The following piece is from The Guardian. It was written by Zach Stafford.
By: Zach Stafford
Can you hate part of yourself so much that you want to kill people like you? And is that a hate crime?
Those are the questions being whispered at gay bars, asked behind tears in family living rooms, and maybe even being answered by the police force here – on the other side of Missouri from Ferguson – after the shocking and complicated death of 22-year-old Dionte Greene, who was shot and killed on the morning of Halloween in his still-running car, possibly by a “straight” man who may have agreed to meet him for sex.
In the minds of Greene’s family and friends, there is no doubt that he was murdered because he was gay – probably, they say, by the man he decided to meet. But in the eyes of the law – or at least law enforcement – that man’s alleged sexual interest in Greene means this killing and others like it cannot be considered hate crimes. One human’s self-doubt can be the end of another’s life, and even with hate crimes on the rise across the US, that letter of our lethargic law means we’ll never know about violence we’re already not doing enough to prevent.
“My son … he was quiet – not a problem child,” Coshelle Greene told me late last month, as a nation began to confront what justice looks like for young black lives lost too soon. “Being that he wasn’t a street person, and didn’t have enemies, I lean towards it having to be someone who was on the down-low or someone so against gay people that they would do this.”
Greene’s mother and many of the other people I interviewed in Kansas City fear that since Greene’s body was discovered in a low-income, high-crime area that is predominantly black, his case will merely be classified as another crime against a black person by a black person – rather than a modern kind of true crime against a gay man who was also black, by a man who may have been afraid of the truth.
And they should be worried, because justice vanishes too often with cases that force police departments and even the most progressive communities to consider victims who lived at the intersection of multiple sexual and gender identities – the complex people who are at a much higher risk of facing hate-motivated violence, or even perpetrating it.
Especially when you’re black. Especially when the cops would rather not check an extra box.
On 30 October, Dionte Greene finished work before midnight to attend a “turn-about” party, where people show up dressed as a different gender. But before the party, Greene had plans with some “trade” he had been talking to online, several of his friends told me. “Trade” is a version of “on the down-low” – terms used within black LGBT communities to describe a man who doesn’t “appear gay” but who engages in sex with men unbeknownst to his family and most of his friends. Trade is a man you don’t necessarily trust – more of a risk than many are willing to take.
According to friends who saw his private messages, Greene had been in correspondence online with this “trade” for some time prior to their meeting, as the man apparently tried to decide whether or not they should meet up. The “trade” was very much on the fence about having sex with men, according to accounts of these messages, and he very much did not want his sexual secret to be found out. But something changed, and the “trade” agreed to meet up that night, Greene’s friends said.
When Greene arrived at the pre-arranged meeting spot in a quiet residential area just miles north of his home, he was on the phone with a friend who could sense that Greene was a little nervous about the meeting. As they spoke, according to other friends with knowledge of this conversation, the man started walking towards Greene’s car. “He looks just like his Facebook picture,” Greene allegedly said.
Moments later, Dionte Greene’s friend heard yelling. The phone line went dead. And Dionte Greene ended up with a gunshot to the face in the driver’s seat of his car.
In a slowly increasing trend for American law enforcement, the Kansas City police department recently appointed its first LGBT liaison, Rebecca Caster, an affable, blond-haired, out-lesbian cop who’s proud to work for a “very progressive” city “that is willing to push the envelope and create change”. There have been no charges or arrests yet in the Greene case – the homicide investigation is very much still active – but Officer Caster still doesn’t necessarily see circumstances like the ones alleged by Greene’s friends: a hate-based sexual killing, spontaneous murder driven by identity politics as much as rage. Several of these friends have been interviewed by the cops, too, but the cops still won’t – can’t – call Greene’s killing a hate crime.
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