Monday, January 25, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 78

Parsons on Cars

Patel on Fanaticism

Staff Editorial

Letters to the Editor

About the Cougar

Giving a name and face to a statistic

Austin Tice

Wesley was beaten to death because he was gay.

I don't know why this surprises me so much. I've seen the news clips so many times that I don't even read them anymore -- the stories of Matthew Shepard and the many, many before him.

But when I heard about Wesley, I was surprised. Shocked. Outraged.

Wesley lived here and went to a small private high school in Houston. Wesley was a friend of a friend. He knew people that I knew.

The more I hear about him, the more I wish I could have known him too. By everyone's account, he was a spectacular, incredibly likable young man.

I've never known anyone who was killed. A cousin of mine who I didn't really know passed away a few years ago, but other than that, I've never even known anyone who has died.

I didn't know that these things happened. Yes, I've read the articles. Yes, I've seen the statistics. Yes, I've heard the slogans and the chants and the cries for legislation.

Somewhere between Here and There, reality got lost. Somewhere between Here and There, a kid left to die on a fence became just another statistic. Somewhere between Here and There, a human life became just another space filler on the evening news.

Until Wesley died, I just didn't know.

People just don't do that here. Not in Houston. Not in the fourth-largest city in the nation. Not in my hometown. People just don't kill people for being gay in my hometown.

Except they do. A bunch of my peers went out and smashed this poor guy into the concrete until he bled to death.

People who claimed to be his friends didn't even let him know when they found out that something was going to happen. People who, who knows, maybe I've played basketball with in the park. Guys who someday might try to date my sister. Guys who probably go to church. 

They tried to console his parents. They told him that he was a great guy, that everyone liked him a lot. They told him you couldn't even tell that he was gay, as if they hated what their son was, but they'd done a good job covering it up. Like he was pretty cool -- for a gay guy.

I know that it happened, but somehow my brain just can't accept it.

Last summer, I met a girl from Mississippi. She told me about how the guys in her town would go driving up and down the streets looking for black people to beat up.

I couldn't believe her. That's outrageous, I objected. That's in the history books. That's from back in the days when there was hate and racism and discrimination. That just isn't the world that I live in.

And then I realized that's what the problem is.

Wesley was killed because of attitudes like mine. He was killed because of people who refuse to recognize that hate is still alive.

He was killed because of people who have managed to lull themselves into thinking that the world has somehow been transformed into this kind of Pollyanna happy-go-lucky brotherhood kind of love.

He was killed because of people who have conned themselves into thinking that hate just doesn't exist anymore. Or at least, if it does, it exists somewhere very far away, somewhere Out There that they just don't have any control over.

I don't know exactly how this is going to change me, but I know that it will. When I didn't know that people really died because of intolerance, at least I could plead ignorance. But I can no longer stand by in good conscience and do nothing as innocent people are murdered in my own hometown.

Wesley, I'm sorry -- for the pathetic little that is worth.

Tice, a sophomore University Studies student, 
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