There was a possible hate crime over the weekend at the Jazzfest in downtown Salt Lake City. A man is seriously injured and witnesses say it’s because he’s gay.
Josh Shuck says he was tackled and his head slammed against the ground. He now has two crushed vertebrae. He doesn’t remember much from the fight but witnesses say it’s a hate crime.
… “These guys came by and they were pretty pretty drunk,” Shuck said.
Shuck says he didn’t know the guys but they sat down and the group talked briefly. Shuck says he didn’t like where the conversation was going and he and his friends made a move to leave. That’s when trouble started.
“One of them pushed me a little bit so I pushed him back.”
Then Shuck says he was blindsided.
“Out of nowhere another came and tackled me and threw me across the pavement,” he said.
Josh says the guy slammed his head against the ground. It’s what happened right before -the part Josh doesn’t quite remember- that most upset his friends who witnessed it.
“Before he shoved me and tackled me to the ground, he called me a fag,” Shuck said.
Josh Shuck is openly gay. His friends tell him the men made other slurs.
See the video for more details. Two crushed vertebra and a neck brace for six weeks. No big deal, though. Right? After all this kind of think has no direct connection to, say, a festering culture of anti-gay hatred, right? And since police are already on the case and know the individuals involved, all’s well. Right?
For the folks who still can’t wrap their brains around the LIFEbeat campaign and why it’s important, spare me any outrage you might be inclined to express over what happened to Josh Shuck or any of the people I named earlier. Spare me because it’s after the fact, and pointless. It won’t undo what happened to Josh Shuck any more than it will prevent the next inevitable attack.
The point is that what happened to Shuck didn’t happen in a vacuum. The guys who attacked him weren’t just bitten by a homo-hating bug that day. The violence directed at Shuck was born of a belief that people like him are worthless, should be attacked, and even killed. That belief is nursed in a thousand ways by a culture that continuously reinforces it, until it manifests itself in actions; sometimes deadly actions.
The only way to stop it is to confront it. The only way to prevent more attacks like what happened to Josh Shuck is to confront that culture whenever and wherever it’s found.
There was a time when gay people quietly accepted whatever was dished out to them, and for a long time nothing changed. Then some of us finally stood up for ourselves, gained visibility, won a few victories and gained enough strength to stand up for ourselves as a community. That’s also what saw us through the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, when many of us built a movement to fight a disease that many people saw fit to ignore so long as it was only killing us.
The lesson learned then is the same one learned long ago, and the same one practiced today: standing up, speaking, and (yes) acting up are sometimes the only way things change.