To be born a woman of color in this world is a difficult thing; as cumulatively we occupy the bottom of the race and class hierarchy. We are unique in that we have no institutionalized other. Our lives are often filled with violence and poverty. For every Oprah Winfrey or Tyra Banks there are millions for whom each breath is a struggle. For those of us that are negotiating multiple areas of stigmatization life can be that much more difficult.
I first heard about Duanna Johnson when I read about an assault against her by the Memphis police department. As they savagely struck her, they did not see her humanity, and they certainly did not see her struggles. These two white men, empowered by our society, saw a transgender black prostitute that they viewed as beneath them.
Even when medical aid was finally called, they treated her abusers, leaving her to bleed from an open wound on her head. As a prostitute Duanna had added a spoiled identity status to her already marginalized social position.
Being a transgender woman and hearing someone call you a he/she as they repeatedly strike you is meant to further remind you that are less than nothing. This is a message that our so-called black leadership internalized, as the voices of Jesse Jackson and camera-whore Al Sharpton were strangely silent.
One would believe that police brutality would be enough to cause anger in the black community, but few care about a drug addicted black trangender prostitute enough to sound the alarm. Though she was just as innocent as Sean Bell who met his death at the hands of police, her social status was enough for people to justify ignoring her.