This week, CeCe McDonald was released early after being unjustly sentenced to forty-one months in prison in May 2012 after pleading guilty to reduced second-degree murder for the death of Dean Schmitz, one of the people who attacked her.
In June 2011, CeCe was the victim of a racist and transphobic hate crime while on her way to a grocery store. She was viciously attacked by a group of people, including Schmitz. In the resulting confrontation, Schmitz was fatally stabbed. Despite being the survivor of a violent attack and hate crime, CeCe was the only person arrested or charged from this attack. After serving nineteen months of her sentence, CeCe was released early for time served and good behavior.
CeCe’s story is another tragic reminder of the devastating violence faced by the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color, and the sobering reality that too often the law enforcement system is ill-equipped to address the problem and, in many cases, actually contributes to the injustice, oppression, and danger transgender people face. The transgender community is disproportionately targeted for hate violence. In 2013, The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) responded to 14 homicides of transgender women nationally, 93% of whom were people of color. Out of the 25 homicides of LGBTQ people in 2012 reported in NCAVP’s 2012 Hate Crimes Report, 53.8% of total homicide victims were transgender women and 73.1% were people of color. Additionally, the report found that transgender people of color and transgender women are almost three times as likely to experience police violence.
While NCLR celebrates CeCe’s release, we will also use this as an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to combatting the myriad issues that underlay this tragic case. This includes addressing the heightened vulnerability to violence in the transgender community, especially among women of color; addressing the systemic injustices that can result in the victim of a hate crime being incarcerated, while her attackers go free; and dismantling the culture of violence and over-reliance on the criminal justice system, which has a disproportionately negative impact on LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color.
For more information on this case and hot to get involved with LGBTQ anti-violence prevention, please visit our friends at NCAVP.