Thursday 3 May 2012

The Ballad of CeCe McDonald

Trigger warning: this poem discusses a transphobic attack and its aftermath. Certain verses also refer to prison rape. If either of these things are likely to trigger you, feel free not to read.

CeCe McDonald copped a plea.
Guilty. Manslaughter. Second degree.
She had to. There’d be no fair trial.
Forty-one more months in jail

the best she could expect from them,
the white, cisgendered, Minnesota men
whose prejudice would seal her fate,
ruling ‘inadmissible’ the hate

inscribed on the so-called victim’s flesh,
but saying that her one bounced cheque
would be allowed to testify
against her virtue. Cheques don’t lie,

but swastika tattoos may prove
mere relics of a misspent youth.
That Schmitz said go back to Africa
was, the whites said, neither here nor there:

a man was stabbed, and CeCe’s race
made Freeman think he had a case.
Freeman, who’d tried anti-fascists
but let Darrell Evanovich’s

killer walk, had CeCe bound
in custody. The facial wound
that she’d received that night turned septic,
left untreated, grew and festered,

as CeCe festered in their jail,
each day eroding CeCe’s will
to fight, and making Freeman bold.
He’d show the press how he controlled

those elements – the blacks, the queers –
Tea Party voters tend to fear:
pandering to fears like these
keeps Blue Dog Freeman in his seat

and hapless CeCe in her cell,
while the Caucasian thugs who yelled
abuse and chased her through the streets
are free to party, laugh and eat,

drink beer and cheer at Vikings games
while CeCe languishes in chains
for standing ground that wasn’t hers
in the eyes of pallid jurors.

Meanwhile, Robert Zimmerman
– the dodgy judge, not Bob Dylan –
tells Fox News that his son George
had probable defensive cause

to shoot a black boy in the chest
at point-blank range, then flee arrest:
but George’s victim wasn’t white,
so George posed no risk of flight

(though he’d lain low for one whole month,
while press and police went on the hunt).
So Zimmerman was granted bail:
paid 15K and walked from jail,

where CeCe sits awaiting sentence,
hoping to serve out her penance
for the crime of keeping her friends safe
in a prison where she won’t be raped

by cis male guards and prisoners
with shivs or barks of ‘strip for search’,
a decency that isn’t certain
in the realm of men like Freeman,

governed only for some people,
who are not considered equal,
whatever patriotic lies
its blue-eyed children may imbibe

when they chant their morning pledge,
where millions teeter on the edge
of losing homes to bailed-out banks
while Mormon millionaire mountebanks

pledge to protect blastocysts
and cuff a quarter of the wrists
on Planet Earth, and shackle more:
oh, Amnesty are keeping score,

but who cares? We’re the Great Exception!
For rich white men we’ll make exemptions!
But if you’re not, well – just forget it.
Cop the plea. You’ll get no credit

from the local Fox affiliate.
Justice for all? You’re delirious!
The fact is that America
still operates a colour bar.

See CeCe, in her prison rack?
Her wrists, like most we cuff, are black.

                        *          *          *

CeCe McDonald has been sent to prison for the 'crime' of defening herself and her friends from a racist and transphobic attack. No attempt has been made to punish her attackers. Please sign the petition asking the Minnesota State Governor, Mark Dayton, to pardon her.