Today I received this in my email at work, sent to the entire college community. (The message refers to a local high school we are affiliated with.)
A group of students have undertaken an assignment in response to their reading of Moises Kaufmanï¿½s The Laramie Project, a documentary drama exploring the brutal murder of a young gay man, Matthew Shepard, in Laramie, Wyoming several years ago. The students are taking a closer look at their environment here in Buffalo. Is Buffalo a place where, like Laramie, a hate crime could be committed?
Attached was this survey:
[Spaces for name, age, gender, sexual orientation, race and occupation.]
*The above information will be used for statistical purposes only. This survey will be used for the writing of a play about current sentiments of people in buffalo about homosexuality. We will be paraphrasing from the information collected. If you would like to remain anonymous, leave the name space blank. Feel free to write candidly. We appreciate your input.*
Do you like living in buffalo?
I love living in Buffalo. I was born and raised here. Despite the weather, it is a comfortable, friendly and generally affordable place to live.
What do you think the reasons for Buffaloï¿½s economic problems are?
Years of government mismanagement, poor urban planning and missed opportunities have led to a decaying inner city, a mass exodus to the suburbs, and a failure to attract the companies that would provide the jobs leading to growth in the area. Just a small example: Imagine what a different place Buffalo would be if UBï¿½s Amherst campus had been built downtown and we had a subway system that actually went somewhere besides one end of Main St to the other only within the city limits. Taxes and the costs of services are also killing us ï¿½ 8.25% sales tax, increased property taxes and the recent 23% water rate increase.
How do you feel about homosexuality?
I believe people have the right to love whomever they choose and that same-sex relationships shouldnï¿½t be any less legitimate than heterosexual relationships both in the eyes of your neighbor and the government. The legal relationships (via marriage, civil union, partnership registration, etc.) of same-sex couples should afford the couple the same benefits and protections that heterosexual couples receive.
What do you think the percentage of homosexuals in Buffalo is? Is this a problem?
Iï¿½d suspect that Buffaloï¿½s incidence of homosexuality is nearly the same, percentage-wise, as it is any place else, with the exception of major urban areas known for its gay population. This is not a problem.
Have you ever heard of Matthew Shepard? The Laramie Project? If you have, how did hearing about it make you feel?
Yes, I heard about Matthew Shepard at the time his death was originally reported in the news. I have seen HBOï¿½s production of the Laramie Project. It was both incredibly sad and outrageous. The level of hatred and ignorance among some Americans is terrifying.
Do you know anyone who has been the victim of a hate crime? Please describe, using as many details as possible, without using names.
Are you intimidated by the people in Buffalo? Are you afraid that you may be the next victim of a hate crime?
I am not intimidated by the people in Buffalo, nor am I afraid I will be the victim of a hate crime. I suppose it could happen, but I donï¿½t worry about it on a day-to-day basis.
Do you believe that events such as the Matthew Shepard case have changed your political views (or political views in general) in any way?
Not really. My political views were then, and continue to be, mostly liberal. I believe legislation against discrimination and hate crimes should be completed everywhere, or at the federal level with the states adding their own protections.
What a great thing for high school students to do. I’ll definitely go see their play.