McDonald Case A Familiar Story to Zenzele Isoke

The trial of CeCe McDonald started and came to an abrupt end when McDonald accepted a plea bargain. McDonald, an African American transgender woman, was accused of murder in the death of Dean Schmitz in June of 2011. He was stabbed as part of a fight that erupted outside the Schooner Tavern in Minneapolis. McDonald was walking past the bar with some friends when she says she was taunted with trans phobic and racist slurs.

In the confrontation that followed, McDonald was slashed in the face with a broken glass, and Dean Schmitz was stabbed in the chest. An energetic support group rallied around McDonald, and for the past year they’ve been arguing that the murder charge should be dropped because McDonald acted in self-defense.

Mike Freeman told Minnesota Public Radio "This is not a self-defense case, because if you have a weapon, you have a duty to retreat.” Freeman argued that McDonald did not try to walk away, thus making the murder charge necessary. The case ended just before opening arguments were set to begin when CeCe McDonald plead guilty to a lesser charge of second degree manslaughter.

The case drew widespread support from transgender and gay rights groups who say the taunting that started this incident is all too familiar, and violence against transgender people is commonplace.

University of Minnesota assistant professor Zenzele Isoke has been thinking and writing about hate crime and violence based on race and gender and she has studied several cases of violence against black transgender people. Her book, "Urban Black Women and the Politics of Resistance”, will be published in August of 2012. She talked with Michelle Alimoradi and Bob Hines on the KFAI Weekly News.