Thursday, 19 June 2008

Nothing Unusual

It happens every day. This time though, it was caught on tape.

The facts:

In many, even most, places in the USA, such things do occasionally happen, but can accurately be called "single isolated and regrettable incidents", if they happen at all. But in all too many jurisdictions, it's merely "business as usual", not even worth mentioning.

Merely being Black and Transgendered is not enough to constitute "probable cause" for an arrest for prostitution, but many police don't see that. They see someone who "fits the profile", and profiling, while supposed to be illegal, is how they get to catch the crims. It has to be said that being Black and Transgendered really does mean the odds of someone being engaged in sex work are fairly high. With a 75% unemployment rate, an average wage of $15,000 a year assuming they do get work, and $50,000-$70,000 needed for surgery and hormones, prostitution is all too often the only way to eat, let alone save for necessary medical treatment.

It's quite usual for even white transsexual Rocket Scientists to be asked by medical care providers on first meeting if they're engaged in sex work. Demeaning? Insulting? Yes, but also responsible and reasonable, under the circumstances. You get used to it. You better, because there are far worse humiliations you'll have to undergo in transition. So very many young kids get thrown out of home and onto the streets, and the money is so very high compared to handouts and minimum-wage. If you can get that. Most can't. I know too many former executives, lawyers, and engineers who have been put in the same position, left penniless, literally, and starving, literally.

What is unusual about this situation? Well, first that it was caught on tape. The beating, the use of "brass knuckles", one person holding them down while another does the beating, the use of mace, that's par for the course, and the beating was really quite mild compared to many such incidents. She was lucky when she dared actively resist that she wasn't tasered, shot, or beaten senseless.

The second thing that was unusual was that action has already been taken - the probationer (who had far less responsibility, and arguably only went to the defence of a brother officer until he realised what was going on, and left) was summarily fired. Whether the main perpetrator will actually be punished or not, instead of being temporarily "put on administrative duties" is another matter. The tape is pretty damning, but for any punishment to be administered is almost unprecedented.

As for me... well, I've said previously that:
I find it... incredible... that when I travel to the USA, I have to do research on exactly how people like me are treated in different counties and states along the route, just in case. And modify travel plans accordingly. It's a bit like being Black in the 1920's. Some Law Enforcement officers are, well, sometimes not that bright, even if not prejudiced.
I'm neither Black nor Latina, nor obviously Transgendered. In general, I would attract no more police attention in the USA than any other middle-aged woman. But should I be involved in an accident, or have my purse stolen... my UK Birth Certificate says "boy", and both my UK and Australian passports say "Female". A check of the records would show suspicious anomalies.

I know one gal in a similar situation actually arrested on suspicion of being a "British Spy" by a none-too-bright law enforcement officer in California. Apart from an inconvenient delay, it was real Keystone Cops stuff, and she got an embarrassed apology from a supervisor. In Memphis, Tennessee it would not have been quite so funny. I wouldn't die laughing, anyway. This all seems so... surreal... that I actually have to take it into account if I'm considering going to a conference somewhere. Literally like a Black academic in the 1920's. I'm still too new to it to lose the incredulity. I can't ignore the evidence though, there's too much of it.

Full story at WMCTV.

(Officer) McRae filed an assault charge against Johnson. In his report, McRae said Johnson swung at him and threatened to shoot the officer in the head. He said he was punched repeatedly in the head and neck by Johnson, whose first name is listed as Dwayne in the report.
And without the tape evidence, no doubt he would have been believed too. That too is usual.


Battybattybats said...

This truly horrible event does at last bring to light in an unavoidable way what a lot of people go through.

The more this is publicised the more the general populace will have to face the hidden reality of transphobic violence.

If I had some video editing skills and software I'd get some statistics, splice those up with this gut-wrenchingly horrible footage and put it up on youtube.

When the consequence of many peoples politics ends in innocent people being subjected to violence like this it makes this footage very important.

The world needs to see that trans people are the victims not villains. The general populace needs to learn the truth to replace their missconceptions and the lies they are told.

This footage can speak to them in a way few other things can.

Laserlight said...

I suspect if you posted such a video, you'd get as many "too bad the cop didn't finish off the [deleted]" comments as you would "oh, that's terrible!". Perhaps I'm cynical.

It is one example where the police prey on the citizens rather than serve them, but you don't need to be trans for that. I recall a group of peaceful abortion protesters where one of the ladies nearly died in custody. And of course, if you're a drug dealer, or live near one, or live near where one used to be, or have caught the ire of a narc or informant, then you have lifethreatening problems--see Ryan Frederick in Chesapeake Virginia, one city over from me.

Leah said...

I have a trans friend who was in law enforcement for many years and she'd be the first to tell you that this is normal behavior for many/most cops. The occupation as a whole is hypermasculine and it's easy for them to forget that they are supposed to be there to "protect and defend" not oppress and beat.

The amazing thing about this whole incident is we know about it at all. The film was leaked. And that's what the police were initially investigating and NOT the brutality. And people have the nerve to say we don't need a Hate Crimes bill.

Gimme a break!