On Thursday night, April 22, 2010, after a long day at work, I arrived home and found that my partner Joel had gone out for the evening. He had decided to go dance at a local bar where we hang out frequently, just blocks from our apartment in the ‘gayborhood’ at the heart of Baltimore City’s midtown cultural district. After a quick phone call to him, we decided that I would go to the bar and have a beer or two while he danced, and then we would walk home together. It was nice out; there were lots of people there, having a great time, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it. Even though I opened a tab, expecting to be there a while, I drank exactly one beer (which I didn’t really like) and made up my mind to close and go home.
Sitting at the bar, I must have looked odd. Normally, I am what people call a “social butterfly” – I walk around a lot and talk to different people, I’m bubbly, I’m loud, I have a good time. That night, I just sat there thinking, “Why am I out? I’m tired”. But Joel was having a great time, and that made me happy, so I quietly had my beer and then sent him a text message that I was ready to go.
Shortly afterward, he came over from the dance floor and we headed home. Happy. Tired. In love. Holding hands. Smiling.
And then, we got egged.
Now, I am pretty sure that I have never been physically assaulted in my life. At first, I wasn’t sure what happened. I heard a crack, and thought that perhaps someone had dropped a glass bottle that shattered on the sidewalk. Then, I thought that someone threw a bottle at us, and was concerned that Joel might have been hurt. When I saw the fragments of eggshell on the ground, and felt the goo dripping down my clothing, and realized that there was no blood, I calmed down long enough to allow my anger to surface. It all happened so quickly; it was confusing. The egg had been hurled at us from a moving vehicle travelling toward us, and by the time we figured out what happened it was too late to discern which vehicle it came from, much less get its tag number. At this point, I’m just angry…and sopping with gooey egg.
We went home. I called the police. They arrived within 5 minutes, filed a report, and left. I must admit, the responding officer was very nice, cordial, and efficient. We understood that there wasn’t much that could be done, but I was insistent that there be a record of the crime. Joel thinks these may be the same hoodlums who yelled insults at him a few weeks prior. As someone remarked, “silence is hurting [our] community”, and I refuse to silently accept injustice, no matter that some might think this a petty offense not worthy of so much attention, especially when there are so many more heinous crimes happening in Baltimore. I beg to differ, and here are a few of my reasons.
#1 “Thank God it wasn’t a bullet”. Well, sure. I’m very thankful that it wasn’t a bullet – this time. It started with words (have you ever had some random person yell an epithet at you from a moving vehicle, in your own neighborhood?), and has now progressed to physical violence. Yes, it was ‘just’ an egg. Are we supposed to wait until after we get shot to speak up? Does someone have to be seriously injured before it’s ok to report a crime? Hell no. This is how things start, and the situation escalates when you allow it to.
#2 Throwing things at people from moving vehicles is ILLEGAL. I’m tired of people suggesting, whether they intend to or not, that you should just roll over and accept what they deem to be trifling matters. Yes, relatively speaking, this was not the worst that could have happened. But it was still a crime, and it happened to my partner and me, and the right thing to do was to report it to the police, despite the unlikelihood of these criminals’ apprehension. So what if there are more severe crimes? Those should be reported as well! When will it stop if we don’t work to stop it? Why shouldn’t we be outraged that someone thought this was ok? This is how it starts!
#3 This is a safety issue. Granted, we tend to get a little too comfortable in our affirming churches and our progressive urban gayborhoods and forget that the wider world out there is still broadly dangerous, and in this time of political vitriol, xenophobia, and tea partiers, our little havens aren’t necessarily as safe as we once thought. We have to heal the world. Safety, like peace, is something that we have to create. Safety is the presence of peace-of-mind provided by structures that support and sustain, not just the absence of violence. I want to make the world safe, for me and for others.
#4 This was a hate crime. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t motive play a role in prosecuting crime? When you perpetrate any crime against another being, you are creating a victim. When you target someone specifically because of some demographic that you despise, you are terrorizing an entire community of people. Some say that “a crime is a crime”, but I don’t think that these two types of crime should be treated in quite the same way. Yes, they are both awful. But when your motive is based in hatred for an entire group of people, the punishment should be commensurate. Of course, designating some acts as “hate crimes” is not the solution, yet prosecuting said crimes more strongly is a response that can help alleviate the detrimental effects of having one’s community under constant potential threat, and may increase an individual’s willingness to actually report crime!
So yeah, let’s all thank God it wasn’t a bullet. If it had been, you might be attending a funeral or two now, wondering how such an atrocity could have come about, instead of reading my rant about a single hurled egg.
“Aaron Burr, Sir” (Hamilton song by song, 2)
30 minutes ago