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    Black Out

    By Derek Barnes–

    On July 29, O’Shae Sibley was brutally attacked in Brooklyn. His attackers used racial and gay slurs during the violent incident. Shortly after the initial confrontation, the argument escalated, and one of the attackers stabbed O’Shae. Otis Pena, one of O’Shae’s best friends who witnessed the assault, pressed on his wound to stop the bleeding before O’Shae was taken to Maimonides Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. A 17-year-old was charged on August 5, and the incident was treated as a hate crime. O’Shae, 28, was a Black, gay, professional dancer and choreographer who lost his life dancing at a gas station in New York.

    This tragic story caught the attention of some national media outlets, but I was curious about why this story, in particular, got the media coverage it did when so many other stories do not. Was it the video that captured the attack? Was it the age or religion of the attacker—who identified himself as Muslim? Was it something else that made this horrific incident more newsworthy? I observed very few people on gay social media networks even discussing the killing, and none of my white gay friends ever mentioned the incident to me or attempted to engage any discussion.

    The LGBT community has endured discrimination and bias for decades, and this bias and homophobia is particularly amplified when looking at police and media bias against Black gay men. Studies have found that Black men face significantly higher rates of violence than other members of the LGBTQ+ community, and the media often ignores or downplays coverage of their cases.

    Additionally, when cases involving Black gay men receive coverage, they tend to be sensationalized or portrayed as drug-related, or there’s a presumption of guilt because of some unacceptable activity or behavior the victim must have engaged in to warrant the violence—like dancing/voguing at a gas station to a Beyoncé song. On some deeper level, there’s a belief that the victim probably deserved their fate, and we shouldn’t take the time to care.

    Over the years, when these violent incidents happen to LGBTQ+ people, very little effort is made to spread awareness or ensure justice is served. It’s worse for people of color within the community, and there’s even more apathy and indifference if you are Black. It’s tough to accept that this bias exists within LGBTQ+ communities and in major metropolitan areas with liberal media outlets in 2023. Even today, with all the gay rights progress, the results indicate that Black gay men who go missing, are victims of serious crimes and domestic violence, or are murdered do not receive the attention, support, or justice they deserve. Often, we see a different media treatment of hate crimes along racial and ethnic lines.

    According to a July 2018 Washington Post article, “Unequal Justice” about 26k murders went unsolved over a ten (10) year period in the U.S. About 18.6k of those victims were Black or 28%. The Black population in the U.S. is about 13.6%. According to FBI 2019 statistics, Black males are more likely to become homicide victims than any other racial group. The probability increases if you are within the LGBTQ+ community.

    With the technology available to us today, the lack of reliable information about missing persons and crimes against LGBTQ+ people is frustrating to say the least. The absence of an up-to-date universal database is unacceptable and must be resolved. Here are ten (10) other names and cases most people in the LGBTQ+ community have never heard about:

    Marco McMillian, a Black gay mayoral candidate, was beaten, dragged, and set on fire in 2013 before his body was dumped near a river in Mississippi. Mark Carson was shot in the face in 2013 and killed by Elliot Moralas, who was later charged with a hate crime in New York. Terrance Davis suspiciously vanished from his hometown of Chicago in 2018. Jonathan Dailey was reported missing from his home in Palms Springs in 2018. Trevontae Gray left his home in Victorville to pick up an item from a friend, but never returned in 2019. Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean, two Los Angeles African American gay men, suffered drug-induced murder in 2017 and 2019, respectively, by a high-profile Democratic donor, Ed Buck, who was finally convicted in 2022. Diamond Hodge, a Black transgender man, was last seen in Nashville in 2019. Donnell Rochester, an 18-year-old Black gay man, was shot and killed by Baltimore Police in 2022. DeAndre Matthews, a college student, was found on the train tracks in New York with a gunshot wound to the head and his body burned in early 2023.

    The mentioned victims represent just a minuscule number of cases that have received little to no news coverage. They have gone unsolved, or have been forgotten. They reflect the continued police and media bias towards Black men, as well as transgender people, who are often victims of serious crimes, go missing, or are murdered. This bias means their cases are often ignored, minimized, or downplayed. Minimal effort is made to ensure justice prevails, and this casual discarding of people must stop.

    This year marks the 30th anniversary of the March on Washington for LGBT Equal Rights and Liberation, where one million people, including myself and many friends, descended on the nation’s capital. While significant advancement has been made in terms of LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance since the march, more must be done to ensure that all community members receive equal attention, protection, and justice. I hope these words shed light on a painful and lingering issue within the LGBTQ+ community—the underrepresentation and media bias against Black people who go missing, become victims of serious crimes, or are tragically murdered.

    Despite progress in promoting inclusivity, equity, and equality, the violence reported, and experiences of Black gay men and transgender people, often remain marginalized, leading to a lack of public awareness, limited media coverage, and unsolved cases. Municipal financial gaps in cities like San Francisco and Oakland can exacerbate the challenges of providing adequate resources to protect communities and solve these crimes. By examining the factors contributing to this bias (inter- and intra-community), our collective goal is to increase attention, awareness, conversation, and action to address the continued disparity.

    Derek Barnes is the CEO of the East Bay Rental Housing Association ( ). He currently serves on the board of Homebridge CA. Follow him on Twitter @DerekBarnesSF and on Instagram at DerekBarnes.SF

    Social Philanthropreneur
    Published on August 24, 2023