Blacks: Shame On Us

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(Cannick’s column confirms our conscious or subconscious homophobia).

It could have been you, it could have been me.

Last Friday, any of us could have died after being severely beaten and then chased into on coming traffic, for being gay or for being Black.  

But it wasn’t you and it wasn’t me, instead it was 29 year-old Michael Sandy of New York. An interior designer for IKEA, Michael was brutally attacked by a group of white men who intentional lured him to a parking lot to rob him and ended up killing him. So again, I ask, where’s the outrage?

According to police, on Sunday night, October 8, 2006, John Fox, 19 and Ilya Shurov, 20 posed as gay on an Internet chat room for gay men looking for a person to rob. They lured Michael Sandy to a parking lot near Sheepshead Bay with that in mind. Chat messages between Sandy and the men were reportedly found on his home computer and a printout from his computer showing directions to Plum Beach, a popular cruising area, were found in his car.

Sandy was robbed and beaten by four men. He managed to break free but was chased onto the Belt Parkway where he was struck by a car and severely injured. He never regained consciousness from his injuries and died on Friday, October 13, 2006 after his family decided to remove him from a life support respirator that had kept him alive since his attack. All of Mr. Sandy's attackers were white and it is still unclear if he was also targeted because of his racial identity.

Anthony Fortunato, 20, one of the four suspects arrested has already been released while John Fox, 19, Gary Timmins, 16, and Ilye Shurov, 20, have been charged with assault and attempted robbery, both during the commission of a hate crime. They have been arraigned and are being held at Rikers Island without bail.

While there are groups in New York organizing around Sandy’s death, overall throughout the Black community, there’s been relatively little said about this senseless and tragic death. Why? Michael Sandy could have been any one of us, and yet he was us.  He was a Black, he was a Black male, and he was a Black gay male.
If Michael Sandy would have been heterosexual, would that have brought out the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s and the Rev. Al Sharpton’s of Black America? Would that have made it okay for the NAACP to get involved and for other Black civil rights groups to take notice? I am beginning to think so.

Michael Sandy, although he was gay, was a Black male whose life was taken from him prematurely in an act of hate. Blacks from coast to coast should be outraged and demanding justice.  It doesn’t matter that Sandy was gay, he was a brother. And at the same time, it’s up to the Black same-gender loving people around the country to raise this issue as well and challenge our Black leadership. Our lives do in fact matter. Our lives do matter!

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to any of us. The least we can do is make sure that we don’t encourage these types of murderous acts by our silence. Michael Sandy deserves better from this community, the Black community.
Is this what I can expect if I were to be in the shoes of Michael Sandy someday and find myself murdered for being gay, absolute silence? Ask yourself, would you want people to carry on with business as usual if your life were taken from you because of your race or sexual orientation?

When Matthew Shepard was murdered, the world stopped.  Why?  Because whites across this country made that white gay boys death an issue for the media, politicians, and community groups. Do we care enough do the same? Where’s the outrage?

We really need to have a group discussion about this.  Come on Myspace and let's discuss this.
As Black America's most well known and talked about Black lesbian activist and political commentator, Jasmyne Cannick is known for addressing the issues others can't or simply won't.  Chosen as one of ESSENCE Magazine's 25 Women Shaping the World in 2005, at 28, Jasmyne is a co-founder of the Nat’l Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s Black gay civil rights group and co-chair of Nat’l Stonewall Democrats Black Caucus.  She writes a daily blog at and

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