The Tyler Clementi Story: Culture Clash

Sam is a 16-year-old from Montgomery, NJ. She enjoys playing tennis, writing and Community Service. Her favorite subject in school is History.

We have all heard the tragic story all over the news. A Rutgers freshman, Tyler Clementi, was secretly videotaped during an encounter with a male by his roommate. The tape went viral and a distraught Tyler ultimately jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death. The perpetrators, Tyler’s roommate Dharun Ravi, and Dharun’s friend Molly Wei, were reviled for their actions. However, the story really hit hard with students at my school, who were not only horrified but couldn’t help but question the motives of the perpetrators.

The major aspect of the controversy many of my classmates noticed was the ethnicity of the perpetrators. Dharun is Indian American, and Molly is Chinese American. Both attended the same high school, which in my town has a reputation for a high Asian-American population, similar to my school and other surrounding schools. According to their fellow classmates, Dharun and Molly were all-around good kids. Dharun received almost a perfect score on his SATs and ran track while Molly took several APs and played volleyball. In other words, they were the “standard” students I discussed in my last article

Unfortunately, the non-Asian population in my town stereotypes the perpetrators based on this information. Many assume by this information that the accused had very regimental home lives, where Dharun and Molly were likely told what to do, what not to do, and were possibly shielded from the more natural parts of growing up (with emphasis on experimentation with either a drug, alcohol, or sex). A conclusion is made that had they not been raised in this regimental lifestyle and were given time to grow socially, they would develop better morals and common sense, understanding that videotaping someone in a private situation is NOT acceptable. This claim could be backed up by tweets from Dharun’s Twitter page in which not only did he brag about videotaping, but also mentioned smoking marijuana and refusing to do schoolwork.

As for the Asian students at my school, many of them appeared to be almost disappointed and saddened, if not apathetic, towards the whole ordeal. However, there were few that did have more vocal opinions on the case and joined the Facebook group entitled “Molly Wei is Innocent.” This group states that while the members in no way condone Dharun’s actions, they feel that Molly did not know how to say no and did not suspect that Dharun was using her computer to watch Tyler. When I read this, I could not help but wonder if there was a connection between these claims (i.e. not saying no) and historical traditions of women subservience in Asian culture.

Whatever the influence of culture on the Tyler Clementi story may be, it has without a doubt shaken our world and given us inspiration to stop bullying and keep on supporting gay rights. Be it repression or submissiveness, this controversy will go down in history as a deplorable act that could’ve possibly been avoided.

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