Our community recently had closure to a hate crime against a gay couple in NYC. The attacker received a sentence of 9 years in jail. Sounds pretty straight forward. Sounds like justice was served. Sounds very black and white. Unfortunately, there are problems with all three of those sounds. Let's revisit the crime in question, starting at the sentencing.
If you ask activists and advocates who worked on behalf of Bayna-Lehkeim El-Amin, a gay black man who received a nine-year prison sentence for a May 2015 altercation at Dallas BBQ in New York City, the structural barriers between El-Amin and justice were too great to overcome.
"It's so many things that came together to make this happen," Mitchyll Mora, one of a handful of activists who worked on El-Amin's behalf, told Mic. "And this happens to queer black people all the time. Communities are being railroaded into jail."
El-Amin was convicted of low-level felony assault with a gay white couple, in which the defendant said he was acting in self-defense. The first images of the incident came from a video that starts midway through the altercation, in which El-Amin strikes Jonathan Snipes over the head with a chair. The video, shot on May 5, 2015, was posted online only hours after the assault between El-Amin, Snipes and Snipes' then-boyfriend Ethan York-Adams. The video showed a large black man — El-Amin is 6'6" and almost 300 pounds — harming two smaller white men.
But this video is one of the early signs that El-Amin's case was doomed from the start, advocates and activists told Mic. In the months leading up to the trial, many supporters worked to counter a media narrative they say depicted El-Amin as an aggressive black man who preyed on two white men. Racialized media bias and inadequate defense, they say, led the jury to convict El-Amin and the judge to dole out a harsh sentence. – Mic.com
Remember this incident? We mentioned the sentencing on September 15th in the post Man Sentenced For Dallas BBQ Chair Assault. If you don't remember the entire case, go up to the search bar here on Instinct and type in "El-Amin" and about 10 stories will pop up. We all wanted to join the manhunt for this chair throwing New Yorker. The mentality was get the bitch and the emotions were running so wild one couldn't think clearly.
The Mic.com post goes on to discuss how the system was against El-Amin from the start because of the color of his skin. The article also cites a previous gay bashing in the city where there was a very different sentencing.
Within New York City, racial disparities clearly do exist when it comes to sentencing for assaults that involve gay black men. In August, a Brooklyn judge sentenced two Hasidic men who beat up a gay black man and left him blind to 150 hours of community service for their crime.
However, the judge [in the El-Amin case] was unwilling to say that race played a factor in this event or the subsequent reaction.
"I know you want to cast this as an issue about race," Judge Arlene Goldberg said, according to the New York Post. "I just do not see that there is any evidence of that. When you picked up the chair, that was a criminal act, that cannot be excused."
Definitely go over to Mic.com and read the very well written article in which the publication elaborated on both Snipes's and El-Amin's accounts of the evening. Was it self defense, who started the altercation, and was it a hate crime? Was there media bias? I think most of the gay media was guilty of that and even the straight media, with the ruling, showed its true colors.
Media bias continued throughout El-Amin's case, as news reports played into hyper-aggressive, dehumanizing portrayals of El-Amin. In a write-up of the conviction in May, the New York Daily News described El-Amin as a "hulking brute." In their description, they failed to report that El-Amin was a person with a history of activism in the queer community. That he was an HIV/AIDS counselor and active in New York City's ballroom community. But rather than paint him as a queer black man, media reports stripped him of his queerness and painted this as an altercation between two white gay men and a brutish black man. – Mic.com
What about those sounds mentioned at the beginning of this blog? Sounds pretty straight forward. All participants were gay and the attack wasn't based on sexuality so there was nothing straight about this case; therefore is wasn't a hate crime. Sounds like justice was served. Was justice served? 9 years for throwing a chair while we deal with a white college boy being pardoned for raping a girl. Sounds very black and white. It was so black vs. white it hurt.
I was recently in a large American city and while walking along to a meeting when I noticed down a side street a little demonstration going on. My first thought was a "Black Lives Matter" protest, which I had never seen before in person. Walking down closer to the police lights and voices coming through the bullhorns, it was clear the protest by the black crowd was being directed toward one of the gay bars in town. It really brought home the tension that I have heard about in larger cities, but haven't experienced; the tension between the gay white and the gay black community. But it also made me think, is there just a black / white gay culture clash in large American cities or are there tensions like this in smaller American cities? What about European cities? This, I really don't know.
To add to this racial tension discussion, PhillyMag.com recently shared with us a 3 year old video that is a little hard to swallow.
Guy No. 1: “And Ricky Peterson, nig, nig, nig, nig, niggers — everyone of them. (laughs) Does Ray ask you for drink passes — white, obnoxious white, but white?”
Guy No. 2: “No he’s never asked me.”
Guy No. 1: (laughs) “There you go, and he was definitely your real boyfriend. All three of them that ask you for drink passes are niggers.”
Background voice: whispers “oh my god” and the video ends. – PhillyMag.com
The claim is that Guy No. 1 in the video is Darryl DePiano, owner of icandy in Philadelphia, whom has since apologized for the 3 year old incident. For more on this and the fallout, head over to PhillyMag.com.