Robin Williams did his thing, Ferguson popped off, and Renisha is never coming back. In the midst of watching masculine-identified bodies sway with the histories of struggle, followed by the pain of millions who adored a heartfull brilliant White man, I can’t help but feel that masculine aggression or a masculine way of knowing still means Renisha is dead on the porch at the hands of another white man. The police show force, and people counter with whatever force they have at their disposal, and Renisha is never coming back. The story that plays out with Robin and Ferguson can’t happen unless Renisha is dead. The connection I am trying to make is that dominant forms of masculinities, in order for them to be on full display, need women identified, gender non-conforming, lesser masculinities and trans folk to die.
Don’t get me wrong: its important to stand up for Black men, Black people and against the police. But the tragedy is that Renisha has to die in this scenario. We don’t pop off for Black women, Black trans folks, or Black gender nonconforming the same way we do for the Black men we lose. A function of this society is Black death. The brutal display of force that murders Black men, along with the silent death of non masculine-identified Black people, keeps the people who benefit from oppression in power. We know that Mike Brown, Sean Bell, and Oscar Grant are part of this cycle. Equal important are the silent deaths of Black trans folks, woman-identified, and Queers. Renisha, Crystal Jackson and Britney Cosby, Shelley “Treasure” Hilliard.
In all of the heart wrenching confusion of the past weeks, we as a Black community had a real victory. Regardless of the fact that the criminal punishment system is bogus, Ted Wafer will forever have a Wikipedia entry signifying him as a murderer. When we search for the word “murder” in a thesaurus Ted Wafer’s name will be there on paper. That has to account for something positive. Rarely are white men in the service of hetero patriarchy white supremacy labeled as murderers. Roosevelt, Jackson, Grant, Truman, Washington, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy: (Not) Murderers.
This victory was brought to us by a strong community of women-identified and queer folks coming together to make sure Ted Wafer was known as a murder. Like Harriet liberating souls, or Ida speaking up about lynchings, there is something long-term and soul-affirming within the woman identified and queer Black radical tradition. It’s the hidden labor of women and queer folks behind the scenes in Ferguson who are making sure that people have what they need to resist another day. Yet, I can’t help but feel that the cycle of masculine power is incomplete unless queer and women identified folks die.
The news media is going to try to spin the character of Mike Brown inferring that his death was the only possible outcome for his Black body. Robin will become immortalized as a brilliantly flawed person with a brass statue at rehab and treatment facilities (when the truth is that he was a grown person who made the best decision for himself in that moment), more money will go into police departments to fund paramilitary forces, and queer women of color will speak to the fact that Renisha has died.
This is what I hope for, though:
Ferguson’s schools, police, county board, and local news will be put on blast for the injustices they keep perpetuating that create conditions where Mike Brown and others are gunned down.
Robin Williams will be given kudos for making a decision he thought was best for himself.
Renisha McBride’s family would be given a formal apology from the state, a lump sum of money, and some kind of no strings attached community development fund so other black and brown women/queer folk in the area have a fighting chance.