Project Q Atlanta is reporting there are some doubts about Brandon White, the young man who was viciously assaulted and bombarded with anti-gay slurs as he left a neighborhood store. Members of Change Atlanta, a social justice organization based in the Georgia capital, are at least questioning White’s role in the attack.
Members of the group, Change Atlanta, met with the mother of Dorian Moragne and his attorney on Wednesday as she said her son “is a good kid” despite a lengthy criminal record. Moragne, Dareal Demare Williams and Christopher Deon Cain have all been charged in the beating of Brandon White. A group of men attacked White, beat him, yelled anti-gay slurs, recorded the incident and posted it to a hip hop website.
White called his attackers “monsters” in an emotional press conference on Feb. 8. Change Atlanta organizers Devin Barrington-Ward (photo center) and Adolph Arromand (photo right) stood behind White in the press conference that received national media attention and organized a Feb. 11 rally to support him. White said at the time that he did not know his attackers.
Now the two men are among people who met with Moragne’s mother and his attorney, Jay Abt, with TV cameras in tow and are alleging that White threatened to publicly out some of his attackers as gay. That in turn prompted the Feb. 4 attack, they say, that has drawn the attention of the FBI and U.S. Attorney as a possible federal hate crime.
First, contrary to media reports, Change Atlanta is not a gay rights organization. On its Facebook page, it defines itself as “an association of organizations that is working together to empower this young generation and ultimately change the socio-economic atmosphere of Atlanta.”
Second, no matter how much White allegedly taunted his attackers, what happened is a hate crime. Plain and simple. It doesn’t matter if he knew the suspects (most attack victims, including rape victims, know the suspects on some level). They still were motivated by anti-gay bias in their attack of White.
I find it peculiar this organization, which appears to be primarily made up of people of color, is meeting with a suspect’s mother and, suddenly, is doubting White’s story. Just by surfing their website, I can’t find any instance in which they’ve served as social justice activists in the GLBTQ community. It’s Facebook page has some inkling of dabbling in the GLBTQ community, but nothing major. A status update from Thursday further explained the organization’s stance:
Let me be clear: CHANGE ATLANTA is NOT making a villain out of Brandon White, however it is VERY important to the community that supports us that we offer them truth in action. We are setting precedence for truth in our community. If you are hurting or have been hurt, we will support your truth! Without regard to how embarrassing it may appear. Truth is a prerequisite to healing. We cannot continue to seek healing from the same system that hurts us. To do so would be the epitome of insanity. The Georgia criminal justice system is BROKEN and cannot fix us emotionally, financially or socially! We are the beloved community that is responsible for our own. Let truth guide us to healing.
Once again, I find it peculiar this organization would meet with a man who’s been arrested for a hate crime against the people they claim to have a vested interest in protecting.
I fear that this shenanigan will result in what normally happens to black on black victims of crime in the black community: public shaming and public blaming. When marginalized bodies in the black community are attacked and speak out against the anti-woman, transphobic and homophobic bias they experience on a daily basis, the old black community guard comes out in defense of the black men who commit the crimes.
Excuses are made, such as a mother claiming her son to be a good boy and just got caught up in the wrong crowd, despite having an arrest record and a few stints in jail. Don’t get me wrong; I’m definitely not dismissing the role of the criminal justice system in its discrimination against black boys, teenagers and men. However, history has proven that we in our own community would rather persuade victims to shut up and go back into hiding than stand up and fight against the criminal in our community that prey on black women, black children and black GLBTQ.
My greatest fear with this case is it will discourage many of our GLBTQ youth from stepping up and making public the harassment and deprivation of life, liberty and happiness they suffer on a daily basis for the fear that their stories won’t be believed by the public at large. Furthermore, people of color who identify as GLBTQ not only have to worry about racial discrimination and the ongoing intrusion of whiteness, they also have to suffer from the larger GLBTQ community that remains uninterested in their needs and experiences.
Which leads me to another point I’ve noticed over the last few weeks. Aside from the Atlanta Eagle raid and the fallout with the Atlanta Police Department, this was one of the most brutal attacks on a GLBTQ individual in Atlanta in recent history. However, the silence from the GLBTQ community is deafening. While sites like Project Q Atlanta and The Georgia Voice have been more than vigilant with following the case, there hasn’t been much outrage by the community at large on the issue–aside from one march held in the historic Pittsburgh neighborhood and a petition has been drafted to convince Georgia lawmakers to enact hate crime protections across the state. But, the white GLBTQ community, from what I’ve noticed, has been all quiet on the western front on this crime. Perhaps if Brandon White was a young, white, gay male leaving Blake’s On The Park and had been jumped by some thugs in Midtown Atlanta, this case would be on the tongues of every man and woman in the city’s gay community.
The city of Atlanta has a well-known history when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement, black empowerment and advancement and a GLBTQ community whose roots reach back to the birth of the 20th century. Brandon White’s attack should be a primary concern to the black community as some of the brothers and sisters we attend church with every Sunday morning live with the fear and pain of being outed into a family that labels his sexuality a sin and the devil’s work. Brandon White’s attack should be a primary concern to the white GLBTQ community as hate crimes are not just relegated to white folks who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc. people of color who identify as GLBTQ are just as much apart of the community as their white counterparts.
The assault on Brandon White is not just a GLBTQ or black community issue. It’s a hate crime that should bring all of Atlanta’s marginalized bodies together as we often have to contend with multiple forms of oppression and live in a society that victimizes us as The Other often in the form of mental degradation, devaluation and humiliation and outright violence.