We cannot ignore that the police, particularly the NYPD, systematically targets the most vulnerable communities with abusive and discriminatory policing practices, especially Black and Latino folks. We can't ignore the fact that in 2012, the 6th Precinct, which covers the West Village, aggressively increased stop-and-frisks by 23% - the largest percent increase in the whole of New York City. The latest statistics from NYCLU also show that 83.5% of the stops in 6th Precinct were conducted on Black and Latino folks, yet these racial groups make up only 8% of residents in the area. Invisible in these statistics are our experiences as LGBTQ people of color who face daily profiling based on our race, gender, class, immigration status, and sexual orientations.
When LGBTQ communities seek policing and hate crime legislation as solutions to hate violence, it puts the most vulnerable among us at further risk of violence from the state. In our fear, we strengthen an unaccountable Prison-Industrial Complex that feeds on our fear of each other--that NEEDS our fear of each other--our division, our distrust of each other, to criminalize us and keep us down.
Hate violence must be treated as a systemic issue. To me, the gunman who killed Marc Carson wasn't acting alone. He wasn't the only person accountable. There was a whole society, a whole system that failed, that delivered the message that this kind of violence was warranted, and that low-income straight people of color have something to fear and a valid reason to hate queer people. We're made to believe that we pose a threat to each other and that it's ok to fear one another, attack each other, or keep each other's communities' in check, with either interpersonal violence or institutional violence executed through things like policing and hate crime legislation.
Where are those messages coming from? Who started them? Who benefits when queers blame poor straight people of color for queerphobia? Who benefits when poor straight people of color view queers as a threat? How do we survive as queer people of color who fall at the intersections of communities that are being pitted against each other?
I'm not pretending we don't have work to do before we can overcome the divisions between us. We've internalized a lot of oppressive beliefs. We can't stand in solidarity with each other until we're actually dedicated to working on the hate, oppression, and prejudices we hold. This is heavy, healing work and the thought of it is exhausting and liberating. And I'm sure as hell not there yet.
So what do we do in the meantime? I'm definitely not saying we shouldn't hold Marc Carson's shooter accountable. I'm just scared of a future where we turn to our oppressors to save us from each other. I'm scared when we want to criminalize each other even further, in an attempt to end hate violence. So far, that strategy hasn't worked. The legal system rarely brings us justice, much less liberation.
I hope we can find a way to bring each other the things we want: safety, accountability and healing. After all, we are wise, fiery beings. There are many communities already working in transformative ways to prevent violence towards and within the LGBTQ community. From the Audre Lorde Projects' "Safe Neighborhood Campaign" in Brooklyn that develops community-based safety strategies that don't rely on policing, to Communities United Against Violence in San Francisco organizing trans and queer survivors to replace cycles of trauma with cycles of safety and liberation. These and many more powerful examples highlight that LGBTQ people are already practicing community accountability and creating safety without having to rely on oppressive policing and legal systems that never have our best interests at heart.
I want to end this post by saying that today, in the midst of feeling sad, I got to read Alice Walker's poems Our Martyr and Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit while sitting in the sunlight, do phone-banking to keep Queers for Economic Justice's shelter project going, and spend delicious hangout time with a friend. Feeling those joys simultaneous with heavy thoughts is a reminder that we're so strong... strong enough to hold both. Strong enough to be creative and resilient in the face of trauma. We're so much stronger than we think.