I can only imagine how amazing it must feel to be an infamous up-and-coming rapper consistently mocked in pop culture as an ambassador of NU. I’m sure you enjoy all the press, both good and bad. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?
That’s until I read your tweet about bullied youth on Gawker Wednesday morning. It has left a taste in my mouth more sour than any rhyme you’ve ever written.
Chet, seeing this tweet from you yesterday was troubling to say the least: “Ayo I don’t condone bullying but anyone who offs themselves cuz they got picked on is weak.”
Heartless and cruel don’t even begin to describe the tragic nature of your statement. But rather than pick on you as many have done in response, I instead forgive you and feel for you, Chet.
It’s saddening that you seem to lack empathy with victims of bullying, and their friends and families, especially the young people who took their own lives after capitulating to the constant pain and pressure of facing it every single day; all for simply being themselves.
You value individuality and free-expression, do you not? Those “weak” people you mocked in your tweet did too. But because they were nerds, or ugly, or fat, or gay, many sought to denigrate and deny them that ability to be who they are. It takes courage to face your foes, let alone to do so on a daily basis in an educational setting. While bullies slept at night not thinking about what they said or how badly they beat another member of their community, some of those bullied youth lay awake in fear of facing the next day, often with no one to depend on for love and support.
I know that feeling all too well, Chet. And, thankfully, I survived.
I was subject to incessant bullying and harassment during my formative years, Chet. I didn’t enjoy being ostracized at school by friends and acquaintances because I was perceived as a gay man. I remember often dreading to attend classes during freshman year of high school, not wishing to be called “faggot,” “stupid queer,” or “sissy” as I went about my daily schedule. I didn’t look forward to being treated differently as an athlete because others thought I was gay, and feeling like I had to prove myself even more because of it.
Those years weren’t fun, let alone the anxiety of not being out to family. I was often isolated and dealt with the hurt and anger by myself, struggling to make friends I could trust who would accept me for who I am.
Yes, I felt weak often. Yes, I felt powerless. And what got me through were the few teachers and friends willing to reach out, supporting and affirming me despite all the negativity. Even my faith in God helped me to persevere, despite hearing church sermons about gays “burning eternally in hell” for going against God’s supposed plan for me to be hetero.
I didn’t commit suicide, but I can only imagine the outcome had there not been support for me. And, unfortunately, the pain and pressure has been too much for many children and young adults to endure; even in years prior to swells of media attention when people like 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer or Rutgers student Tyler Clementi took their own lives.
Think of all the young people, gay or otherwise, who read tweets like yours and have their experiences and emotions dismissed as “weak” and “stupid.” Not that you’ve ever claimed to be a role model, and I certainly do not consider you one, but your words have much more impact than you may think. With sites like Gawker, TMZ and Jezebel chronicling your time here at NU, you have a platform that you have barely earned simply because of your family name. While many other famous children use that for good, your tweet reflects the worst of intentions and callous disregard for your community.
I’m not sure if you know this, Chet, but many here on campus know you less for the nice person you actually may be. I don’t know you, but perhaps deep down you’re a good-hearted and good-natured person. Though here at NU, you’re not even known for your rhymes, even if “White and Purple” might have been a little cute at first. Instead, Chet, I’ve only heard you regarded as a privileged, lazy, unintelligent jester for whom many lack a shred of respect. And that tweet didn’t help your cause.
It appears you’ve deleted the tweet, but you clearly have no remorse for your actions. Instead, Chet, you decided to tweet Wednesday afternoon “I say real shit and I always speak my mind if you don’t like it I could give a fuck less” and “no regrets and no apologies.”
Really, Chet? I wonder if you would ever have the gall to tell the parents of bullied children who took their own lives that their kids were “weak” and that you don’t regret or apologize for believing it. Yet with your tweet spreading across social media and news sites, your words impact many who have been personally affected by a friend or family member who committed suicide after trying so hard to be strong for so long while dealing with bullying.
Your words may very well have opened up old wounds, or ones that were being healed through time, patience, support and even prayer. And with all that you’ve been given in your privilege and wealth as the son of a legendary actor, you can do much better than this and you know it.
How are your actions at all in line with what you’ve proclaimed on your Facebook fan page as an artist who acknowledges “with fame comes responsibility,” and that you are “ no stranger to giving back to his community?”
Truth is, they aren’t. Real talk.
I’d encourage you to take a cue from your father this time around. I remember back in 2006 when an artist I admire and enjoy, Sheryl Crow, was cheered by her friends at an LA event just a week following her surgery for breast cancer. They supported and encouraged her will to survive. Your father, along with many other A-list celebrities, sent his well wishes to Crow at the event, generously expressing “There’s millions of survivors out there; make it one million and one.”
While bullying and cancer are different struggles, they share a common thread. The will to overcome, the power of the human spirit, and the love and support of others are aspects of both experiences. Most want to survive and succeed in doing so, but there are many that succumb.
Chet, perhaps you could reach out and give back to your community by reaching out to bullied youngsters. Affirm them. Support them. Let them know there are people out there who care. Tweet about a program like Trevor Project or the Suicide Prevention Hotline and voice your support to encourage your fans to do the same.
Instead of shaming victims, perhaps you can help other youth survive incessant bullying.
In the end, Chet, a little consideration and empathy goes a long way in evolving into a successful person. It’s a lesson we all must learn, and one I hope you learn along the way.
P.S.: I say “real shit” too and I always speak my mind. But, more often than not, I think before I talk.
Image Credit: Gawker