Friday, February 13, 2009

Making the Connections: Racial Harrassment, Violence against Gay Youth

The Arkansas Times is reporting today that some noble citizens of my state provided quite a welcome to electric workers from out of state who came to Arkansas last week, leaving behind their families, to help restore power to these citizens
( This happened in north Arkansas, in Madison Co. As they worked to restore power, crews of workers from Pennsylvania, many of them African-American, were harassed by local teens shouting insults, waving rebel flags, and, in some cases, weapons.

Charming behavior. It puts me in mind of what happened to Billy Wolfe in his high school in Fayetteville last year, close to where these electric workers were harassed ( and I’ve been thinking of Billy Wolfe these days because yesterday was the anniversary of the murder of Larry King, and new details are coming out about that murder which challenge a story that some reporters tried to push following King’s murder: namely, that King had elicited violence by flirting with the boy who killed him, Brandon McInerney.

Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin posted an article about this yesterday ( He notes media reports and court documents that tell a very different story: one of repeated harassment of King by McInerney, with taunts about King’s sexual orientation and threats of violence.

Racism, homophobia: all part of a larger picture, in my view. As Beverly Wildung Harrison’s classic collection of essays Making the Connections (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985) powerfully demonstrates, there are compelling, unavoidable links between racism, militarism, homophobia, and misogyny. All derive from a worldview in which men—straight men—take for granted that they have the unquestioned right to rule everyone else and to punish those who will not submit to their rule.

And the social toxins we see at work in the threats issued against African-American workers in north Arkansas this week, and the repeated beatings of Billy Wolfe by classmates and the murder of Larry King last year, will not be expelled until we deal with that worldview and the price the entire world pays as long as it is permitted to prevail. I wonder why I imagine those teens waving rebel flags and shouting racial epithets in Madison Co., Arkansas, as male youths?