The Violent Death of Michael Sandy

A black gay male, Michael Sandy died recently after being robbed and beaten by a gang of white men. Commentator Jasmyne Cannick shares her thoughts on a story that she says should have made big headlines. Cannick is a political and cultural commentator living in Los Angeles.

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Ms. JASMYNE CANNICK:

It could have been you. It could have been me.

FARAI CHIDEYA, Host:

Commentator Jasmyne Cannick shares her thoughts on a story that should have made big headlines.

Ms. CANNICK: Two Fridays ago, any one of us could have died after being severely beaten and then chased into oncoming 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 intentionally lured him to a parking lot to rob him and ended up killing him. Where is the outrage? According to the police on Sunday night, October 8th, two men posed as gay men in an Internet chat room 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. A printout showing directions to a popular cruising area was found in his car. Sandy was robbed and beaten by four men. He managed to break free but was chased on to 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 13th. This was 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.

One of the four suspects arrested has already been released. The other three suspects have been charged with assault and attempted robbery, both during the commission of a hate crime. Those remaining suspects 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 has been relatively little said about this senseless and tragic death.

Why? Michael Sandy could have been anyone of us, and yet he was us. He was 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 Reverend Jesse Jacksons and the Reverend Al Sharptons a black America? Would that have made it okay for the NAACP to get involved and for other black civil right groups to take notice? I'm 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 gay community to raise this issue as well and challenge our black leadership. Our lives do in fact 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 your sexual orientation?

When Matthew Shepard was murdered, the world stopped. Why? Because whites across this country made that white gay boy's death an issue for the media, politicians and community groups. Do we care enough to do the same? So again I ask, where's the outrage?

CHIDEYA: Jasmyne Cannick is a social and political commentator living in Los Angeles.

This is NPR News.

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