Within a matter of days last month, the promising lives of two New Jersey college students are destroyed. The story of one tragedy becomes a cautionary tale, heard around the world, about indifference, humiliation, and threats to privacy posed by uncontrolled, computer-based social networking. The details of what happened to Tyler Clementi at Rutgers University will not soon be forgotten. But what happened to Jessica Moore, a Seton Hall sophomore, already seems destined soon to become just one more senseless act of urban gun violence, blurred together with other, similar incidents and, perhaps, soon forgotten.
Why? Is it a matter of race, or class? Moore was an African-American from the rural south, shot and killed at a party in East Orange, where many poor blacks live. Clementi was white, raised in Ridgewood, one of the state’s wealthiest suburbs.
“We have become tragically accustomed to the idea of African-Americans killing each other,” says James Harris, a dean at Montclair State University and head of New Jersey’s NAACP.
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Or, perhaps, were there elements of the stories themselves that led one to become grist for talk shows in a dozen languages throughout the planet, while the other grabbed headlines for a few days and then receded quickly into the back pages of memory?