It takes a great deal of hatred to beat someone to death. To connect fists with flesh repeatedly until your target is no longer capable of living. I’ve been thinking about this level of rage as I consider that the man who allegedly pummeled Islan Nettles as she lay unconscious—Paris Wilson—is free for now.
If he had been indicted by a grand jury and found guilty, 20-year-old Wilson wasn’t going to spend much time in prison for the death of Nettles, a 21-year-old black transgender woman who loved fashion and had a mother who loved her fiercely.
Curiously, Wilson faced misdemeanor assault charges, which prosecutors dropped because another man in the group that allegedly hurled homophobic slurs at Nettles and her friends on that late August night in Harlem issued a confession. Police reportedly found the confession to be false, but the admission was enough to cast doubt in Wilson’s case.
DNAinfo.com reports that the prosecutor, New York District Attorney Nicholas Viorst, will now investigate the case as a homicide—a charge that don’t require a speedy resolution. Activists are calling for Wilson to be charged with a hate crime.
But as law enforcement sorts this out and as the clock tick tocks, there’s a message being sent here that black transgender women’s lives have no value. That it’s OK for trans women of color in this country to be in particular danger. That we’ll just have more Lashai McLeans, Tonya Harrells, NaNa Boo Macks, Chloe Alexander Moores, CeCe McDonalds and Islan Nettles. I’m stating the obvious here, but it needs to be said: This shit is wrong. And until we can get underneath the irrational fear that cis men (yeah, I said it: cis men) have of transgender women; until cis men quit using battery of trans women as an assertion of their own maleness; until they understand that battering, stabbing, shooting at and killing trans women of color will actually result in prison time, this violence isn’t going to stop.