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(In)Justice for All: Politics of the Blind Machine May 13, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Queer politics.

I’m rather late in jumping on this bandwagon. The CeCe McDonald case  reveals in stark relief the oppressive nature of the United States legal system and the absurdity of claims to universal disinterested justice. After some white folks shouted racist and transphobic slurs at em and eir friends, McDonald confronted the harassers and found eirself in a fight; Molly Flaherty struck McDonald with a bottle, inflicting an injury that punctured eir cheek all the way through and required eleven stitches.  Dean Schmitz apparently followed McDonald when ey left the brawl and the tried to attack em despite the fact that Schmitz knew McDonald was holding a blade.  Schmitz died from a scissor wound to the chest. McDonald accepted a plea bargain that involves a 41- month prison sentence. As far as I can tell, no other combatant has been prosecuted – not even Flaherty.

As Kenyon Farrow writes, we should support McDonald regardless of the details – but the reported details stand out.  Schmitz had a swastika tattoo on eir chest and certainly behaved as a white supremacist. McDonald didn’t start either the verbal abuse or physical conflict, received a serious injury at the start of the fight, and only stabbed Schmitz after ey pursued em and closed in. As you would expect, state prosecutors ignored all of the context and preached impartiality. Justice is blind, they asserted. The judge refused to allow mention of Schmitz’s tattoo because they didn’t want the jury to think ey deserved to die and acquit on those grounds.

I’d never recommend that course, but you can grasp why McDonald took the plea bargain.

The U.S. criminal justice system isn’t blind; it just sees what it wants to. Folks get off all the time for supposed self-defense shootings, but a black transwoman who stabbed a white dude in self-defense during a brutal racist and transphobic attack is now doing hard time. Despite what liberal jurisprudence claims, the power dynamics and structures of oppression at play do matter. Given the broader social circumstances of endemic violence against trans people of color as well as the specifics of this incident, McDonald’s sentence shows lucidly how the law’s pretensions of neutrality in further white supremacy and heteropatriarchy.

McDonald’s incarceration sends the message that queers, women, and people of color must rely solely on the state for protection. If that fails, as it regularly does, we should simply submit to the inevitability of bashing or run away praying not to trip.  When the state itself wishes to harm us, even the latter option becomes blasphemous. The specter of autonomous individual and community self-defense terrifies the state, especially in conjunction with the acknowledgement of the special situation such marginalized groups face within this society.

Their nightmares match my dreams. We can do so much better than the law’s mechanistic codes that exalt the written word and insist on uniformity.



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