They Use This Narrative To Kill Unhoused Community Members Like Her

empty shopping cart
Zain Murdock
May 8, 2024

Margaret LaVerne Mitchell was pushing a shopping cart down a Los Angeles street when police stopped her. The small, 54-year-old woman without a permanent address was known to her community as “Mom.” So, unsurprisingly, a bystander jumped in to protect her. But that didn’t stop LAPD from pulling the trigger. Her case remains critically important right now.

Decades later, Black Americans represent 37% of the unhoused population and 50% of unhoused families with children. What happens to people like Margaret Mitchell cannot be separated from the systemic anti-Blackness of segregation, poverty, housing discrimination, healthcare disparities, and incarceration.

By June 30, the Supreme Court will decide Grants Pass v. Johnson, potentially the most critical case surrounding houselessness in decades. The Court will determine whether it’s cruel and unusual punishment to criminalize those having to sleep outside — something that 250,000 people in the U.S. do every night.

Anti-Blackness, ableism, and capitalism have normalized dehumanization and the curation of public space. And the modern war on unhoused people relies on deterring solidarity between the housed and the unhoused. Scapegoating this group as the reason for crime and chaos separates unhoused community members from their communities.

The system wants to distract us from the root causes of crime and suffering—manipulating public opinion into accepting that unhoused people are the problem, not unhousing itself. But victims of this narrative, like Margaret, should force us to believe otherwise.