Most of you have probably heard of the Lawrence King shooting. If you haven’t the rundown is that Lawrence King is a 15-year-old POC child that was shot twice in the head by one of his bullies McInerney after turning the tables on him. McInerney’s defense seems to be that old “gay panic” classic, you know that King flirting with him drove him to do it. The defense completely disregards the fact that King flirting with him was an attempt to get McInerney and others to stop bullying him and leave him alone. We’ve seen the old gay panic defense work over and over however and the child may well get off but that isn’t even what I want to talk about.
The DA in this case has decided to try McInerney as an adult but there is a coalition of GLBT groups that are agitating to have him tried as a juvenile. When I first saw this information a couple of weeks ago something about it bothered me but I couldn’t put a voice to it.
Well here it is, Lawrence King was a Person of Color and McInerney is White and none of that is being interrogated or taken into account anywhere that I’ve seen. Many of you who know me know my issues with a lot of the mainstream GLBT groups (which are similar to mainstream feminist organizations) in that they purport to advance the causes of all GLBT folks but are overwhelmingly White and focused on issues, such as marriage, that have more of an effect on and interest from White middle class GLBT folks than anyone else. I point you to a wonderful essay written a few years ago by Kenyon Farrow – Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black.
Now the coalition that is calling for McInerney to be tried as a juvenile holds a lot of overlap with the groups that are at the forefront of the push for gay marriage. Many of these are groups that have specifically have been called out before for ignoring issues that queer POC, differently-abled folks & Folks of Lower Socio-Economic levels. Basically they’ve been accused of ignoring the same groups that the mainstream tends to ignore.
In light of this history of alienation what does it look like when they stridently advocate that a white boy who has killed a POC be tried as a juvenile? Well, it sure ain’t pretty.
Now I’m not saying that I want McInerney to fry. In fact I’m attempting to be really objective and leave my personal feelings on the case out of this. What I’m saying is that if we want to show mercy, we show it equally to everyone. Where are these groups when the victims are White and the perpetrators of queer bashings POC? Are they out advocating that those underage youths be tried as juvenile? I haven’t heard anything like that but I don’t know every queer bashing case that happens in the world. So if they do happen to do this sort of thing for every queer bashing involving underage kids (and I’ve somehow just never heard of it), please let me know and I’ll be happy to let go of this knot of anger in my gut and write an apology.
But my guess…my guess is that I won’t get any replies with a case of a single or group of POC youths that killed a White queer child having this huge coalition of GLBT organizations pushing for them to be tried as juveniles. I’m not saying the organizations are doing this consciously but when we realize that we live in a White patriarchial society that automatically values the life of its White citizens over anyone else. When we think about the fact that any POC child who commits a crime gets the book thrown at them while White youths are generally given a slap on the wrist. Everyone remember in Texas last year when the white girl who burned down her family home got probation while the black girl who shoved a hall monitor got 7 years in prison? (Note: Shaquanda was finally released after more than a year in prison though the harshness of her sentence and the reasons behind it were never really addressed.) We could also talk about the ongoing Jena 6 problems and who got charged in mutual fights (hint: it wasn’t the White kids).
These are just a couple of examples of it but this happens all the time. White teens who commit crimes are constantly excused on the fact that “They’re young, they have their whole life ahead of them.” POC youth are rarely (if ever) given the same consideration. We’re considered bad from birth on virtue of our skin, so the thinking becomes “Why not lock them up for a good long while so they can’t get into trouble?”
I’m all for mercy for people who make mistakes, because we all make mistakes. And I’m not saying these coalitions should stop pushing for McInerney to be tried as a juvenile. I just hope that when this happens and it’s the reverse, when it’s a POC child whose queer bashed a White child that I’ll see all these same organizations advocating that that kid be tried as a juvenile.
And until I do see that this whole thing is just another case where our pain and our anger and our bodies and our lives mean nothing when compared to white folks.