Jake Weinraub

Racist Comments on McDonald's Attack Video

Filed By Jake Weinraub | April 23, 2011 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Baltimore, intersectionality, McDonalds, oppression, racism, racist comments, transphobia

Yesterday Bil posted the article, "Transgender Woman Severely Beaten at Baltimore McDonalds While Employees Watch," Screen shot 2011-04-22 at 6.48.00 PM.pngand 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.

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Rick Sutton | April 23, 2011 10:32 AM

The interns do all the heavy lifting, eh, Bil? This kid's bright.

He figured out what too many of us couldn't properly verbalize or write succinctly, for the last 30 years, and that is:

When it comes to civil rights, we can handle one "definition group" at a time.

Ask black gays. Ask handicapped Muslims. Or any other two-fer you can imagine.

Our incredibly myopic American view of things is neatly crammed into one shoe box at a time. It's as if our civil rights brains can't multi-task.

Well, dear friends, those days are gone. They HAVE to be gone. In no fewer than 15 state legislatures, in the U.S.House, and who knows where else, attacks on basic civil rights have never been more numerous. And they're done with glee...by an oppressed minority of its own: far right conservatives who've been shut-out of the process so long they're angry. Pendulumn swings are a bear. And they're ample evidence that when our friends ARE in power, we have to admonish them: stay civil with your enemies. They may regain power.

We've become an ESPN-piling-on society. No philosoophy holds onto power forever. Revenge is a dish best-served cold, lest it be re-served to you at a later time.

We need to name these travesties. Call them out, label them, and respectfully but firmly call them what they are.


The two young ladies (and I use that term very loosely) who attacked the woman in Mickey D's, had better be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If ANY group steps forward to protect them in the name of anything remotely resembling "civil rights," that group had better be equally admonished. And the manager of that establishment ought to be charged with contributing to violence for his lame bystander pose. I'd scare the crap out of the other McD employees who stood by, sanitary gloves on, and did little. They and their famililes ought to be ashamed.

My nominee for hero: find that older woman who stepped in. She tried to stop the nonsense.

Also: I can't tell---is the second attack on the woman, AFTER or BEFORE the thugettes left the main door? Is this edited, or is its timeline accurate?

Oh yeah--if you want a repeat of that kind of rage, walk onto any AAU basketball court in a heated game. Or any other teenaged sports venue. A good friend swears it's violent video games that morph sweet kids into monsters. Others think it's caused by over-stimulation in all arenas.

I dont' know what causes it, but when we see it, esp. when it's on film, we'd better forcefully push back. Or the corral of acceptable behavior gets moved ever-further out.

THIS is where we need to draw the line. Loudly.

People can sit and analyze anything and each come away with a different perception. In the end what matters is needless violence was committed and it should be addressed while also helping the victim.

Only in unity will issues like this be solved. When it stops being a racial or whatever issue and all work to help will people get the message it is not right. Live by example, live by compassion. Extend respect and dignity to everyone in life and stand for what is right.

I agree with Rick and Jake. I'd also like to extend what they've said by suggesting that liberals, feminists, LGBTs, etc. think very carefully about the value of endlessly attacking straight, White men. As generally used in many communities "straight, White, male" is considered a synonym for "rich, evil, oppressor." If considered in child custody cases you might add "who is likely to be an abusive pedophile."

Having lived as a straight White male I can assure you most such people are not rich, they are not evil, they do not go out of their way to oppress people and they certainly love their children as much as do the children's mothers. Yes, hard to imagine but most straight, White men are simply fumbling their way through life like the rest of us hoping for the best and fearing the worse.

Yes, but THOSE sites are sort of....extremist. Of course their agendas are that straight white males are evil. Go look at the amptoons March and April 2006 posts on the Duke lacrosse case. They're practically screaming for the gruesome deaths of the (falsely) accused.

Demand Equality Demand Equality | April 23, 2011 11:16 AM

Last week Maryland lawmakers decided that transgender Americans are not entitled to any rights, not the right to work, not the right to housing. They were going to include public accommodations in that law they decided not to include the right to not be beat up for going to the bathroom either. Transgender activists in Maryland blamed the cisgender activists for excluding them from lobbying for their rights, because they knew that they do need public accommodations protections but Equality Maryland only cared about possibly getting any win to beg for donations. Now transgender activists are being blamed for insisting that the public accommodations rights be included in this law. The cisgender activist claimed that to include that would kill the law. The law was killed even without that important amendment. Obviously this hate crime proves that transgender Maryland activists were right.

Cheryl Cristello | April 23, 2011 11:22 AM

@Jake, NEVER ever apologize to ANYONE for who you are! Be proud, hold your head high, live YOUR truth openly and honestly.

In my view this matter has nothing to do with race or age. Rather it is about violence by human beings against another. It is about people all to willing to stand aside to watch rather than get involved to stop such an unconscionable act. It is about responsibility as citizens, people. It is about fear, ignorance. It is about a lack of respect for others. It is about a lack of values, ethics, morals.

Kathy Padilla | April 23, 2011 12:44 PM

Thanks to both of you for carefully moderating the many racist comments.

I have a moderator question: If a politician, nonprofit leader or celebrity was posting homophobic things here anonymously - would Bilerico make their IP address, name or email known?

In looking at some of the few posts advocating trans woman's fourth class status as women and advocating policies to further that - I wonder If someone of influence in the LGBT community were posting transpobic things autonomously - would you consider that newsworthy?

Regan DuCasse | April 23, 2011 2:35 PM

Is there any follow up news on the condition of the victim? I'd like to know if any medical bills were incurred and what their needs are.

Jill Davidson | April 23, 2011 2:59 PM

Thank you for your work, Jake and Bill.

Hateful acts need to have a bright light shined on them, no matter who the perpetrators or victims are. The arguments for trans rights are abstractions to non-trans people without vivid examples why they are necessary. Everyone is a potential victim, everyone is a potential perpetrator, whether they are black or white, trans or cis, male or female. I hope one reaction to the video is parents watching thinking, "OMG I hope I've done everything I could to make sure my kid doesn't ever do that/have that done to them".

It's the nature of intersectionality that perpetrators in one incident may be members of one oppressed class or another, and it will attract the oppressor's rhetoric. That rhetoric need to be called out. That also shines a bright light on the existence of that oppression. Besides the lesson that trans people still aren't safe (at least in MD), the lesson I take away is racism is alive and well.

Patricia Harlow Patricia Harlow | April 23, 2011 3:44 PM

As I spread the word about this event yesterday, I ran into MULTIPLE arguments from other people who were extremely insistant this had nothing to do with anti-trans violence and that it was entirely a white/black thing. You would think from their vigor and tone that they believed the LGBT community was trying to co-opt a tragedy for own our gains.

Their racism was beyond apparent. It was a frustrating day to say the least.

Patricia Harlow Patricia Harlow | April 23, 2011 3:54 PM

As I spread the word about this event yesterday, I ran into MULTIPLE arguments from other people who were extremely insistant this had nothing to do with anti-trans violence and that it was entirely a white/black thing. You would think from their vigor and tone that they believed the LGBT community was trying to co-opt a tragedy for own our gains.

Their racism was beyond apparent. It was a frustrating day to say the least.

While rascist labels were slung what about the transgender label that you all feel so comfortable sticking on all TS women or even possibly a heterosexual woman? What about all the comments that labelled transsexual and transgender identified women as men in dress? You guys have a long way to go if you think the only problem was the rascist comments.

Anja Flower | April 24, 2011 4:26 AM

The opposite of "transsexual" is "cissexual," not "heterosexual." Trans is not a sexuality.

That's one of the reasons for using the term "transgender" rather than "transsexual."

Yes, within the trans community, there are discussions as to the meanings of the terms, but the mainstream seems to have evolved toward using transgender instead of transsexual, in recognition of the fact that trans is not a sexual orientation and perhaps should not have the same "sexual" suffix as "heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and asexual."

Of course, the mainstream equates sex and gender, and uses gender more as an euphemism for sex.

The message "gender is between the ears, sex is between the legs" worked in the 1990's as an extension of the "woman trapped in a man's body" self-description that has been around since the 1950's. In a way, it works today, too - though we have to understand that modern science understand that both brain development and genital development are biological aspects of sex - and physiological sex is both between the ears *and* between the legs, while gender is still pretty much a synonym for both.

I disagree with those who think transgender is a better label first and foremost it is and was a term for crossdressers. Secondly under its latest incantation it is an umbrella term. All umbrella terms do is silence the already marginalized groups under them to promote whatever agenda those with the power to control the words usage have in mind.As a transsexual I have a born as medical condition and I feel that I am being used by the LGBT community. I feel this inappropriate usage of us is having a detrimental effect on us. The reason why this woman was beaten is because she was labelled as other than. Those pushing the transgender label are just as guilty of labelling her as other than. They may not have kicked her ass but they also really didn't do anything to prevent it and in some ways I think they contributed to it.Also I and those who think like me have a right to speak for ourselves no one has the right to force association with anyone or any group upon us. The only proper label you can place upon me is that of being born a woman with a medical condition. Any other label is misleading and incorrect.
Joann you have said much that is good but on the word transgender and its usage I disagree with you. If you are comfortable with being labelled it that is fine but don't think it entitles you to place me under it or that it gives anyone else that right.

Of course ID-politics-based doesn't prepare people for this - life's a lot messier than someone's essay about intersectionality that you read in Women's Studies 101. People of all colors, sexualities, etc., can be shitty and prejudiced. I grew up close to that knowing latinos who were pretty racist against blacks, Asians who were homophobic, gays who were biphobic, women who were racist, working class men who were classist against the impoverished, etc.

Anyway, the question only comes up if you see yourself as the person who has to "save" the helpless minorities. If you see yourself as a writer or a journalist, your first obligation is to the truth.

Of course, not every truth can be shown at a single time. But a good indication that something needs to be shown is if you're thinking "It's probably not a good idea for people to see this because X" with X being "they can't handle it" or "they won't come to the correct conclusion" or "I'll piss off the wrong people with this."

There's no reason to believe that the video is fake, it's within the scope of this site, so we put it up. If you thought you shouldn't share it with your friends, Jake, it's probably a good reason to share it with them.

That's why I get into trouble with the nonprofits - there's always a part of me that says "They do great work; why would I want to say bad things about them?" Which is a great reason to tell the truth about them - who am I to paternalistically decide what other people can handle? Am I a booster or a writer?

I'll also throw out that the racist commenters weren't regular Bilerico readers. The racists found it and they showed it to their racist friends who came to comment on it. Comments, Facebook hits, etc., aren't good predictors of human behavior.

The racism people jumped to in the comments was disappointing, maybe a little telling. Think about it this way. No men were attacking in this instance, but no one jumped to the conclusion (at least not that I saw) that the women attacked because they were female. Why? Because that doesn't jive with pre-existing biases about aggression, I suppose. Whereas seeing black people being aggressive, for some, goes along with that pre-existing bias.

But that's all it is. A bias. And one which should be examined and repudiated and taken apart. The attackers could have easily been any race, sex, or gender. It isn't as though white people, throughout history, have been exempt from crimes against trans. I don't know if maybe there's a discussion to be had about the viewing of trans* among other minority communities; maybe such a discussion would be important, but let's not simplify this to some easy racist out. We know transmen and transwomen receive such abuse from many different groups, and it's never so simple as to be explained away with racism.

Looking at situations like these, I always feel that the LGBTQI awareness/sensitivity should be taught to people from a young age. Violence begins with wrongheaded ideas and prejudices. It's why I become so angry with the idea that LGBTQI people shouldn't be teachers or work with children -- aside from the fact that it deprives adults of the ability to work like anyone else, the Othering also does nothing for understanding and sensitivity for those who are young.

I think McDonalds has failed several times concerning these issues, hasn't it? I feel like this isn't the first example I've read about.

Om Kalthoum | April 23, 2011 6:26 PM

Just curious, Jake, how do you know this incident is an example of "violent transphobic hate"? Are you privy to information on what was said or done by any of the three women?

Cathy Brennan | April 24, 2011 2:59 PM

Good point. As always.

Om Kalthoum | April 23, 2011 6:34 PM

Also, I do want to give all of you moderators involved in dealing with the threads about the Baltimore incident a big high five. I know it has to have been a time-consuming and thankless task to sift through all the comments and complaints and judge as best as you can what should be censored. I appreciate your efforts.

Om Kalthoum | April 23, 2011 11:48 PM

Listen to the victim in her own words
and tell me if you hear her claim this was a "violent transphobic hate" crime.


After an entire weekend of mod duties, I can easily say that I'm glad the thread is finally winding down. For the first time we considered closing a comment thread. I learned new racist terms I really wish I hadn't...