Thank you nice white [lesbian] lady for telling my black [gay] male self that a politics of respectability would save me from about 600 or so years of white supremacist and hetero patriarchal ideologies set in motion before and solidified through colonialism and the mass genocide of indigenous and African peoples. Thank you for telling me that, although LGBTQ communities practice some of the most emotionally and spiritually violent forms of discrimination, by saying that I’m inherently unworthy of love unless I am a certain type of black male, a little kumbayah between the black straights and the white gays--along with careful adherence to a politics of respectability--will allow me to live a safe, normal, life--despite hundreds of years to the contrary.
I went to one of the best institutions in the nation; I rarely wear hoodies, and white people, regardless of sexuality, still read me as less than human and less than worthy.
And it has absolutely nothing to do with who I am and everything to do with their ignorance.
Please go and take every seat in the nearest football stadium until your ass hurts and you’ve sufficiently thought about your own identity before coming back to have this conversation about my identity.
Angry [but not always Angry] Black Man KEVIN
web site comment
I am saddened to read what seems to be a very dismissive and offensive article. I am a white queer/trans man and on so many levels this article felt poorly delivered. I want to assume that you were trying to build coalitions not offend folks but my fear is this article will create more division. As a white person I will never ever know what it is like to be targeted as a black man—never. Yes, it’s true that as a queer white person I know what it is like to be profiled, beaten and harassed. This experience is different than that of a person of color. I can only speak from that experience. When I read the article it came off as victim blaming even though that is not what you claimed you were doing. Like hey everyone if you just act “normal” then we can all get along.
Even as a trans person there were times in my life I could have acted as “normal” as I wanted to and the end result of that charade was violence. I don’t need more violence generating ideas from my own community.
I hope that you take a harder look at your own white privilege and do the work around that privilege to build bridges and coalitions instead of finger pointing and telling folks how to act. You have the power to do so much transformational work in the position you are in please take the time to do so.
Yours in Peace,
I was delighted to read your editorial, “Sharing our experience,” in the (August 8) issue as it echoes what I had called for in a letter to the editor in Bay Windows in 2004.
Your call to action to heal black-gay rifts by reaching out and working together for justice and full inclusion is similar to the call I made, although I had put the onus squarely on the white-led LGBT community to do the reaching out. As I said in 2004, “We sometimes act as if the black community should automatically understand and support us because of their own experience with discrimination, but have we taken the time to learn their issues and support them?”
In 2005, as director of the City-Wide Dialogues on Boston’s Ethnic & Racial Diversity, I worked with MassEquality to organize facilitated dialogues to address in some way the scarcity of participation and leadership by people of color in local LGBT groups. It led to three well-attended dialogue series among racially diverse members and leaders of local LGBT organizations. I do not know what follow-up actions were ultimately taken.
We’re slowly moving in the right direction but there’s a long way to go. I hope for renewed commitment among LGBTQ groups and communities of color toward establishing better connections, new relationships and joint efforts for a more just society.
Hi Sue, I see what you are trying to do here. Building a coalition among those oppressed by the larger system is necessary and your effort to do so is acknowledged and appreciated. That being said, I think, as white people, we need to check ourselves on our privilege when asking questions about how to approach issues of racial discrimination in this country.
You mention to things about race that I would like to address. First, the image problem you reference in respect to black men. I would say that the issue with racial profiling is NOT a problem with the profiled, but with the profiler. Though there are common traits that are picked out by those that profile (such as, say, a hoodie, or baggy pants) that DOES NOT mean that these are the problem. The solution is not to correct these articles of clothing, it is to change the perception of the person who is profiling the hoodie-clad individual.
My second issue is related to your focus on self-determination. You mention some serious structural barriers that black people face in this country, such as the prison industrial complex or issues getting jobs. These are issue that are set up by our racist system, which is controlled by WHITE PEOPLE. Therefore, I think it is best that we focus on the systems which we helped create, rather than choosing to tell black people what to wear and how that could help them avoid profiling. We need to look at ourselves and our white community and make change there.
My point is not to discourage activism by those suffering from a system of oppression, but to refocus our attention as a privileged group on how best to use our energy to combat these oppressive systems we know exist.
If you happen to read this, then thank you for your time!
web site comment
As a white transgender person, I am completely disgusted by your argument. First, it implies that gay people showing that they can adhere to strict gender norms in fact opened the doors of human rights more widely. I am both gay and transgender, and I can tell you that thirty years ago or today, such a demonstration would never, EVER advance my cause, because it simply does not represent me. And perhaps assimilation has benefited some, but this sort of argument for assimilation has ALWAYS come at the cost of the most marginalized in the LGBTQ communities. So, I find it personally disrespectful. I do not desire, nor will I ever have full access to complete assimilation.
Second, and more importantly given that the topic is the vicious and violent attacks on young Black men in this country, this argument is profoundly ignorant of the history of Black activism. Maybe the gay movement should learn some lessons from Black elders, who put their lives and families on the line to fight for their Civil Rights, sometimes by any means necessary, setting the bar for activism and civil disobedience in the U.S. and making real change by NOT going with the status quo. The insinuation that Black men need only take polite action, looking to white gay men for tips, completely invisiblizes the fierce leadership of Black people for many decades in Civil Rights, workers’ rights and LGBTQ movements across the country.
And I would argue that white gay men have gained privileges because they are white and men (duh), often leaving the rest of us in the dust and disrespecting the radical history behind their ability to blend in. Again, where assimilation is the goal, the most marginalized always lose out.
Finally, even the implication that young Black men should must work for “buy-in” in order to not be shot down in the streets is a perverted argument. Even if you say you don’t mean to blame the victim...you are blaming the victim. You are also obscuring the history of how real change has occurred in this country. Black people have always been at the front lines of fighting for it. Where young Black men are still oppressed, still targets of violence and criminalization, the burden is on us white people to step up and stop OUR people from shooting down children in the streets. Perhaps this last part is a piece of what you meant to say, but you obscured it in a troubling, offensive framework.
A WHITE TRANSGENDER PERSON
web site comment
Wow how insightful of you! You provided an answer to solve that little problem of racism: we should be more like white people. I can feel all my problems falling away. It just took a white lady to show us the way. No officer please don’t stop/frisk/shoot me I’m just like white people.
Seriously, this editorial is hugely misinformed and shows that the person who wrote it is just plain ignorant. Please stop pretending to speak for the LGBT community. While the struggle for human rights should be everyone’s concern, the struggle for humanity much less rights, is much more difficult for those with dark skin. And for those of us in both camps, these words continue to remind us of how LITTLE we have in common.
SONJI BROOKLYN, NY
web site comment
Wow. Wow. Really? So young Black men are targeted for racially profiling, arrest, and death because they don’t wear a coat and tie? Often times it was the most “respectable” and traditionally successful African American who was singled out for assault, Remember when attorney Theodore Landsmark was attacked with an American Flag as he left the Boston City Hall? He was wearing a suit. As a white person for you even to begin to insinuate that the victims of 400+ years of institutionally racism are somehow responsible for the violence done to them is really disgusting.
web site comment
Firstly, are you serious? It would be so nice if at some point in time our well-intended white LGBT sisters and brothers would realize that though oppressions are connected on a spectrum, and even at points intersect, attempting to draw direct parallels is intellectually lazy, often substantively wrong, and frankly just tends to piss people off.
Secondly, a little history that’s missing from your Op-Ed and possibly your knowledge:
For most of our history, African-Americans fought for freedoms, equality, justice and rights in suit and tie, and dresses. That did not prevent the police dogs, fire hoses, fire bombings, lynchings, and in Boston, American flagpoles.
Also, though I am not a fan of sagging pants, etc. to which you’re clearly referring when talking about the ‘image problem’ of young black men, I’m also personally aware that young black men (clearly a monolithic group from which conclusions can be drawn with a sample of just one or a few) don’t have an image problem, they have an American problem. By the way, I also see an awful lot of young white men here in Brownstone Brooklyn sagging their pants, etc., but the only image problem they seem to have is one of being assessed as over-ironic or trying to absurdly hip.
So you’re aware, I was one of what some would likely call the ‘good’ young African-American men. I didn’t get into trouble or jail. I got into an elite boarding school west of Boston and an Ivy-League university. However, that didn’t prevent me from having to deal with racist jokes from staff at my idyllic boarding school, or being stopped twice by campus police on my way to class in my first semester at college. It didn’t prevent me from being thrown up against a gas station wall and frisked by the police in the ‘liberal, progressive’ town that was home to my university. It also didn’t prevent me from being single, double, and triple ID’d at the gay bar in that town as white men younger than I strode in unchallenged.
Later, it didn’t stop white women in the elevator in my building from shrinking in fear and clutching their purses, or taxis from speeding past and almost killing me in order to not pick me up.
It was my skin, and America has always and continues to have a problem with my skin. It has constructed, maintained, and tweaked systems in response to my skin. For a middle class black boy, that was hard, but easier to deal with than what some still must contend with – it’s even easier as a 40-something, middle class black man living in New York. But in a world where millions question an African-American President’s legitimacy, and more young black and brown men in New York City are stopped and frisked than there are actually young black and brown male citizens in the city, we are clearly beyond an image problem and your blues ain’t like mine – nor is mine like yours. And as an African-American Gay man, I’m well aware that my Gay blues ain’t like my Black Blues.
There will likely be no renditions of Kumbaya; that would not be helpful, and I had lunch in Weston over 30 years ago, so no thanks. We don’t need to find a shared experience to work and move together. But what we do need to do as a first order of business is to get our histories, contexts, and realities clear to work together for shared justice.
web site comment
Web site comments corrected for spelling, typos and formatting, otherwise they appear as posted.
Read more comments at www.baywindows.com