Ramadan Days 8 & 9: Allah, Why Didn’t You Protect Me?

When somebody commits an act of violence

upon your person

enter yourself to find it gone

what has been taken

you may find it is your health

you may find it is your soul

but do not give up unto

some other person

what it is that gives you hope

*

Between 6:30-7pm, 6/24/15

I was walking with my girlfriend Penny in the very crowded Northwest corner of Union Square, near the farmer’s market. We were discussing two things: a recipe to fry catfish and the over a dozen men within three blocks that had been harassing her on the street. One had even grabbed her arm earlier.  “This is not a good day for men,” she said. I was fasting and hungry. A man came toward me, walking quickly. He made eye contact with me. He was enraged, filled with hate. “Faggot!” he yelled at me as he slammed into me using his body as a battering ram. I didn’t fall to the ground.  He kept walking.

He was maybe 5’8”, wearing a sleeveless tank, sweating profusely, and a Black male.

I yelled, “You Asshole.” I was in pain and shocked.

One white man in the crowd stopped and asked me if I was okay. I was grateful that he asked. “Do you know him?” he asked me. “Do you mean some guy is running around hitting people?” he asked me.

“Looks like it,” was all I could say.

But it wasn’t just any people.

It was me, queer and Asian,

genderqueer and woman.

*

“I should’ve protected you,” Penny said.

“I’m doing everything wrong,” I said.

Later that night, as she put her arms around me and rubbed Mentholatum on my shoulder, she said, “You’re doing everything right. You’re perfect. Don’t worry.”

*

If a crime has been committed against your person, you must decide what to do based on the specific facts of your situation and your own experiences, identities, and instincts. Never report to the police because you feel pressured to do so by others. Do it because this is what you want. Officers are not counselors, and they should not be advocates. They are cops. A traumatic experience will be evaluated and handled by police based on factors that are not related to your emotional well-being.  You may or may not feel safer after any encounter with the police.

*

Bustin, my brother, called me after the attack.

I’ve never been called a faggot before, I said, foggily.

Watch out, he said. It’s not like being a gay Asian in the Bay Area. They totally treat gay Asian men different in NYC. I know tons of guys who’ve been beaten up.

Are you going to tell mom? he asks.

I’m worried that this will stress her out, he says, and be bad for her health.

I think you should tell her when you’re ready, he says.

It’s so good to have a gay brother. It makes everything better.

I hope he can say the same about me.

*

I was a former Public Defender in LA. I don’t believe in our system. It’s broken and racist beyond money or corruption. It’s in the eyes of the jury, who look at anybody sitting in the defendant chair as already guilty. It’s filled with police who will lie to convict a human being. People with mental illnesses are locked up, and we throw away the key. People are convicted with evidence that leaves a reasonable doubt, and then some.

I’m still a Public Defender. I don’t mean the job. I mean the beliefs, the calling. Being in the position of victim is terrible for any advocate. Standing up for somebody else is always easier.

There are days during which I wondered if I ever helped anybody?

Today is one of those days.

*

A friend referred me to a group called Anti-Violence Project in NYC that provides counseling and advocacy for LGBTQ folks who have encountered violence.  That night, after it happened, I called to report the incident.  Statistics and geography are key aspects of hate crime reporting.

Should I report this to the police? I asked.  You should do what you need to do to feel better.  Our concern is about your well-being, one counselor said.  It’s your decision.  If you go to the police, there’s no guarantee that they will take a report or consider what happened a crime.

Any bruising I had was internal.  While I was in pain, I had no visible injuries.  I asked the AVP if this would matter.  It shouldn’t, this person said, but you need to be clear about the hate speech.

*

I thought as the man walked away from me:

I’ve been fasting for Allah. So maybe when he hit me, Allah touched him too.

I thought as the man walked away from me:

I wish I could chase him down and beat the shit out of him.

I thought as the man walked away from me:

Did he call me a faggot because he thought I was a gay man or because I looked like a lesbian to him? Or because he thinks I’m a trans person?

I thought as the man walked away from me:

Should I grow out my hair?

I thought as the man walked away from me:

Why do so many men hit women?  Why can’t we stop them?

I thought as the man walked away from me:

Is he walking away to hurt somebody else?

I thought as the man walked away from me:

How did this happen?

*

In 2014, the night after the NBA championship, I was surrounded by a group of 6-8 white teenagers who trapped me against a door and jumped up and down around me, tapping on my head and slapping my back. There were no homophobic slurs; I didn’t have any injuries; and it hurt a lot less than this time; but they scared me, and they touched me. I called the police thinking to protect the public. The two officers who answered the call were rude and spoke to my brother even though he wasn’t there when it happened. They didn’t want to take a report. What do you want us to do? Those guys were just out having fun and celebrating. It’s not a crime.

*

When I returned home, after I broke the day’s fast, I prayed. I was upset with Allah. Why didn’t you protect me? I asked.

I’ve fasted for so many years, and nothing like this has ever happened during the fast.

What did I do wrong, I asked, that something like this could happen while I was fasting?

*

When a crime has been committed upon your person, you will not be the only person who is scared. The people who care about you will be scared. They may be scared for you. They may be scared for themselves, or for others, or in general.

They will want to do what they can to help you. They will wish it didn’t happen. They will want to prevent it from happening in the future. They will want to protect you, but they cannot. It already happened, to you. Remember that.

*

I hope they catch this fucker, and I pray that he doesn’t hurt anybody else.

I hope that he doesn’t hurt anybody else.

What am I doing about it?

Not all problems are yours to carry, the Don said when we spoke, his message from VONA.

*

As we went underground, I couldn’t hear myself anymore. Should we go to the police? I asked Penny. I don’t trust them, she said.

I imagined what the heat of the moment could look like. I knew the man was heading out of the square. What description do I really have? I asked myself.

I didn’t want them to stop innocent Black men on the street because a Black man harmed me.

The NYPD is not an objective agency. I hold the NYPD’s violence and racism responsible for creating a situation where, even by reporting a crime, I couldn’t be certain that innocent people would not be hurt.

I also hold the NYPD responsible for creating a climate where a person like me cannot be automatically assured that they will be treated in a humane, kind, or dignified way when reporting a crime.

These systemic flaws discourage reporting.  They must be fixed.

*

“This guy is going to go out there and hurt other people, gay people, our community. You need to do what you can to stop him,” said so many.

Whose fault is it if he hurts somebody else?  Somebody else, or another woman?  Or, a man he thinks is gay?

*

The Doctor once said to me, “Serena if you don’t know what to do, or if you’re upset, the best reaction is no reaction.”

Everything hurt as I boarded that train, all my decisions hurtling away from me.

*

After the grand jury returned no indictment for the police who murdered Michael Brown, I marched through the exact spot in Union Square where I was attacked. After the grand jury returned no indictment for the police who murdered Eric Garner, I marched through the exact spot in Union Square where I was attacked.

Both times, I was protesting with thousands of others that Black Lives Mattered.

Where were so many of us when smaller crowds gathered to protest police violence against Black women? Where was I?

With all the police racism and brutality spanning our history, why has it taken so long and taken so many deaths for Americans not to see the terror of our criminal injustice system? Why are so many people still silent and still passive?

*

A few snippets of internal and external dialogue with the NYPD:

Why didn’t you report this to us sooner? [Keep it up, this really helps victims of crime want to talk to you! Oh wait, the 3 other officers asked me that too.]

Do you think he did this to you because of your sexual orientation? Because if you’re not gay, then it’s not a hate crime.  Just like if someone does something because they think you’re black or white, but you’re not actually black or white, then it’s not a hate crime.  [WTF?!?!  Shut your mouth, sister (referring to myself).  No really, just shut it.]

Oh, you didn’t call because you didn’t think that we could help? I’m done. [Officer turns and walks away.]

[30 minutes later – same Officer]. I’m sorry I was rude to you. Hey – I have two brothers but only one sister-in-law.

[For the record, this officer was also genuine about wanting to help me after the apology.]

“Officer, I wanted to report this earlier, but I didn’t want you guys to be stopping innocent Black men in Union Square.”

“Oh, no!  We don’t do that anymore.  Now we use video.”

*

AFTER MATH:

1.5 hours counseling and logistics and reporting to AVP.

>3 hours at the police station.

1 paramedic visit (apparently required by law)

2 paramedics

3 written reports

5 verbal reports

4 officers

1 intake assistant

=

The assault on me at Union Square is being designated a hate crime. It was not a foregone conclusion that this would be designated a hate crime.  I’m grateful that I was prepared, emotionally and mentally, for a trying experience. I’m grateful for the fast that kept me patient. I’m grateful that some of the officers were helpful and kind, and that my complaint was taken seriously.

=

“This just shows that gays have become white,” Ra’d says as we march for trans justice.

=

A waiting game. Will they catch him? Will I or Penny even be able to identify him?

=

Some Questions I have about healing: How? Why? When? Where? What?

=

Friends, Family, Best Girlfriend in the World

*

When one fasts, everything fades into hunger and thirst. Only the strongest knowledge persists. Only the decisions you must make, are made. You conserve your energy by less action.

In the end, I don’t know if I did the wrong things or the right things. I don’t know if I helped myself or hurt myself. I don’t know if anything I did will make any difference. I don’t know what happens next.

*

I keep fasting.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tinafakhriddeen
    Jun 27, 2015 @ 00:58:13

    Reblogged this on Tina Fakhrid-Deen and commented:
    Achingly sad, yet brilliant ponderings by Serena Lin during Ramadan.

    Like

    Reply

  2. A.
    Jun 27, 2015 @ 09:19:17

    This post will stay with me for a long time, as you have captured so many complexities in one moment: racism, homophobia, transphobia, hate crimes, and a corrupt system with a history so hideous that self-preservation and community safety requires us to presume cops are bigoted assholes who neither serve nor protect. Thank you for writing it all down. I can only imagine how exhausting it is to rehash this. Ramadan Kareem.

    Like

    Reply

    • serena w. lin
      Jul 04, 2015 @ 18:57:18

      Dear A, Thank you so much for reading my post, and for leaving this comment. Ramadan Kareem to you, and many blessings for all that I’m sure you’ve witnessed or endured in your life too.

      Like

      Reply

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