Home Social Justice CeCe McDonald speaks about the prison industrial complex and transgender issues

CeCe McDonald speaks about the prison industrial complex and transgender issues

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Famous transgender activist CeCe McDonald rallied a huge group of students Thursday night in Walter Hall about mass incarceration, the prison industrial complex and transgender issues in society.

McDonald spoke candidly to a lecture hall in Walter Hall with standing room only about her life as a trans woman of color, from aggressive encounters with police to the time she spent in prison after killing a man in self-defense. Many of McDonald’s problems are not unique to her, either.

“We’ve only been 35 days [into 2015], and already there have been six murders of trans women this year,” McDonald said. “These women have just come into the new year, and weren’t able to enjoy the prospects of what could be in the year 2015 for them.”

A major focus of the beginning of her speech was on the intersection between different social problems.

“We constantly focus on one thing; we tend to leave people behind,” McDonald said. “I was really impressed and proud of the people of color community for coming together for #BlackLivesMatter. But, in that, we kind of deflected the spotlight on all the issues that … other marginalized people had been facing in this country. While we were focusing on the police brutality that only cis[gender] men of color face, we left out the police brutality that immigrants face, or that trans women face, or that all women face.”

Police brutality has been a major issue in McDonald’s life, she shared with the audience. She has been confronted by police while waiting to catch a bus for school, while in a parking lot after being beaten up and on several other occasions.

Another point that she touched on was the concept of being an ally of oppressed groups and how many of the problems that privileged people want to now try to fix have been around for a long time.

“Now that people have some idea of what we go through, now all of a sudden it’s an issue,” McDonald said. “I’m glad people are truly and honestly concerned but I feel like there is a thin line between allyship and being a poser. You can’t be someone who hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and then you’re laughing at your friend because they’re doing blackface.”

Following the speech, audience members were invited to come meet McDonald, take pictures and ask questions. She even gave out her personal Facebook account for anyone who wanted to talk about issues they may be facing in their own lives.

Brittany Seals, a member of the audience, came to learn more about McDonald after following her story in the media.

“Her story has really resonated with me as a queer woman of color,” Seals said. “She had to deal with sh*tty violence from being a marginalized person, and then fighting back and taking it into her own hands, and then fighting back — that’s a huge thing for me and she’s really inspiring for me.”

Another audience member, Dontay Graham, also took a lot away from McDonald’s speech.

“The greatest thing I learned was all the interconnections within all the prejudices and oppression with our society,” Graham said. “I feel like we normally separate everything, like she said — one minority considers the other minority to somehow be above them and to somehow have more ability than them.”

Graham took McDonald’s message to be a positive one, even though she covered a lot of harder topics.

“What I took away from this is an entirety, we just need to learn to accept everybody and accept yourself,” Graham said. “I think that was the strongest thing: self acceptance. Being knowledgeable about all the things in your life and how everything’s connected, whether it be positive or negative.”

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