On Sept. 19, two Rutgers students, Dharun Ravi, 18, and Molly Wei, 18, used a webcam to spy on Ravi’s roommate, Tyler Clementi, 18, who was involved in a sexual encounter with another male student.
Online, Ravi tweeted, “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into Molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”
On Sept. 22, Clementi wrote that he was jumping off the George Washington Bridge. Later, items belonging to him were found by the bridge, and his body was found in the Hudson River.
Ravi and Wei have both been charged with invasion of privacy. They will each face a maximum five-year sentence if convicted of transmitting footage over the Internet, which is a third degree crime.
Both students have withdrawn from school.
It’s extremely disheartening that two of the students in the middle of this tragedy are Asians — one Indian and the other Chinese. It is disappointing because many Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) — and many other people of color — fight for equality on a daily basis. When we demand fairness for ourselves, we must also extend it to all others. It’s horrible that the bullying of Clementi led to such a tragic end. What Ravi and Wei did was despicable.
There have been many editorials and commentaries speculating whether being so digitized has made students callous and uncaring. Some commentators have tried to make excuses for Ravi and Wei, saying that though both are legally adults, perhaps they shouldn’t face the same kind of punishment that adults would face because technology has stunted their emotional growth.
We don’t buy that. No matter how many new toys are out there, nothing is stronger than the influence of parents.
It’s so important for Asian parents to teach their kids to not just have fun and be selfish. It seems that too many teenagers avoid thinking about consequences or taking responsibility. Bullying is not just about violence. It is also about humiliation. With technology, it’s easy for teens to bully without physically laying hands on a person. It’s easy for people to say mean things behind a computer screen.
We need to teach our kids that being smart, earning good grades, and getting scholarships — the goals of most Asian parents — aren’t the be all and end all. Developing the character of our kids is far more important. A remorseless kid can be the worst sin a parent can make.
We need to develop our kids’ contributions and teach them to help their community and friends. Al Sugiyama, former executive director of the Center for Career Alternatives, said, “Success is not measured by how much money you make, but by how many people you have helped along the way.” This is what Asian parents should preach to their kids. ♦