*I have corrected details in this post after speaking with Rahzie. I apologize for mishearing parts of her story at the rally this morning and I acknowledge I should have checked my version before posting. mea culpa.
On February 23, Syracuse Black Lives Matter leader, long-time community activist and advocate for Black youth, Rahzie Seals, was beaten up by four men. Rahzie is a queer Black woman. She went to the mall with a friend to buy clothes for a friend’s funeral–another queer black woman who died suddenly earlier this year–and she was beaten up in the mall lobby outside of Macy’s department store, under bright lights and in front of a number of witnesses, none of whom did anything to stop the violence.
Calling her “dyke” and “lesbian bitch” a number of young Black men attacked her physically. Just days before the attack, Rahzie had finished raising money to send Syracuse Black youth to see the opening of Black Panther on February 16-17. She had hoped to raise $3500 and ended up raising about $10,000. Rahzie is known, she has been in the trenches for years fighting for reparative justice for African Americans in Syracuse. The young men who slurred her and beat her ran away, and mall security was less than responsive or helpful. Rahzie’s friend got her to the car and they headed to the hospital. Rahzie’s head was bleeding and throbbing. She had trouble standing up. On their way to the emergency room, the police called her and instructed her to come into the precinct office for questioning. She did as she was told, but she required paramedics to help her get in the building, and despite her pleas and the pleas of her friends, the police did not release her for medical attention until they completed an interrogation. The victim was treated as a suspect.
Rahzie ended up in the hospital with a concussion.
It is clear to me that if she had been white, the police would have met her at the hospital. But of course, it is clear to me that if Rahzie had been white, those mall witnesses wouldn’t have been so passive, and the mall security would have been more helpful, and maybe those young men would not have targeted her.
The truly unbearable aspect of this horrible story, juxtaposed so tightly to the trauma of violent attack that it is hard to think them separately, is the non-choice, the unchoice Rahzie now faces. Should she press charges against these young men, boys whose families she knows? Should she offer up more young, black bodies to a “justice” system that regularly beats and abuses Black inmates, often submitting them to over 200 hours of solitary confinement? How can she? But should she refuse to press charges and let violence against queers go unremarked? How can she? Should she focus on the lethargy and illegalities of mall security and Syracuse police? She is terrified of them.
Rahzie’s very body is on the line and she feels the demands of an impossible calculation: pitting Black lives against queer lives, queer lives against Black male lives, women against men. It’s impossible. Rahzie wouldn’t, she couldn’t, articulate this calculation so starkly. Her voice stumbles and cracks as she tries to talk about what happened to her. Her blood flowed into the gap between identities that should be bolstering each other up, but instead are pulling each other apart. The intersectional particularities of this attack have laid bare the precarities of being Black, of being a Black woman, of being a Black Queer woman.
Rahzie’s utter vulnerability comes from two well-worn truths of American society: the lack of deep reparative justice in Syracuse African American wages, housing, jobs, and schools; and the excess of anti-black racism in the police system.
Know Rahzie’s story. Tell it. Advocate for justice for queer, Black, and female bodies in your communities, and protest police racism, brutality, and lack of accountability.