Clint McCance, the Arkansas school board member who posted some of the most horrifically anti-gay, hateful statements on Facebook one can imagine, resigned yesterday.
Last week McCance, then-Vice President of an Arkansas school board, posted on his Facebook page that he would never wear purple [to honor the gay youth who died] “because five queers killed themselves. The only way I’m wearing it…is if they all commit suicide.” He also said, “We’re honoring the fact that they sinned and killed theirselves [sic]…I also enjoy that they [gay people] often give themselves AIDS and die…I would run off my kids if they were gay.”
Writing on RH Reality Check last week, Emily Bridges noted that in all this there may be some good news. The same week McCance posted his hateful words, the Department of Education sent a letter to schools calling for an end to bullying in schools, potentially providing a legal reason to do so. Based on a law which prevents discrimination (Title IX), anti-gay bullying may in fact prove to be illegal.
Still, McCance managed to bully an entire country full of gay youth (and straight young people derogatorily called “gay”) in one Facebook posting.
Anderson Cooper invited McCance onto his show once the postings were discovered to ask him pointedly how he could write what he did – especially given the fact that he is a school board member, a father, a leader in the educational community.
McCance said to Cooper that he wants to “extend an apology to the parents of children who have committed suicide. It saddens me – but especially for the five families who have recently lost children. I brought my hurt to them and it was never my intention and I feel genuinely bad for them.” However, when pressed, McCance couldn’t quite bring himself to denounce his anti-gay prejudice and the hate he’s espoused.
At the time of the interview he had not yet resigned and, astonishingly, he had not been asked to resign by the Midland County School District (though he told Cooper that he planned on resigning). He added, however, that if his constituents wanted him back in five or ten years, he’d consider coming back to the board.
Truthfully, it is incredibly difficult to comment on the full interview. McCance is clearly a man who struggles with immense anger towards gay people and though he reiterated time and time again that he was changed by this experience, that he had spoken out of ignorance and that he had learned a great deal about the suicide epidemic among young people in this country, he did not quite go so far as to clearly apologize for his feelings – only that he had made them known in the hateful manner he did.
When asked by Cooper what exactly he was sorry for, Clint McCance responded that he was sorry because, “I hurt people with my comments. I’m sorry I made those ignorant comments and it hurt people on a broad spectrum. I would never do that. I promise you if anyone knew me as my community does, they’d know I’m not a bad guy.”
Perhaps it is too much to ask of a man to change so completely over a period of days. Perhaps McCance will always hold to his anti-gay stance. I wish I could say that this wasn’t about McCance but about the young people around the country who look to society for an understanding of life – about how we can do all we can to fight hate with understanding; to counter injustice with justice; to challenge anger with information and education. But this is about McCance as much as anything.
Asher Brown was thirteen years old when he committed suicide. He came out to his parents the very day he chose to take his own life; his parents said unconditionally that they accepted him no matter what. But Asher still decided that he could not face the pain of living. Asher’s parents offered him love. They offered him acceptance. But he still faced the Clint McCances of this world outside the walls of his home. The Clint McCances who hide behind their ideas and interpretations of Christianity and a twisted sense of morals which allow them to spew horrific hate, calling for the deaths – deaths - of our children from one side of their mouths while speaking about religion, spirituality, families and love out the other. As Amy, Asher’s mother said on Anderson Cooper’s show, when speaking about McCance:
“He dehumanized our children. He made a point of disparaging them in death in the same way that they were hurt in life. And added insult to injury. This has been one of the most horrific things anyone could imagine – losing a child to bullying and in this manner. And for someone who has no idea of the facts or anything related to these children’s individual stories - to slander them further and especially a school board member, this proves the culture that David and I and the other families are trying to change within the public school system.”
What is not too much to ask, for the sake of our children, is to turn the camera from McCance now and listen to people like Asher Browns’s mother and father who not only somehow managed to keep it together when responding to McCance, on Anderson Cooper’s show, but actually told Clint McCance that they would pray for him, that while they may not be able to forgive him for his words, they will continue doing all they can to change a system which can be so inexplicably harmful.