With the constant media barrage of disasters, injustices, and assorted international atrocities, it can often be hard to focus on just one cause. In a world of 24-hour news tickers and 30 second segments, it seems like there’s never the time or space for follow up. One minute the news will leave me enraged over one particular case, and the next minute it will have moved on to the next reprehensible act, and sadly, so will I. So for 2009, instead of my typical resolutions to go to the gym more often or eat fewer chemical-laced and possibly radioactive meat byproducts, I resolve not to let the 24-hour news cycle get me down, and not to forget the injustices of the world five minutes after they happen.
Number one on my list is the New Jersey Four. In 2006, a group of young black lesbians were walking on Sixth Avenue in New York City’s Greenwich Village, a neighborhood that has long been a safe haven for queer youth. A man selling DVDs on the sidewalk propositioned them. When he was met with a rejection, he called them dykes, threw his lit cigarette at them, and threatened to “fuck them straight.” A fight broke out, and he was caught on camera trying to strangle one of the women. The women fought back, along with several other men who stepped in to defend them.
For fighting back after being jeered at and spat on, they were arrested and charged with felonies, including, amongst other things, gang assault and attempted murder. For defending themselves against a hate filled assault, they were crucified in the news. The New York Post and the Daily News went on a rampage, alleging the existence of roving gangs of violent lesbians, intent on killing men. Fox News joined in, with Bill O’Reilly ranting and raving that this one incident of women fighting back was evidence of the hostile homosexual takeover of America.
Although one of these women has had her conviction overturned, three of them are still in prison. So this new year I resolve to not forget these women. I will not forget that there are three young queer women sitting in prison because, while spending a night out in the queer neighborhood where they should have been free of harassment or assault, while walking down the same street I so often walked, they had the nerve to defend themselves against the verbal and physical abuse of a homophobic and violent man. And I definitely will not forget that what started this whole thing rolling was not a wolf pack of crazed women looking for a fight, but the still very dangerous act of a woman saying “no” to a man’s unwanted advances.
More information on how to support the New Jersey Four can be found here