A few weeks ago I was a witness to an incident that was chronicled in the Bay Citizen and categorized as a "Hate Crime." Many of you know that my first degree is in Criminal Justice and I have strong feelings against Tough on Crimes laws and Hate Crimes laws and believe that they have been targeted against Black men who are already disproportionately represented within Criminal Justice and the Prison Industrial Complex. I further had difficulty thinking of the situation as a gay bashing or hate crime because the Gay man involved in the fight initiated the physical violence and was the first to "throw blows." So I spoke up in the Bay Citizen's comments section. Weeks later Kenyon Farrow, known for his work with Queers for Economic Justice and Critical Resistance, posted an article on his blog attacking me and defending the alleged victim, Brontez Purnell, who is apparently a friend of his. Kenyon's blog post has been linked ironically enough to the blog belonging to INCITE! Women of Color United Against Violence. The hyper linked articles above provide context for my response which appears below.
Brontez as gay hero who refused to be a victim and brought the violence to them before they could bring it to him and Brontez as warrior avenger who smacked them up for his respect after they called him a faggot are images that stand in stark contrast to the depiction of him as a hate crimes victim which if you remember is the depiction that Brontez himself has put forward. The facts offered by Brontez and to the police do not include the facts that I offered; facts that Kenyon Farrow and others have used to spin Brontez as the gay hero. His story in fact left out the part about him spitting on them, left out the part about the so called assailants trying to flee Brontez's attacks for most of the encounter, left out the part about Brontez’s friend begging him to let it go leave and left out the part about the blunt metal object which Brontez wielded against them repeatedly and actually struck them with at least once. So which is it: Bad Ass Gay Hero or Victim of a Hate Crime? In order for the scenario that Kenyon Farrow has chosen to align himself with to be true Brontez has to have told a story that wasn’t true to the bay citizen which would align very closely with the story that I have told. For the scenario that Kenyon Farrow has aligned himself with to be true Brontez most certainly can’t be a “hate crimes” victim.
That being said: I didn't have a problem with the brother not walking away. I didn’t have a huge problem with his “line in the sand,” and I don’t have a problem with refusing to back down from physical violence. My problem is the classification of that evenings events as Hate Crimes and involving the police after Brontez decided to step to those brothers. It was your friend, Mr. Farrow, who decided to initiate physical violence in a "handle it in the streets" model that is popular among many Black men. The problem for me -not clearly expressed in the Bay Citizen because I know white folks and how white gay racism operates- is: How is it fair to call the police and classify yourself as a "victim of a hate crime" after you decided to use the "handle it in the streets model" and demand your respect by initiating a physical altercation? One does not become the victim of a hate crime because one lost a fight that they started regardless of how righteous the rage that drove them. Mr. Purnell started a fight wherein he had weapons and his opponents did not, and he lost. This does not make him a hate crimes victim and I think that the real tragedy here is that a Black man who is gay could use the masters tools (state sponsored violence through tough on crimes and hate crimes laws) to win an ego driven contest and he is not challenged, but defended, by a friend who has worked for Critical Resistance and Queers for Economic Justice. What’s really sad is that the analysis of so many self proclaimed “radical queers” is so utterly blind to the racial nuance presented by hate crimes laws particularly when they are invoked by Black gays against other Blacks. If Kenyon were really Brontez’s friend (and this is for all of commentators on various blogs and threads) he would ask his friend to be accountable to the political analysis about the prison industrial complex and state violence against Black men which I assume Kenyon has from his time at Critical Resistance. Further the insistence by so many that I should have involved myself in the violence is ridiculous. I went toward the words “botti boy, bumba clott,” with the intention of lending my fist to resist a gay bashing (which anyone who knows me will tell you I’ve been known to do) only to find a gay brotha was the one yelling the epitaphs and wielding a blunt object against some other brothers who were trying to get away. Had I intervened on behalf the victims, as I saw it that night, I would not have been on Brontez’s side. I knew he was gay, assumed his rage was righteous, but did not see him as a victim so I stayed out of it.