CeCe McDonald, a black trans woman, has been facing 2nd degree murder charges since being attacked last summer by a group of white adults.
CeCe and several friends, all black, were walking to the grocery store on June 5th, 2011 when white adults standing in the patio area of a South Minneapolis bar started screaming racist and transphobic slurs at the youth. CeCe, who is only 23 years old, approached the group and replied that she and her friends would not tolerate hate speech. In response, one of the white women said “I’ll take you bitches on” and smashed her glass into CeCe’s face. The broken glass sliced all the way through CeCe’s cheek. A fight ensued between the adults and the young people after this initial attack and one of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, was fatally stabbed.
As if it were not sufficiently tragic that a group of young people were subjected to such severe violence and that Dean Schmitz lost his life, police arriving at the scene arrested CeCe, denied her adequate medical treatment, interrogated her for hours, and placed her in solitary confinement. In the aftermath of being attacked, she was not treated with care, but launched into another nightmare. The only person arrested that night, she has since been charged with two counts of 2nd degree murder. Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman has the power to drop these charges, a choice he made in multiple other clear instances of self-defense this year, but he has not yet done so.
CeCe’s story is a portrait of the United States Criminal Justice System. Her story is what is meant when we are told that transgender people, especially transgender women of color, experience disproportionate rates of police harassment, profiling, and abuse. She is living one of the stories rolled into statistics like: trans people are ten to fifteen times more likely to be incarcerated than cisgender (not transgender) people, or nearly half of African American transgender people have spent time in jail or prison.
These statistics are the result of the all of the ways that transgender people, especially transgender people of color, are denied access to the resources and opportunities that we need to live healthy lives free of violence, discrimination, and oppression. Transgender people consistently experience high levels of harassment in school, extreme levels of unemployment due to discrimination and lack of education, denial of competent medical care, inability to change identification documents, and disproportionate violence and harassment. Nevertheless, for generations transgender people, especially transgender women of color, have been at the forefront of movements against police brutality, white supremacy, economic injustice, and for queer liberation and gender self-determination.