Homophobia still exists in today’s hate crimes


Daily Sundial

On Feb. 1, 18-year-old Jacob Robida walked into a bar in New Bedford, Mass. and attacked three people with a gun and hatchet. Four days later, he died during a shootout with police in Arkansas, where he had fled after his crimes.

His friends littered his MySpace profile with nonchalant comments pertaining to his crime. They all said they would see him in heaven. I was severely bothered by some of the comments on his profile???-specifically the comments left by loving friends-due to the nature of the incident.

The problem is that Robida didn’t just shoot bar patrons. He shot individuals in a known gay bar, Puzzles Lounge.

The shooting couldn’t have come as a surprise to any friends of Robida. A search of his room after the shootings in the bar unearthed slurs against gays, blacks and Jews, as well as a coffin and many weapons, including a samurai sword and 85 rounds of ammunition.

The comments on his profile struck me because of the blas? manner of his friends. Would their thoughts on his crime be different if he had walked into a “regular” bar and shot their friends or family?

I was under the evidently wrong impression that while homophobia still remains, its force and anger had dissipated somewhat in the last several years.

When Matthew Shepard was murdered in 1998 because of his sexuality, the backlash toward homophobic feeling was strong. The nation seemed to be in a state of denial to the extent of a bias against gays before Shepard’s death. I thought that people learned from the hatred that drove Shepard’s killers to torture and murder him, but apparently my naivet? knows no bounds.

I thought that gay rights were being taken more seriously in recent years-or at the very least, gay individuals would not be subjected to hate crimes as brutal as in past years. Maybe it’s the byproduct of living in liberal areas of California that gives me the impression that gay rights are respected everywhere and that the social consciousness has changed dramatically and necessarily. A 2004 FBI report on hate crimes directed toward homosexuals confirms that this type of crime has decreased in the years since Shepard’s death, which is a relief.

Far more damaging, however, is the possibility that the re-emergence of publicized homophobia-motivated hate crimes could numb the public consciousness to the serious nature of these crimes. I don’t think that people will embrace violence against gays, but at a certain point, desensitization to violence occurs that inevitably undermines its serious nature.

I’m not so stupid to believe that everyone has the same opinion as the friends who posted unconcerned comments regarding Robida’s crimes, but the power of mass thought, -especially when it involves such a controversial issue as homophobia-is more far-reaching and influential than some people think, and such dismissive attitudes toward Robida’s crime, even on a small scale like a listing on his blog, is still dangerous in the long run.

Lauren Robeson can be reached at lauren.robeson.79@csun.edu.