Hate crimes who do they really serve?

May 30, 2012 @ 11:21 am | By TheFeministGriote | 0 Comments

Dharun Ravi  has become the unofficial face for hate crimes in our society at this very moment. He was the young man from Rutgers University who spied on his roommate Tyler Clementi via webcam. Dharun Ravi recorded his roommate having an intimate moment with another man. Mr. Ravi then shared the video via Twitter. Tyler Clementi eventually jumped off a bridge shortly after the incident.  

Dharun Ravi has been ordered to 30 days in jail (the prosecution was aiming for 10 years) and three years probation. Mr. Ravi must also complete 300 hours of community service and pay restitution in the amount of $10,000. He is also mandated to take classes on cyber-bullying and on alternative lifestyles. Dharun Ravi targeted Clementi due to his sexual orientation. I am sure if he caught Clementi in an intimate situation with a woman, the ending to this story might’ve ended differently.

For targeting his gay roommate Dharun Ravi put himself in the position to be tried under a hate crime. A hate crime by definition according to Wikipedia is: aka biased-motivated crimes occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex, or gender identity.

That sounds pretty clear cut. This means whenever a crime is motivated by someone’s otherness, that crime should automatically fall under the umbrella, of a “hate crime.” Well… that is however if that otherness, has been sanctioned by society. In CeCe’s McDonald’s situation her case was not so cut-and-dry.

On June 25, 2011 CeCe McDonald and her friends were attacked by Dean Schmitz and his friends for being visibly different. Dean Schmitz said to McDonald, ” look at that boy dressed like a girl tucking in her dick.” This was after he called her a “faggot” and “nigger.” CeCe was hit in the face by her assailant’s girlfriend with a glass of alcohol, which caused CeCe a cut on her face that later needed stitches. CeCe had scissors in her purse and did what any woman or human being who was being brutally attacked would do, she defended herself. She refused to be a another transperson who met a fatal end at the hands of a transphobic lunatic. Unfortunately for CeCe, in this country we would rather fetishize dead victims of hate crimes, rather then exonerate and uplift them for surviving!

CeCe McDonald was forced to accept a plea deal of second-degree manslaughter, which comes with a sentence of 41-months in prison, for standing her ground and protecting herself.

CeCe’s story is not unique. Back in 2007 there was the New Jersey 4 a group of Black lesbian women who were being verbally assaulted by Dwayne Buckle who stated he would, “fuck them straight.” He proceeded to attack the women who defended themselves, with the help of some male onlookers who also jumped in. Dwayne Buckle was somehow stabbed in the situation, and the four women were incarcerated with sentences ranging from 3-11 years.

How does this happen? How is it that one of the first pieces of legislation that knewly elect President Obama signed into law was the Matthew Sheppard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes prevention Law. It was the first federal law that included transmen and transwomen. But it appears that even in hate crimes there is heirarchy.

Black women’s bodies are highly politicized within our culture. Therefore when a Black woman’s body intersects with a lesbian or trans identity, it becomes even more problematic and that more politicized.

In a case like CeCe McDonald and the New Jersey 4, who essentially are being punished for surviving, it is hard to ignore the politicization of these women’s personhood. So you survived death only to have your freedom taken away. Again I ask, who does hate crimes really serve?



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