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Was Tayshana Murphy's Death a Hate Crime?

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In mid-September nationally ranked high school basketball star, Tayshana “Chicken” Murphy was shot to death by three young men in the hallway of her apartment building. At first, police assumed the murder was a case of mistaken identity. Tayshana had on a hoodie and police thought she was mistaken for another young man who was the actual target of the murderers.

It was tragic enough that the promising life of a young Black woman was cut short by a senseless case of mistaken identity. It is scary enough that she, like so many other young Black people in urban areas, was not even safe from gun violence in her own apartment building. Now, the police are investigating the possibility that Tayshana’s murder was not a case of mistaken identity, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but a hate crime.

Tayshana was, according to “sources” cited in the news account, a lesbian. Her friends had placed candles and memorials in the hallway where she was shot, but recently new anti-gay and threatening graffiti was written on the walls. The messages were apparently so hateful and so violent that they were immediately painted over, but still serve as a warning and threat to other residents in the complex. That someone could so hate lesbians that they would desecrate her murder scene memorial with violent anti-gay graffiti is almost as chilling as the murder.

Pending the investigation of Tayshana’s murder by the NYPD hate crimes unit, it is unclear why a young basketball player’s life was taken. Whether it was a case of mistaken identity or an assassination of a woman who was or was assumed to be a lesbian, we still lost a young woman who was looking forward to a promising future.

If this was an anti-lesbian hate crime committed by three young Black men, the resemblance to the “corrective” rapes and murders of young lesbian athletes in South African that have occurred over the last few years is a reminder that we have lots of work to do right here in the good old USA before we focus our outrage on LGBT hate in South Africa, Nigeria or any other country.

My heart goes out to Tayshana’s family and friends. I am sick of the senseless hate and fear of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.


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