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Muhlaysia Booker: We Need to Talk About the Murder of Black Transgender Women

Video footage of a Black transgender woman named Muhlaysia Booker being brutally beaten in a Dallas parking lot went viral in April, which police later investigated as a possible hate crime. A month later, Booker was shot to death. The 23-year-old was found dead over the weekend in Dallas in an act of violence that has devastated many.

According to reports, the Dallas Police Department found Booker’s body on Saturday morning “lying face down in a public street.” She was pronounced deceased from homicidal violence and on Sunday her body was identified. So far there is no confirmation that the shooting was at all related to the physical attack that took place in April, those it’s hard to believe there isn’t a connection between these two violent incidents.

On Sunday, Assistant Chief Avery Moore told reporters during a news conference that, at that time, he “had no reason to say” or not say that Booker’s death had been a hate crime.

“A person lost their life, a family is grieving, and we as the Dallas Police Department think that’s unacceptable,” he said.

While there’s still no confirmation that the shooting was the result of a hate crime, the beating that took place in April certainly appeared to be one. A man, who police identified as Edward Thomas, was seen in the video mounted on top of Booker and repeatedly punching her on the ground. Homophobic slurs were shouted during the beating and if it wasn’t for a group of women that helped her get up and away, Thomas could have easily ended her life right there. She was later hospitalized with a concussion and a fractured wrist.

Following her attack last month, Booker spoke at a news conference about hate crimes that target the transgender community.

This has been a rough week for myself, the transgender community and also the city of Dallas, she had said. “This time, I can stand before you. Whereas in other scenarios, we are at a memorial.” She told officials that she had been assaulted not just by Thomas but by a group of men using homophobic slurs towards her after being involved in a minor traffic accident.

Thomas has no longer been in police custody but so far there’s been no indication that he was linked to the killing. But considering there’s been a rise in attacks on transgender people, it’s hard to believe this killing wasn’t a hate crime.

In fact, according to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 26 transgender people were killed in the United States last year with a majority of them being Black transgender women. Booker’s death follows the death of Dana Martin, a Black transgender woman who was killed in Alabama this past January and was declared the first known transgender person killed this year in the United States. Two other Black transgender women including Ashanti Carmon and Claire Legato were also killed this year.

There is nothing coincidental about these Black transgender women’s deaths. The common thread is that transgender bodies are often at risk for physical violence, sexual assault, and murder. Not enough is being done to protect them — Black transgender women especially — and it’s important that we highlight that these things are happening because their lives are just as important and significant as anyone else’s.