Yesterday Bil posted the article, "Transgender Woman Severely Beaten at Baltimore McDonalds While Employees Watch," and I knew from the moment it began play that reception of this video would be dangerous. As predicted, the racist comments rolled in while Bil and I moderated from the back end, featuring unsurprising racial epithets that people of color know all to well (so I don't think they need to be repeated here). Bil told me yesterday that he's never TOS'd (terms of service violation) this many racist comments from the site: "everyone seems to be painting this just as black vs. white."
I thought about what it might mean for me to share this article on my Facebook news feed: a white gay male striving to dismantle oppression reposting a video of violent transphobic hate that could and did fuel racism at the same time.
The resources that have shaped my understandings of oppression and privilege thus far were in the context an academic institution, which mostly approaches these issues through a "one-identity-at-a-time" lens, only hinting at the intersectional reality of our lived experience. Would I have the same apprehension embedded in me if the I did not read the trans woman being beaten as white? No. If I read them all as white? That would be way easier.
I decided that my oppression education does not serve me here and to share the video. There is no doubt that race played into its dynamics (how could it not?), but transphobic violence must be made visible so people can understand how bad the climate really is out there for trans folks.
Still, we need to be intentional in the way we make these issues visible. Ignorant assumptions about LGBTQ acceptance in African American communities are prevalent among white people (LGBT or hetero), ignoring the many individuals, families, and communities who embrace sexual diversity. These understandings perpetuate the notion that in white gay and lesbian communities queer people of color and trans individuals are safe from oppression, when this is not the case. I know first hand the problematic bullshit white gay and lesbians do constantly. No one should feel they must give up or minimize any part of their identity for physical and emotional safety.
Like Bil said, this isn't about black vs. white, it is about raising awareness of anti-trans violence. We can all stand with the victim of the beating, without letting the individual actions of her attackers reflect on an entire people.
UPDATE: Two arrests have been made,
Police said a 14-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile in the beating, while charges are still pending against an 18-year-old woman. The woman declined to be interviewed, said 11 News reporter Sheldon Dutes.