Monica Roberts

Yo NAACP, NBJC...Where Y'all At?

Filed By Monica Roberts | June 23, 2008 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: African-American, black, Duanna Johnson, HRC, LGBT, Memphis, NAACP, NBJC, race, racism, Tennessee, transgender, transphobia

It's been a few days since the video of a memphis po-po beatdown.jpgMemphis police officer beating down an African-American transwoman was released, and I have yet to see any statement released about it from two organizations claiming to represent me as an African-American person.

The first is the nearly 100 year old NAACP, in which I have had membership status off and on over the years. My brother, sisters and I even had NAACP youth memberships back in the day.

Their new ad slogan is "The NAACP Is Today," but I don't see you addressing the very real issues that transgender people of African descent face today here in the States. If the NAACP is claiming to represent African-Americans, then I respectfully submit that it includes me as a transgender African-American as well.

While I applaud you for declaring a state of emergency over the treatment of African-Americans by the police, I have yet to hear any NAACP local, state or the national chapter speak up not only about this case, but about the verbal and physical hate attacks on African-American transpeople in general.

As Duanna Johnson's case graphically points out, some of the problems we transpeople of African descent face are at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect and serve us. Nizah Morris' family in Philly is still waiting for a straight answer on what happened to her in 2002.

I suspect that the silence is because some of your chapters are squeamish. hostile or outright reluctant to get involved in speaking out against the BS that African-American GLBT peeps deal with inside and outside the African-American community for specious religious reasons.

When I checked the mirror this morning, I was still Black, I can easily afford to join the NAACP and I still get called 'nigger' and face discrimination from and by racist peeps. Being transgender didn't change that one bit.

The one group I'm most disappointed with is the National Black Justice Coalition. I've had the pleasure of meeting its CEO H. Alexander Robinson at a Louisville event a few years ago. I'm happy that the now three year old organization is making the case about same gender marriage being a Black issue as well, and they are holding Black Church Summits and conferences. I'm ecstatic that the NBJC not only commented on the ENDA issue, but are a member of the United ENDA coalition as well.

But if you are going to claim that you represent me as an African-American transperson, the organization needs to be more timely and forceful about doing precisely that.

It's insulting and disgusting to me when the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that has done far more in the last ten years to retard my and other African-American transpeople's progress by bitterly fighting transgender inclusion in the Employment Non Discrimination Act, rapidly puts out a press release condemning the attack on Duanna Johnson and calling for a criminal investigation of it. I have yet to see one syllable written about it on the NBJC website, the organization that's supposed to represent me as an African-American transperson.

Hopefully these organizations will do so in the next week, but if they don't, it's time for African-American transpeople to call them on the carpet and have them explain why.

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Call me cynical but... I wouldn't hold my breath.

Nonetheless, or rather, because breath-holding is contra-indicated, voices like yours are important. Thanks, Monica.

As a pinky-beige Australian, I haven't got a clue as to the discrimination you face. All I can do is listen to you, believe you, and give unlimited support.

The NAACP has been ineffective for years. Check out this link, that reveals the organization spent half of the money raised for Jena 6 on itself.


hello monica!

i understand your feeling, but this particular incident had nothing to do with was all about gender identity. the issue seems to really threaten a lot of people, as can be witnessed by the rage of the attack.

the lack of REAL support for members of our community in these issues is the absence of legal funding or representation. HRC makes a very cheap demand for an investigation, but will they pay one dollar for support of a trans woman who is wrongfully arrested for prostitution? it happens EVERY i am sure you are aware. and the abuses in the correctional system go on and on. there isn't enough space on the web to list all of the incidents. and the orgs do....nothing. except comment or make meaningless demands.

there are a few orgs that offer legal support, if you are lucky enough to live in an area close to one you might get assistance. the ACLU only covers civil actions - they don't do criminal law. the need for legal support and assistance for trans individuals wrongfully arrested and convicted is the issue that really demands some attention. we need to stop all of the frivolous arrests.

you don't have to be physically beaten to be beaten down.


Pardon me for butting in. I'm a durned furriner after all. But when you said

but this particular incident had nothing to do with was all about gender identity.

That's not the whole truth, at least from my understanding.

I have to be careful when visiting the USA for academic conferences and the like. But I'm as unlikely to be hassled as any other frumpy middle-aged female academic. If I do get hassled, say because I'm in an auto accident, or get my bag stolen, then yes, I'm in a world of trouble. An Alien with a Birth Certificate saying "boy", and not one but two passports saying "Female". Being put in a male immigration detention centre is a distinct possibility, which for a post-op is pretty dire.

BUT... Black and Latina TS women are automatically assumed to be prostitutes in many places. "Walking while Black" may not be the offense it once was, but "Walking while Black and not 100% passable" will guarantee arrest and often conviction, regardless of the facts. Should you carry a condom in your purse (as I do, rape is always a possibility), then that will be seen as evidence of prostitution in the majority of US inner cities. IF you are Black or Latina. Not necessarily if you are White.

Well, that's my impression from the other side of the world. It's a TG issue, but also a racial one too. And the racial one predominates.

Nowhere in this piece did I mention the fact that the cop beating down Duanna Johnson was white, and it's fairly obvious even to a Fox News watcher that transphobia was a motivating factor.

But to automatically dismiss the fact that their is a decades long historical pattern of police abuse directed at people of color is disengenous. Transpeople of color get a double whammy in terms of a heightened probablity of abusive behaviour being directed at them because of race and gender identity issues.

You can review the Amnesty International report Stonewalled if you don't think there's a link between race, gender identity and the part they play in the levels of abuse that transpeople suffer when interacting with the justice system because of it.

One of the first things I was taught by my father when I was old enough to receive my driver's license was what how to avoid getting shot by the po-po's during a traffic stop.

Gerri Ladene | June 23, 2008 10:33 AM

Monica, I thought how you pointed out the lack of any support from the NAACP and the NBJ to be very of very serious concern for African-American transpeople. Their participation would do allot to help the Trans community as a whole. You where right to declare the need to “call them onto the carpet” and it looks like your going to have to take that message to them. They need educated, as they say here in Arkansas. I’d be glad to sign any petition to them you may want to submit or write letters in your support to do anything that may help.

I'm very disappointed in the NAACP. But are we sure the NBJC didn't put anything out about this? I thought I saw something, but I can't find it now. I know their website isn't updated daily (or even weekly) due to staff shortages - it's rough being a not-for-profit! - so perhaps that's the issue. I'd be willing to give NBJC a pass until proven guilty just because I know Alexander Robinson to be an honorable man dedicated to the entire LGBT community.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 23, 2008 11:21 AM

Well done Monica. I think it was 50% racism and 50% domineering the trans person. Not that this fool would not have been as bad to either. "My name isn't faggot or he-she" is not even a remote excuse for this brutality.


i readily concede that people of color are subjected to more discrimination than their paler brothers and sisters. any minority group seems to attract wrongful discrimination from the police - black, latino, transgender - and the more minority groups that you belong to, the more likely the discrimination and abuse. i am actively involved in stopping that abuse, at least on a local level - not that the struggle is likely to end soon. the ACLU just won a case here where a man was held at gun point for "parking while black". and the off duty officer responsible for the abuse was also black. go figure.

in any event, there are daily occurrences of racial profiling and abuse that organizations like the NAACP and NBJC do respond to. if the white (co-incidentally) policeman in this incident had made racial remarks to ms. johnson, it is highly likely that they would have responded. i believe that the orgs reluctance to come forward in this instance is because the attack was not a straight forward racial issue. ms. johnson has stated she was referred to as a he/she and a faggot - the officer did not comment on her color or ethnicity.
if he had done so, the NAACP would have been obligated to provide support - no matter what her gender identity or sexual orientation.

transgender women of color are much more likely to be subjected to police abuse and wrongful arrest than their natal or paler sisters. and they are also more likely to be subjected to violence and hate crimes. any organization that claims to support human and civil rights should be actively involved in ending the should not require a video of an actual beating to get them involved. they should be engaged in fighting inequity when ever it affects their constituents. however, i cannot fault NAACP or NBJC for failing to make a public comment on the memphis attack. their mission does not specifically include assistance solely on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation - which according to ms. johnson was the motivating factor for the assault against her.

Monica, your comments about our delayed statement are well taken. We are and continue to be concerned about this injustice.

I apologize that our statement has not been posted on our web site. We hope to remedy that today.

We have reached out to the Black Leadership Forum which is the DC coalition of over 35 African American civil rights, labor and professional organizations and they have signed on to our demand for a full investigation and appropriate actions to be taken against the officers involved.

Again, while I could provide a number of circumstantial reasons for the delay in getting our response on our web site please know that we are not only following this situation but also doing what we can to see to it that justice and fairness prevail.

The NAACP is obligated to speak up as an organization representing African-Americans, and due to the fact that they have declared a 'state of emergency' in dealing with police brutality against Africna-Americans. The facts are that Ms. Johnson is: a) African-American b) a victim of police brutality c) transgender

Being transgender does not cancel out Facts A and B. If you're going to speak out against police brutality directed against African-Americans, that includes transgender African-Americans as well, so I'm not giving the NAACP a pass on this.

Many African-American transpeople are getting more than a little sick of the deafening silence that comes from the NAACP when it comes to the fact that we have homophobia/transphobia in our own community, stirred up by megachurches that has resulted in the tragic deaths of too many African-American transwomen.

As for the NBJC, this is from the 'About Us' section from their website:

The National Black Justice Coalition is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black same-gender-loving, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. The Coalition works with our communities and our allies for social justice, equality, and an end to racism and homophobia.

The National Black Justice Coalition envisions a world where all people are fully empowered to participate safely, openly, and honestly in family, faith and community, regardless of race, gender-identity or sexual orientation.

The National Black Justice Coalition is a tax exempt IRS 501(c)(3) organization. NBJC does not endorse any candidates for public office.

I've met Alexander Robinson. I was introduced to him by Mandy Carter, one of the founding members of the organization. I know they're serious about supporting transgender people and wanting us as active, involved members of the NBJC.

But I found it bitterly ironic and insulting that an organization (HRC) that has done over the last ten years nothing for African-American and other transgender people of color and has opposed our inclusion in a piece of legislation that would markedly improve our lives (ENDA), puts out a press release 24 hours after the video appears and calls for a criminal investigation.

The organization who says they represent me still as of today hasn't done so, but can put out a statement about Gov. Deval Patrick's daughter Katherine coming out as a lesbian within 24 hours of it becoming news.

And I'm not supposed to question that?

Thank you. I know from meeting you and the conversation we had in Louisville that your and the NBJC's commitment to your transgender brothers and sisters is heartfelt and a serious one.

Thanks for ewverything that your organization has done so far to make it crystal clear that African-American transgender people are part of our community as well.

From what I understand, the 2 PIGS (policemen who beat and insult prisoners for racial/gender/sexual orientation reasons do not deserve the respect of being called policemen) have been fired and placed on unpaid administrative leave following resolution of the case, respectively. Sounds like Memphis is doing what it should. A lawsuit is also inevitable, as I understand, and should be. Hopefully, those PIGS will never be able to hold a job again that involves law enforcement or pay over minimum wage.

It sounds like the major civil rights organizations are staying out of this matter. How cowardly, indeed.

The major point: I hope the person wronged can move on from this, and get back to a normal life in the gender she finds best for her.

Hi, Jeri and Monica,

How y'all?

Some little while ago, although it will never be long enough ago for me, in central New Jersey, I, a white, middle-class, licensed driver with insurance was stopped by the township police for having a burnt-out headlamp.

I had no 'carry-letter' or anything else except a gen-u-wine out-of-state picture driver's license in my name with my picture on it and address on it. My car registration in my name and an insurance card also in my name and for my legally licensed and registered auto.

I spent a lot of tears and forty-five minutes with two cops on the side of a very busy highway in broad daylight in order to receive a ticket for a burnt headlamp.

The problem? Two actually. At the time I had not had surgery and my state used an 'M' in the 'sex' info on my license. The other, as stated by both cops, was "you could be a Mexican illegal driving through here, or a terrorist." Yep, one who had a valid ID card for their home-state state university in her name as well, blonde-hair a very light skin and spoke 'mur-cun' without a foreign accent.

I have no doubt that the major concern of those idiots with me was the gender designator and their own senses that they 'couldn't tell' what they though should be obvious.

I'm grateful, though, that I am white. Given what they did say, I imagine that a woman of color would have had a much longer, harsher and demeaning wait to be ticketed and released or would have experienced jail-time as the result of a burnt-out headlamp and the cops fear of their own sexuality.

Monica, your original essay is absolutely right-on. That organizations that stand for the rights and well-beings of people-of-color should have damned-well been on this like bark on an oak tree.

Nichole Weberring

It is good to see so much passion for justice in the face of this horrifying incident. Those of us in Tennessee would welcome the statements of support from any number of organizations. In the rush to make statements, your organizations might want to find out what's in the works and how you can help. After all, we actually have GLBT political organizations right here--the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition and the Tennessee Equality Project. TTPC has been working on this from the beginning and TEP's Shelby County Committee is actively engaging the Memphis City Council and the Police Department in this matter.

So any national organizations that want to help, we'd love to hear from you.

Chris Sanders
President, Tennessee Equality Project

I'm surprised there are people on this thread who saw a video of a white cop beating a black person and don't think that racism had something to do with it.

"I'm surprised there are people on this thread who saw a video of a white cop beating a black person and don't think that racism had something to do with it."

Yep, does seem a bit odd that that part got missed somehow, don't it?

Rev. Irene Monroe | June 26, 2008 5:30 PM

Hello my sister-friend Monica!

I so enjoyed this post, but being computer challenged  and after having tried to log in I now am forced to communicate to you this way. And in so doing, I want to add my two cents

I am a great admirer of you and your activism for transpeople of African descent. When you held your conference I so wanted to attend but realized I would be an interloper in the same way whites are when we call for our folks to just convene and talk and lollygag about things that are matters of us.

I particularly enjoyed you calling our black organizations out to be accountable since we seem to not be able to budge black ministers in our community on the issue.

The particular issues transpeople of African descent face unfortunately are not only ignored in the larger white LGBTQ community but sadly so too in our African American LGBT community.

I feel that the entry point for full LGBTQ inclusion not only in our black and white queer communities but into mainstream society must begin with transpeople. Why? Because where transfolk enter so too does everyone else. And if folks on the margins can’t get with this idea as a social justice issue or moral imperative then they should at least embrace it from a strategically prudent game plan.