‘We need to change the message’

Adam Griffiths

Larry King, a 15-year-old in Oxnard, Calif., was shot in his high school’s computer lab a little more than three weeks ago. While we and most of the country followed the development after the shootings at Northern Illinois University, a community of fewer than 200,000 people mourned the loss of a teenager who wore lipstick and high heels to school. He was pronounced brain-dead at a local hospital less than 24 hours after he was attacked.

The afternoon of the attacks at NIU, prosecutors charged Larry’s attacker, a fellow eighth-grader, with attempted murder with a hate-crime enhancement. He is expected to be charged as an adult.

On her talk show last Friday, Ellen DeGeneres made a statement about the incident, and while I could pick apart and comment on what she said, I simply present her emotional message for your consideration:

“I need to talk to you about something that’s really serious and really sad, and if you know me, it’s hard to talk about sad stuff without getting emotional, but this is really important to talk about.

“On Feb. 12, an openly 15-year-old gay boy named Larry, who is an eighth-grader in Oxnard, Calif., was murdered by a fellow eighth-grader named Brandon. Larry was killed because he was gay.

“Days before he was murdered, Larry asked his killer to be his valentine. I don’t want to be political. This is not political. I’m not a political person, but this is personal to me.

“A boy has been killed, and a number of lives have been ruined, and somewhere along the line the killer, Brandon, got the message that it’s so threatening and so awful and so horrific that Larry would want to be his valentine that killing Larry seemed to be the right thing to do. And when the message out there is so horrible that to be gay you can get killed for it, we need to change the message.

“Larry was not a second-class citizen. I am not a second-class citizen: It is OK if you’re gay.

“I don’t care what people say. I don’t care what people think, and I know there are entire groups of people who face discrimination every single day, and we’re a long way from treating each other equally. All of it is unacceptable – all of it.

“But I would like you to start paying attention to how often being gay is a punchline of a monologue or how often gay jokes are in a movie, and that kind of message, laughing at someone because they’re gay, is just the beginning. It starts with laughing at someone, and then it’s verbal abuse, and then it’s physical abuse, and then it’s this kid Brandon killing a kid like Larry.

“We must change our country, and we can do it. We can do it with our behavior. We can do it with our messages that we send our children. We can do it with our vote. This is an election year, and there’s a lot of talk about change. I think one thing we should change is hate. Check on who you’re voting for, and does that person really truly believe that we are all equal under the law? And if you’re not sure, change your vote. We deserve better.

“My heart goes out to everybody involved in this horrible, horrible incident. All the families, and of course even Brandon’s life, has changed because he did this.”

Like I wrote at the end of my commentary on the tragedy at NIU, I reiterate again here: Something must be done.

Adam Griffiths is a sophomore information design major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].