By Andrea Persephone Sand, MN NOW Affirmative Action Chair
On June 5, 2011, not even two miles from my home, Dean Schmitz, a white supremacist with a swastika tattoo who was surrounded by other hateful individuals, began spewing intolerance at CeCe McDonald, a young woman of color (we are not going through transition just to forever be called transgender), and her friends: words like ‘nigger’, ‘faggot’, and ‘chick with a dick’.
After a short scuffle instigated by a female companion of Mr. Schmitz, CeCe found herself bloodied and injured, but still alive.
Nobody but her was taken in to custody, and only she was prosecuted after being interrogated and denied proper medical attention for her injuries.
Her charge was murder in the second degree, which is defined as “an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, nor committed in a reasonable ‘heat of passion’ or a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender’s obvious lack of concern for human life.” It appears the message to our community is our lives are worth remarkably less than those of gender-normative heterosexuals.
Amy Senser’s trial got so much media coverage–dare I say too much. Perhaps it was the sensationalism of it all, or that it was easier to watch and listen to than the CeCe McDonald trial. It may just have been easier to watch tabloids unfold than to pay attention to a travesty of justice.
Transpeople face harassment and discrimination far, far too often. Be it in major arenas like employment and housing, or minor arenas like using the bathroom, going to the gym, or going to the store. Couple that with being a young woman of color, and this beautiful person became the target for a malicious attack. In trying to reason what is happening to a person whose only crime was to fight back, I’ve found it terrible how every question just leads to more questions, none of them receiving proper answers.
Is it really so unacceptable that CeCe McDonald came out on top instead of being another number in a statistic that says 1 in 12 transgender people will have their lives prematurely ended for them?
Is it justice or institutionalized cruelty that, when she plead down in a rigged system, she was sentenced to serve out her time in a men’s prison facility where she will face sexual and physical assaults because of her gender?
How can we allow this to happen? Do things like rape and assault become acceptable when they happen to prisoners? If so, are they still acceptable when that person is wrongly imprisoned in the wrong prison? What would the outrage be if through some archaic legal loophole a young white cisgendered woman was sent to a men’s prison? Why is there any difference in the reaction? Why do we, while living in what has been called the new San Francisco, just turn a blind eye to what is going on to a sister in need?
The State Board of Minnesota NOW, on behalf of our statewide membership, condemns this hostility towards a woman who had the gall and audacity to fight back–a woman who had the courage, fortitude, and incredible luck to come out of such a fight with life still inside her. It is not acceptable for a system designed to protect everyone, founded on the basis of innocent until proven guilty, to reinforce an archaic notion that GLBTQA individuals must not only endure verbal and physical harassment, but must also suppress their natural instinct to fight back when put in a life or death situation because our lives are somehow worth less than our heteronormative counterparts.
It is not okay for the very same system that allows white men to stand their ground with lethal force to also condemn women and minorities for doing the same. This is not justice; this is institutionalized hatred and intolerance.
In solidarity with CeCe McDonald, we demand she be pardoned and freed immediately or, at the very least, moved to a women’s facility where she will be safe.
To learn more about CeCe, how you can stay updated on her case, and how you can support her while she remains imprisoned, visit http://supportcece.wordpress.com/. The site also has extensive links and resources for learning more about the targeting of transpeople for violence and incarceration.
Photos of CeCe were taken from the TruTV Crime Library report on the case.