Dear family 

Tyler Clementi was driven to suicide for being gay. When we excuse hate-driven language and actions, young people die.

Dear family,

I don’t know what to say to you because the things that you say to others and the things you don’t say to me already ring with the sounds hate, discrimination, and everything you taught us not to be. 

I see when you comment on news articles. They trickle through my feed. 

I see your posts to each other. They’re difficult not to read. 

I can see the things you like and the people in your life. 

I can see when you do nothing. 

I can see you. 

I can see. 

Bri Golec was murdered by her father for being Trans.

Your gleeful support of men and platforms which have clearly stated their hatred for Queers, Muslims, Black Americans, women, and the disabled is confusing and upsetting. 

That support echoes: at worst, of the bully-boys on the school yard teasing me to tears; at best, of the silent, sneering children as the others called their jeers. 

Would you see me converted through electroshock therapy? 

Am I to blame, in my queerness, for the nation’s faults? 

Do you believe that our fellow citizens should register based on their religion? 

Or that women are objects for men to taunt and abuse? 

Do you believe that a publicly operating business should be able to turn me away simply for a perception of queerness? 

And for that matter, do you even support my right to marry? 

Do you think I’m evil? 

How do I help you see that there is no difference between some discrimination and totally oppression.

Your behavior, your silence, and your support for these men and platforms leads me believe that the answer to each is yes. 

Yes to torture and to blame. Yes to abuse and to discrimination. Yes to the perception of evil. 

Dear family. I don’t know what to say to you because the things that you say to others and the things you don’t say to me already ring with the sounds hate, discrimination, and everything you taught us not to be. 

It’s okay to be wrong… 

We can be wrong, and often are when it comes to race. But that’s okay as long as we acknowledge our errors and work to correct our actions. 

I was wrong when I painted my award winning piece, #ArtToEndViolence. But I was also incredibly right. 

My error was using the hashtag for ‘all lives’ along side that of black lives, trans lives, and gay lives. Yes, the life of every individual should be measured with equal importance, but the use of all lives diminishes the real danger faced black Americans, especially at the hands of police. 

I’ve been wrong before as well. I used to think that my queer experience was similar to the black experience — I too have been the victim of prejudice. But I also had all the associated privileges of my whiteness — first to be chosen by the teachers, over culture speech patterns, access to higher education, private school, etc. People don’t cross the street when I come their way; instead, they smile as if we’re long time associates. That is something black men don’t experience in the United States.  

The painting went on to win an award that summer at the California State Fair in Sacramento. It struck at the hearts of thousands, illustrating in joyful tones the bow familiar faces of the dead. The blacklivesmatter movement gained momentum. I realized my mistake. No one had to tell me. I could see how I had whitewashed the very movement I was trying to help. 

You see, when I used ‘all lives’ I diminished the special danger that faces black lives. Yes, in a perfect world, equality and value for life should be the same; but we do not live in a perfect world. In our world, people of color and people of difference are at greater risk than others. If all lives did matter, there would not be such disparity. 

ArtToEndViolence has been quite successful. It showed in six locations in California last year and a replica is on a year long display in downtown LA. When I look at the piece now, I’m still proud. But I’m proud because I see how I’ve grown — I can acknowledge my privileges and I can correct them moving forward. It’s in part my testament to privilege; which, just like the lives chronicled, is a true part of my evolution. 

So it’s okay to be wrong. We all are when it come to experiences we don’t know. The trick is accepting your mistake and doing something different the next time. 


——–

K Ryan Henisey is an award winning artist, writer, and teacher. For more of his paintings, illustrated children’s poetry, musings, and more visit http://kryanhenisey.com

Tyler Clementi, #ArtToEndViolence

Detail, #ArtToEndViolence; Winner, Award of Excellence in Fine Art, Watercolors, California State Fair, 2015
Detail, #ArtToEndViolence;
Winner, Award of Excellence in Fine Art, Watercolors, California State Fair, 2015

On September 19, 2010, Tyler Clementi was filmed without his consent kissing another man, publicly outed and shamed on social media. As a result he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010. He was 18 years old. This occurred at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Tyler Clementi, #ArtToEndViolence

Detail, #ArtToEndViolence; Winner, Award of Excellence in Fine Art, Watercolors, California State Fair, 2015
Detail, #ArtToEndViolence;
Winner, Award of Excellence in Fine Art, Watercolors, California State Fair, 2015

On September 19, 2010, Tyler Clementi was filmed without his consent kissing another man, publicly outed and shamed on social media. As a result he jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010. He was 18 years old. This occurred at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Resolution

IMG_7134

Water & Words, Part 3

After it’s long filtration through the caverns and dark places of the earth, language and water is transformed. From the spring, it emerges, sparkling and clear, filled with kindness and the light of hope.

Prayers of peace and hope rest upon the waves of the stream and crashing ocean.

Water and Words is a watercolor tryptic, meditating upon the nature of language.

FineArt