24 November 2013

The "Knockout" Game

Perhaps you've heard, by now, of "the knockout game."  In it, groups of young people attack an unsuspecting victim.  The assault begins with a sucker punch and ends with the victim pummeled to the ground.  

This disturbing fad seems to have begun in Brooklyn but has spread to other parts of the United States, and even as far away as London.  At least one victim has died; so far, all of the Brooklyn victims have been older Orthodox or Hasidic Jews.

Now, some might use that last fact--and that the attackers are young people of color, and that the attacks have occurred in the same couple of neighborhoods--to minimze the terror.  People who don't live in those neighborhoods or in proximity to those religious and ethnic groups, and are thus sheltered from the tensions between them, might  believe that they have no reason to worry.   However, those very same facts should be reasons why everyone--particularly LGBT people, especially transgenders--should be concerned. 

As Kelli of planetransgender points out, we can all too easily become the next victims of such violence.  After all, who do the attackers choose as their prey?  People who are different (or, at least perceived as such) and more vulnerable than themselves. I can hardly think of any group of people who better fits that description than we do.

What makes us even more vulnerable, though, is that we have fewer people who can and will advocate for us than Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn (or, for that matter, almost any other minority group) have.  Not only are there Orthodox elected officials, there are many others who are lawyers and other professionals with the skills to help their communities.  And they have the support of many leaders of other religions and communities who see an attack on someone who happens to be of a racial, ethnic or religious minority as the act of hate that it is.

But those same advocates and supporters do not always extend their moral outrage, or even a simple sense of right and wrong, when it comes to prejudice, let alone physical assaults, against trans people. Or they simply run out of time, energy or other resources and decide to put us on the back burner because we are a less numerous and poorer population.

Perhaps the saddest and most frightening--but, when you think about it, least surprising--part of the "knockout" game is that the perps come from the very same groups of people who have been systematically terrorized in this city for the last two decades or so.  I'm referring, of course, to people of color, especially to young Black males.  The reason why it's not surprising is that those who live under the constant threat of harassment and worse, and don't have the knowledge or other resources to fight it, will too often take out their often-justifiable anger and resentment on the nearest person or people who are, in some way different and therefore (in their perception, anyway) aligned with the very power structure that is defining and constraining their lives with violence.