Written by Nyuma Waggeh
For many of ya’ll who don’t know who Chelsea Manning is, she is a white trans-woman who was commuted by ex-President Obama for leaking sensitive documents and was released on May 17, 2017. Manning was originally supposed to serve a 35-year sentence and be released in 2045, which would have been the lengthiest punishment imposed in history for leaking documents, but only served seven years. She rocked the cradle as the Army intelligence analyst, whose “leaks revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted Mr. Obama’s administration and brought global prominence to WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures.”
The world was hit by a storm when she was released and entered social media platforms. Her first caption reads, “Okay, so here I am everyone!!” As a free woman, Chelsea no longer wants media outlets to use her notorious black and gray photo with long blonde hair, but a picture rocking her short haircut and fierce red lipstick looking serene.
The New York Times describes President Obama as “rescuing” Chelsea from a male prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas after her two suicide attempts, when it was known after her conviction that she was a trans-woman. In the past, her identity as a trans-woman has been invalidated and subjected to the medical term of “gender dysphoria.” The fact is, in order to receive gender reassignment surgery you have to be considered a person “suffering” from this diagnosis. Trans-people are the most unprotected people in America–the first to get fired and the last to get hired, the first to be the brunt of state and local violence without the bat of an eye.
Chelsea being released means a lot to me, as she is one of the voices of the unheard. She did not cause deliberate harm to anyone but engaged the audience in a conversation about what are considered “sensitive documents” and whether or not U.S. citizens are entitled to know the information contained within them. As critical thinkers, we must challenge every idea, system and practice in place to test whether they are benefitting us to the highest degree.
What Chelsea Manning did as a trans-woman was a political statement. In my eyes, she stood up to former President Obama who many wrongly believed did no wrong, the same man who didn’t lose any sleep while innocent refugee children were bombed by his command.
So, no, ex-President Obama didn’t rescue her; he is the one who put her in this pit to fight with wolves in the first place. I have no sympathy for America and the atrocities it has committed while developing other countries under the mask of patriotic saviors. To go against the government and make these files public, for the sole reason of starting “worldwide discussion, debates and reforms” is revolutionary. As citizens we must build on the initiative that Manning took and begin to hold our government accountable because, if we fail, we permit its indifference toward the improvement of human life as a whole.
Chelsea Manning was not the only one to be commuted. Barack Obama also granted 63 other pardons and 207 other commutations, mostly for drug offenders. If you are wondering what the answer to the race question is: yes, most of these drug offenders were people of color, which are an issue within itself.
But, I wonder what the cost of freedom would look like to Chelsea Manning if she was a trans-woman of color or a Muslim woman living in America? Would the government be lenient if a Muslim women dared to do what Chelsea Manning did?