Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Long Road to Safety, Let Alone Freedom: The Murder of a High School Basketball Star

In mid-September nationally ranked high school basketball star, Tayshana “Chicken” Murphy was shot to death by three young men in the hallway of her apartment building. At first, police assumed the murder was a case of mistaken identity. Tayshana had on a hoodie and police thought she was mistaken for another young man who was the actual target of the murderers.

It was tragic enough that the promising life of a young Black woman was cut short by a senseless case of mistaken identity. It is scary enough that she, like so many other young Black people in urban areas, was not even safe from gun violence in her own apartment building. Now, the police are investigating the possibility that Tayshana’s murder was not a case of mistaken identity, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but a hate crime.

Tayshana was, according to “sources” cited in the news account, a lesbian. Her friends had placed candles and memorials in the hallway where she was shot, but recently new anti-gay and threatening graffiti was written on the walls. The messages were apparently so hateful and so violent that they were immediately painted over, but still serve as a warning and threat to other residents in the complex. That someone could so hate lesbians that they would desecrate her murder scene memorial with violent anti-gay graffiti is almost as chilling as the murder.

Pending the investigation of Tayshana’s murder by the NYPD hate crimes unit, it is unclear why a young basketball player’s life was taken. Whether it was a case of mistaken identity or an assassination of a woman who was or was assumed to be a lesbian, we still lost a young woman who was looking forward to a promising future.

If this was an anti-lesbian hate crime committed by three young Black men, the resemblance to the “corrective” rapes and murders of young lesbian athletes in South African that have occurred over the last few years is a reminder that we have lots of work to do right here in the good old USA before we focus our outrage on LGBT hate in South Africa, Nigeria or any other country.

My heart goes out to Tayshana’s family and friends. I am sick of the senseless hate and fear of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.


Wyman Stewart said...

One reason we have a court system is to reveal motives for a crime, while determining the innocence or guilt of a person(s).

I have read she was killed as retaliation in connection with a prior event she may or may not have been a part of, was killed by mistaken identity, and now because she may have been a lesbian or may have been perceived to be a lesbian by the killers and others. I am tempted to speculate as everyone else has, but I won't.

The over-riding issues are, a high school student was gunned down and it wasn't self-defense; guns have replaced fists as a means of settling real and imagined sleights in too many neighborhoods; and a propensity to believe that violence is good, even necessary, in life, has grown too common among people. I suggest, if this girl was not a national high school basketball star, only her neighborhood would know about her violent death, when the whole nation should be shocked and up in arms about this.

She was probably a borderline potential college star, I think. However, if she and her family left behind the jungle that shouldn't exist where she lived, she would have been a major success for that alone. How is it we allow such jungles to exist? When we answer and solve such problems as this, then we can move on to more academic issues of whether she was lesbian, straight, or a college star to be.

It's a sad commentary to desecrate the memory of a dead girl for any reason. All she was in life, was a young lady, struggling with some success to find a more civilized life, with the odds against her. That she got as far as she did is a major accomplishment. May the rest of her neighborhood stand on her giant 5' 6" shoulders and accomplish even more.

Anonymous said...

Oh because the courts are always so clear on hate crimes and able to serve justice equally?

Why even make such a comment?! It cannot be disputed that hateful graffiti was painted at the memorial site- hateful anti- gay graffiti. That alone is enough to give any member of the queer community pause, fear and frustration.

"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in times great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality", Dante.

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