February 27, 2013 at 10:00 am EDT | by Lateefah Williams
We must decry all forms of violence

Random violence impacts us all and random violence against youth, in particular, tends to shatter our sense of security. A society that cannot protect its most precious resource, its children, is one that is not poised to thrive. Unfortunately, many people are only concerned when violence impacts their community or one similar to theirs. Thus, while many publicly mourn and express outrage, as they should, over mass shootings in suburban communities, many of those same people have turned a blind eye to violence in inner city, low-income communities for decades.

Unfortunately, the LGBT community is also guilty of this denial. This has served no one well, particularly since there is not always a fine line separating various communities. The tragic murder of Deoni Jones, a 23-year-old transgender woman, illustrates this point. Thankfully there has been an arrest in that case, but the community is still advocating to get the murder classified as a hate crime, as it seems the initial urge was to classify the murder as a “typical street crime” in a struggling community.  Viewing inner city violence as something that does not impact us all is shortsighted and the negative impact of such thinking is often not apparent until it’s too late.

This sentiment of not caring about violence that does not impact one directly has allowed the violence to continue unchecked. This should bother LGBT individuals in particular because our community has been the target of violent hate crimes. When a member of the LGBT community is attacked, we rightfully want others to join in to condemn the attack, find the perpetrator and speak out against hate based on sexual orientation. Some of us identify as LGBT, as well as part of other communities that find themselves the target of senseless violence, such as low-income communities. Others of us may not necessarily reside in those neighborhoods, but other commonalities, such as a shared racial background and previous residence in these areas, make it impossible for us not to share the pain when violence scars the sense of security for these neighborhoods.

Since the beginning of this school year, six innocent students have been killed in Prince George’s County, a place where I am proud to have been raised and where my parents and hosts of other close relatives and friends still reside. We all have a moral responsibility to voice our concern and express support for efforts to stem the tide of violence.

The only way to eradicate violence in our society is for us all to unite in this common goal. The DC Alliance of Youth Advocates is a coalition of member organizations that collectively advocate for the various diverse youth populations throughout the city.  Coalitions like this are a great resource for those who are working in the LGBT community, but who also want to be involved and active in the broader youth advocacy community in the District. I implore LGBT individuals to actively condemn all violence.  Expressing sincere outrage about violence in every community is the only way to get those communities to be similarly outraged about violence in the LGBT community.

Lateefah Williams is the immediate past president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and the first African-American woman to serve in that position. You can read her blog dcprogressivepotpourri.com, contact her at lateefah4@hotmail.com, or follow her on twitter @lateefahwms.

  • brian

    Lateefa, you are just blaming the victims of brutal anti-LGBT hate crimes for their own suffering.

    The repeated failures of our responsible government leaders– Lanier, Mendelson, Gray and Fenty (and now, Wells) is where the blame for rising anti-LGBT violence lies– or, if it happens, where credit for provable crime abatement can be given.

    Residents of every civilized city, county and town government in this country understand that most important of all local government responsibilities.

    We have a police chief who has presided over 6 straight years of rising anti-LGBT hate crimes. What don’t you understand about that? And you’re blaming the LGBT community for not speaking out about every crime?

    What don’t you understand about discriminatory policing? Or violation of a victim’s civil rights under color of authority?

    Moreover, the notion that LGBT public safety is dependent on the LGBT community being better “squeaky wheels” so as to garner sufficient public support to be worthy of protection by DC’s MPD is absurd. Just what do you think our chief of police and other government leaders get paid to do?

    Democratic Party leaders better start caring about the lives and public safety of the LGBT residents they purport to serve. We’ve had enough rubber stamping of the lame excuses of Lanier, Gray and Mendelson– including the police abuses of hate crimes, rape and sex assaults in our city– and very likely MPD and Mendelson de facto cover-ups of same.

    DCTC and Jason Terry have just blown the cover off Lanier’s cronyism and likely bias of her sham “hate crimes task force.” See Blade report…

    Should the LGBT community be blamed for that, too?

    If you really care about the public safety of DC’s women and LGBT residents, why aren’t you demanding accountability from Lanier, Gray and Wells on the outrages of the Human Right Watch report regarding MPD’s sex crimes coverup and abuses (and who-knows how much more)?

    (for ref. vid and HRW Report links, google:
    “YouTube DC Police Fail Rape Victims”)

  • Brian,

    I’m not blaming the victim. The only people to blame for hate crimes are the perpetrators of those crimes. My article was designed to give some perspective on why some communities have not joined our anti-LGBT hate crimes plight and what we, as well as other communities, can do so that society views LGBT hate crimes and all acts of violence as something that we all should care about.

    My article deals with the best way to bring attention to anti-LGBT hate crimes & gives a different perspective on why some past attempts to bring attention to the issue haven’t been effective. This article isn’t designed to address why they’re increasing, so I’m not blaming anyone for the increase. I do agree that we need to ensure all elected and appointed officials are doing their part to address the issue.

  • brian

    Thanks, Lateefa.

    I understand your point. It is a “different perspective,” to be sure. But it remains a terribly mistaken one. Indeed, it represents a downright dangerous distraction from where our hate crime-fighting focus should be, IMHO. It is certainly not the “best way to bring attention to anti-LGBT hate crimes.”

    That comment suggests you don’t understand what the problem is. But I know that can’t be right, because you’re a good lawyer. You know how the criminal justice system has to work to be effective.

    The problem in DC remains the failure of our police (MPD) to seriously investigate, pursue, and arrest the perpetrators of these anti-LGBT hate crimes crimes to get them off our streets. That’s the way violent crime is DETERRED in every city across this nation, and around the world.

    There is nothing mysterious about that. And there is absolutely nothing requiring “political support” in that process. Nor should there be. Hates crimes MUST be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted, as evidence warrants– as a matter of law.

    Moreover, Lanier, Gray and Mendelson, the responsible government officials who have utterly failed to protect LGBTs from this growing anti-LGBT 6-year crime wave– are only too delighted to use such “political opinion” distractions to continue their BIG LIE to DC’s LGBT residents.

    Through photo-ops, post-crime rallies, feckless oversight hearings, and other empty PR gestures, these hypocritical politicians attempt to perpetuate the myth that they care about LGBT public safety. We’ve seen their dog and pony shows many times befor. But the record of horrific, unsolved anti-LGBT assaults and homicides have proven, year after year, that they DO NOT care about the lives and public safety of LGBT residents and vistors.

    Now we have to worry about whether COUNCIL is AGAIN engaged in another coverup of MPD’s police malfeasance, sex crime case cover-ups, abuse of sex crimes victims– and perhaps criminal police misconduct, as reported by Human Rights Watch– well OVER ONE MONTH AGO, now.

    PS/Judiciary Committee Chair Tommy Wells promised to schedule a “serious” oversight hearing and investigation into the Human Rights Watch report’s allegations… letting the chips fall where they may. Yadda, yadda.

    But after over a month, Tommy Wells has not even bothered to SCHEDULE a date for such a MPD oversight hearing. What does that tell us about Tommy Wells’ concern for women and LGBT victims of rape, sex assaults– and likely his concern for anti-LGBT hate crimes coverups by MPD, too?

    Wells’ ‘independent’ pro bono law firm investigation (Crowell & Moring) was reportedly going to have a preliminary review of HRW’s report ready THIS WEEK (BLT/ LegalTimes Blog, 12 Feb). So why hasn’t Tommy Wells scheduled a committee hearing yet?

    The same press report said that Crowell & Moring’s FULL report would be ready in 4 to 6 weeks. That deadline window begins just five days from now (Tues, 12 Mar).

    Let’s hope Crowell & Moring meets that time frame, sooner rather than later– because DC’s rape and sex crimes victims should not have to wait on COUNCIL and Tommy Wells to know whether they will be just as traumatized by an abusive MPD, as they were by their attackers.

    What is troubling is that we have already seen how a “blue-ribbon” and “independent” ‘hate crimes task force’ — of, by and for Chief Lanier — now rightly lacks credibility due to the apparent close ties and/ or cronyism involved in its appointment and control — by MPD’s police chief. Chief Lanier and her policies, should also be the subject of any fair investigation of MPD procedures and/or allegations of wrongdoing with respect to hate crimes.

    No more COUNCIL coverups of police abuses and other malfeasance, please. If we need a special prosecutor, let’s get on with it. DC need to be able to trust its police department.
    for ref…google: “Cops union: Mendelson ignored sex assaults allegations”

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