Today was the first hot day of the season and I was sweating buckets waiting for the 6 train. After 20 minutes it was announced that “due to a signal malfunction at Parkchester there is no 6 train service from Pelham Bay to Hunts Point. Use alternative bus routes.” Alternative bus routes don’t actually exist. I picked up my bag, bottled up my frustration and hailed a cab. When I plopped down in the backseat of the cab I told the driver that the 6 train wasn’t running and I needed a ride to the 2 and 5 stop. He said he needed to call his daughter. He wanted to relay the information to her so she didn’t get stuck waiting. He then started to talk about the death of the young Hofstra student, who was accidently killed by the police during a wild shootout with an armed robber. He lamented, “You send your daughter off to school and the people that should protect her, kill her.” I could feel his anxiety. I know, as a father, he could only imagine the anguish the family of Andrea Robello felt. He then went on to tell me about police profiling and being pulled over by the cops earlier that morning because the large backpack sitting in the front seat of his livery cab was “suspicious.” He said, “They always bother guys like us. But the white guys, the Jews, nothing.” Again, I understood his anxiety. And in that brief 5 minute car ride he was able to unload on me his fears and frustration at the violence and the bigotry and how unfair it all is. We bonded as two men of color that are always on someone’s radar.
All I could think about was Mark Carson. 32 years old, shot in the face in a “safe” neighborhood because he was gay. I wanted to share my anxiety around his murder. I wanted to share the fear, the heartbreak. I didn’t know Mark Carson. But I know hundreds of Mark Carsons. Young and gay and black and enjoying just another night. That could have been any number of people I know. Although I’m straight identified that could have been me. Just another warm night in the West Village with the people that know you, in a neighborhood that helped raise you, where you’ve collected memories over the years. Yeah. That could have been me. But I didn’t say anything. Not a word about Mark. Maybe I should have. Maybe I didn’t want to hint at the part of me that made me unlike him. The part of me that may put me on HIS radar. He would never guess I was transgender but he may make an assumption about my sexuality that would then invalidate me as man enough to have this conversation around vulnerability and being policed. Maybe I was afraid that he would trivialize Mark’s death as a testament to his sexuality. I’m not quite sure of why I didn’t say anything. But, I know that it’s within this silence that the conversations need to be had. As men of color from all walks of life, we are connected by the all too often tragedies of “our own.” We are all bonded by the humiliation of being perceived as a criminal or a suspect when all you’re doing is minding your business, driving your cab, or enjoying a warm night. His heart should go out to the Carson family just as it did to the Robello family. Because of my own fear, I would never know how he felt about a gay black guy getting murdered in the gayest neighborhood in America. I don’t know if he would be just as outraged at the crime rate in the city when the victims aren’t like him and more like me and the people I love. I do know that fear is the partition. It’s time to let it go and bring everybody to the table. We can’t heal and grow as human beings when we allow our fear to dictate what a worthy vulnerability is and what isn’t. Who can mourn what and who can’t. I’m sorry that I didn’t speak his name in that moment. But, it’ll never happen again.
Rest In Peace Mark Carson.