextricably intertwined with the maintenance of “proper” gender roles by which little girls are supposed to be “sugar and spice and everything nice” and boys are supposed to be, well, quite the opposite. When boys take up guns to kill those who torment them with words like “faggot,” we shouldn’t be surprised. They’re just doing what we have taught them to do.

And on Free Republic is this piece:

Safe Schools Czar Absolves Murder for Anti-gay Slurs

Here we go again. Expect Hannity and company to jump on this.

Of course the claim that Jennings advocates murder is a distortion of what he actually said – and a rather bad one.

The piece in question, Be A Man, was originally published in September 29, 1998 in The Advocate magazine.

Jennings never advocated anything even resembling murder. He was actually saying in his piece that society contributes to violence in schools by pushing gender stereotypes.

At the beginning of the piece, he says the following:

When I was 8, my dad died unexpectedly of a heart attack. As the youngest of five siblings (four of us, boys), I looked to my brothers for guidance on how to act in this unsettling and unfamiliar territory. At dad's funeral I got the message. When I started crying, my brother Mike looked down and barked, “Stop crying. Be a man.
Don't be a faggot.”

While astoundingly insensitive in his timing, my brother was simply passing down the code of masculinity he'd been taught. “Real men” don't show their feelings, and those men who do are faggots—which is the last thing any real man would want to be. It's a lesson I have spent nearly three decades trying to unlearn. Many important lessons—the kind that shape our lives—are learned long before college or grad school. Sadly, today's boys seem to be learning the same lesson—with far deadlier results. Consider these examples:

Then he proceeds to list examples of violent incidents that took place in America's high schools; incidents precipitated by someone being called a “faggot.

Then he says the following:

Why haven't you heard more about these incidents? Well, sadly, homophobic harassment in our schools is so commonplace that it is no longer news. But surely this seemingly novel phenomenon of youth taking up firearms in response should have made headlines. And here's the real kicker: None of the boys who perpetrated these attacks identifies as gay.

What's going on here? As we begin another school year close on the heels of one in which schoolyard shootings became a dreary staple of the nightly news, it's time to analyze why some young people are driven to kill. Obviously, we could prevent some killings if we restricted the ease with which anyone can get a firearm, but that would not get at the root cause of the problem. We need to own up to the fact that our culture teaches boys that being “a man” is the most important thing in life, even if you have to kill someone to prove it. Killing someone who calls you a faggot is not aberrant behavior but merely the most extreme expression of a belief that is beaten (sometimes literally) into boys at an early age in this country: Be a man—don't be a faggot.

From that perspective, it doesn't sound like Jennings is advocating violence, does it?

It's sad to watch how desperate people get when trying to destroy someone's reputation.

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Alvin McEwen

Alvin McEwen

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