Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh…

July 3, 2008

Further to my recent posts (links here and here) about the police brutality meted out to Duanna Johnson in a ‘Justice Center’ in Memphis, Tennessee, comes a report on Channel 3 News (link to WREG website here) that Memphis police are investigating the death of Rodney Whitaker, age 20, an African-American trans* woman whose body was found on 1 July.

“The specific circumstances leading to her death are not known at this time,” said Tennessee Equality Project President Christopher Sanders. “But there is reason to believe this is a hate crime fueled by transphobia.”

This comes in the same week as the news of the still unsolved murder (from February 2006, ffs) of Tiffany Berry, another African-American trans* woman. Ms Berry’s body was found near a strip club – and as Alex Blaze of The Bilerico Project says, “they’re going to presume sex work, of course, even though the body could have been moved or she might have been in the neighborhood for another reason”.

It is difficult not to think that the Memphis police departmment cares little about the safety of trans* women of colour. In the words of the Tennessee Equality Project’s Marisa Richmond:

“We consider these two recent crimes, combined with the still unsolved murder of another African American transgender woman, Tiffany Berry on February 16, 2006, to be totally unacceptable. The lack of response by the Memphis Police Department and the Shelby County to the beating of Duanna Johnson has set a tone in the community that the lives of transgender people, especially African American transwomen, are irrelevant.”

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©2008 Helen G

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