Welcome to my first blog for Bilerico-Florida. I'm going to jump right into the offensiveness and say- For those activists who compare the fight of the GLBT community to the fight of African Americans in the 60's, please stop. Until we can say that we do not have racism within our own community, we cannot claim the benefit that movement gave this nation.
My father was American of European descent. My mother is Puerto Rican. I am keenly aware of race, and more so in the gay community which purports it's equality for all. I fought as a child in the US to be able to learn the language and heritage on my mother's side of the family, which I never saw reflected in the media. In high school I won out and was able to study as I wanted. I wanted to learn so that I could prove that even in my differences I was equal.
Being gay and seeing the same things on a societal level, I expected gays to be much more open about race relations. I was proven wrong in the city of Atlanta, where my white "friends" were appalled that I would want to go into a "swirl" bar, where chocolate and vanilla mixed. I didn't see anything wrong, but karaoke called me elsewhere, while that memory came with me. Although the city and its gay culture was integrated de juris, it was segregated de facto.
After I moved to Fort Lauderdale in 2001, with the mixed Caribbean demographic, I expected a much more open society would greet me in the new millennium. 7 and a half years later, however, I still see the same behavior, which brings me to the point of this blog:
I was visiting a friend in a bar and I know the video jockey. I love coming in on Sundays because he plays slightly more urban music, so he gives a good dance beat with just a little more edge. He likes the music and the customers that come to listen to him spin like the music. It's a win-win situation... until you bring management into it. Apparently, one of his higher-ups ordered him to not play any more "black" music... ever. Now I know that people across the country reading this may not know the bar or have been inside, but you should hear the boys yell "HOO!" Every time Mary J.'s "Just Fine" comes on. But alas, no more Mary. No more Missy. No more Whitney. And especially no more Li'l Kim.
It's obvious to a regular that the crowd that comes when my friend plays comes for the music. It's different than what they get from the other VJ's and they enjoy it. But that is all ending because he can no longer play "black" music. I realize that there may be a cultural difference between those issuing the orders and the artists, but if they looked at their crowd, they might see the difference is a little less than they think- The crowd loves it. Not only are they being racist and profiling artists, they are also limiting the VJ and crowd's freedom of speech.
I didn't have a solution for him that might not put my friend's job in danger other than telling him to play artists that aren't black- like Eminem, Pink (when she first started), Joss Stone and some of Ricky Martin's Latin music. The list of artists that tap into what may traditionally be considered a certain demographic's music can keep going on, but for all of the incredible music created that bridges race, class, religion and nationality, there are still too many people out there unwilling to hear beyond borders of visual difference.
When our own equality movement moves to eradicate perceptions of inequality within our own culture, then we have a chance of moving forward with equality from without.