Criminalization of Trans POC, Police Brutality of Native Communities, and Fighting Back - Sunday Suggestions & Connections
By Abaki Beck
Sunday Suggestions & Connections is a weekly feature that pairs recent news stories with related resources and ideas to take action.
This week, our stories focus specifically on a sombering but important topic: violence and murder in communities of color. The first story is of Islan Nettles, a trans woman killed in 2013 whose suspected killer is finally saw his day in court. The second story is about Loreal Tsingine, a young Navajo woman killed by a police officer in pursuit of a shoplifter.
Earlier this week, James Dixon pled guilty for killing Islan Nettles, a black trans woman, in 2013. The trial began on April 4th. For more than a year after her death, no charges were filed and the Manhattan DA was silent on the case. Dixon originally admitted to punching Nettles after hitting on her and realizing she was transgender. Nettles was a fashion student, walking with her friends through Harlem when she was attacked. She died in the hospital about a week later. Though he was charged with assault and manslaughter, the case was not treated like a hate crime. Nettles’ death inspired vigils and increased attention to trans women of color deaths across the country. In 2014, Laverne Cox joined her mother Dolores Nettles and honored her at the New York City Pride Parade, helping to draw public attention to her case.
Trans people, particularly trans people of color, are criminalized simply because of their gender and racial identity. Violence against trans people of color has always existed, but has become more visible in mainstream media in recent years. Last year, more than 20 trans women of color were murdered in the United States, what some activists labeled an “epidemic.” A recent study found that 73% of fatal hate crimes were of trans people of color.
Here are resources to learn more about criminalization of trans people:
“The Just Feel Like the Can Dispose of Us” story from Buzzfeed on trans women of color murdered in Detroit
Queer (In)justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States by Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock. Beacon Press (January 24, 2012)
On Sunday, March 27th, 27 year old Loreal Tsingine died after being shot five times by police officer Austin Shipley in Winslow, Arizona Officer Shipley has had several complaints filed against him for his conduct prior to this. He was called to the scene in pursuit of a shoplifter, and Tsingine fit the description. He justified his murder of her that she was holding scissors and he felt threatened - though footage shows that she was not pointing the scissors at him, and she was rather petite; he likely would have been able to overpower her without lethal force. Yet again, a young person of color was a victim of the criminalization of people of color and the militarization of the police. At her vigil, which community members and Black Lives Matter activists attended in solidarity, Melanie Yazzie, an organizer, said: “This officer did this because he knew he could do it with impunity.”
Some are recognizing her as one of thousands of indigenous women from Canada and the U.S. who have been murdered or gone missing in the last thirty years. Many of these cases are unsolved or “cold.” Though Native Americans are the race most likely to be killed by the police, their stories are rarely told in mainstream media. The Native Lives Matter movement is nowhere near as well known or supported (by allies) as Black Lives Matter is.
Below, find resources to learn more about violence against indigenous people, and indigenous women specifically. We’ve also provided links to a few Native American news sources, which we encourage you to engage with regularly.
Native Lives Matter by the Lakota Law Project (report on police brutality)
Our stories this week, and stories like this that happen in communities throughout the country everyday, can be disempowering and depressing. But as important as it is to remember these stories and learn about these disparities, it is even more important to support the people and organizations who are fighting back - and perhaps become one yourself.
Before we check out for the week, here are a few more stories you may have missed:
Have a happy and empowering week ahead! Thank you for reading.