The following "tidbit" should make white supremacists cringe. Stephen Ohlemacher of the Associated Press (AP) in August wrote a piece entitled, "Whites Fading Fast as Majority in US." It stated, "White people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2042, according to new government projections. The article added that by 2050, Caucasians would constitute 46 percent of the population, Blacks 15 percent (a relatively small increase), Hispanics 30 percent, and Asians 9 percent.
Food for thought, you think? Well, actually, let's call it the main course.
Now, it's time to have our "dessert."
Strolling through CNN's "Black in America"
Recently, CNN aired "Black in America," it's much ballyhooed, four-hour special which, according to the network, took nearly a year to produce. The lofty goal of the broadcast was to clue you in to "what it's really like to be Black in America."
I'll give CNN their "props"--"BIA" was insightful, engaging and compelling on some levels. And as host and "tour guide," the capable Soledad O'Brien was sensitive and probing. However, I found that the program didn't go far enough, didn't delve deep enough.
But let me tell you what really blew my mind: the alarming and dire statistics Ms. O'Brien dropped on the audience. Data that made you feel that you were whisked more than forty years back in time to August 28, 1963 when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his electrifying, historic "I Have a Dream" address from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when he spoke of his fervent desire for a future where Blacks and whites, among others, would coexist harmoniously as equals. The statistics CNN presented made you question just how much really has changed for persons of color, particularly African-Americans, since the riots of the late 1960's ravaged dozens of American cities.
Some of the more glaring stats:
- Black men continue to have the highest HIV rates in the country, although African-Americans make up only 13 percent of the population.
- AIDS is the number one killer of Black women between the ages of 25-34. And among women recently diagnosed in this country, two-thirds are Black.
- Every 30 minutes, a murder is committed in America, and 49 percent of the victims are African-American. That percentage is staggering because again, Blacks constitute only 13 percent of the population.
- There are nearly a million Black men in prison.
- According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for African-American men is at 10 percent, twice that of white men.
- It is nearly impossible for a Black ex-con to land a job, even a minimum wage position.
The telecast noted a Princeton University study on the barriers to Black men obtaining low-wage jobs. That study stated the following, which is stunning: that an African-American man with a clean record fared no better than a white applicant just out of prison. In other words, the study's findings suggest that being Black in America today is basically equivalent to having a felony conviction.
The study also stated that employers claimed that the reason they won't hire Black men is because they "are lazy; have a poor work ethic; and present themselves badly, especially with respect to their attire."
Let me say that in my experience--and in the experience of many of the "brothas" I know--those employers are spouting rubbish. I've always been well prepared and impeccably dressed when I interview. As well, I carry myself in a professional, business-like and self-assured fashion. Therefore, I've had incidences where white employers considered me threatening and intimidating. As a result, I've been shut out of certain positions.
Then, there's my name: Wyatt O'Brian Evans. And, I've always been well spoken. And with years of voice training, even more so (my entertainment background includes being a voice-over instructor and talent). Subsequently, on various occasions when I've called to book an interview, the person on the other end of the line presumed I was white.
You can just imagine the look on the interviewer's face when he/she finally met me in person! One idiot was so flustered and uncomfortable that I ended the interview mid-way through. I announced, "I'm obviously not what you expected. So, don't waste anymore of my valuable time." I got up and left.
And, I can't fail to mention the "nasty little indignities" that I and other African-American males must endure and "suck up" on a regular basis: racial profiling; the inequitable and harsher treatment by police; the suspicious/disapproving looks whites can give you when you're in so-called "white" neighborhoods; then, on the flip side, the ways whites attempt to make you feel "invisible;" the trying experience of flagging down a taxi in New York City; the disconcerting encounter of standing alone in an elevator with a white woman who glances at you with unadulterated fear washing over her eyes, and then clutches her purse just a little tighter.
In "Black in America," D. L. Hughley, the popular African-American actor, comedian and producer, said he believes that as a Black man, he's always a target of the police. "'When you're Black, your skin color is always in the equation. It doesn't matter how rich or how famous you are.'"
Gay Civil Rights, Black Civil Rights: Simpatico?
Over and over, sometimes at ad nauseam, you hear white gays equate gay civil rights to Black civil rights. But is it an accurate comparison?
Nearly a year ago, I interviewed African-American gay activist and writer Kenyon Farrow on this topic and others. And in his article "Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black," he wrote, "While homophobia in the Black community is certainly an issue we need to address, Blacks of all sexualities experience the reality that many white gays and lesbians think that because they're gay, they 'understand' oppression, and therefore could not be racist like their heterosexual counterparts. Bullshit. America is first built on the privilege of whiteness, and as long as you have white skin, you have a level of agency and access above and beyond people of color, period. White women and white non-heteros included...I also think the white gay community's supposed 'understanding' of racism is what has caused them to appropriate language and ideology of the Black Civil Rights Movement, which has led to the bitter divide between the two communities."
According to Farrow, a few mostly-white gay organizations--most notably the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)--were largely responsible for making the argument that gay rights were comparable to civil rights. "This push from HRC, without any visible Black leadership or tangible support from Black allies (straight and queer), to equate these movements did several things:
- Piss off the Black community for the white gay movement's cultural appropriation, and making the straight Black community question non-hetero Black peoples' allegiances, resulting in our further isolation.
- Giving the (white) Christian Right ammunition to build relationships with Black ministers to denounce gay rights from their pulpits based on the HRC's cultural appropriation.
- Create a scenario in their effort to go mainstream that equates gay and lesbian with upper-class and white."
Shirley Q. Liquor: That (Very) Cheap Shot of Cheaper Booze
If gay whites wish to liken gay civil rights to Black civil rights they must truly be sincere about it. Exactly what does that mean? By honestly embracing and espousing those principles and teachings the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights architects infused into the Black Civil Rights Movement.
And if they do that, gay whites most certainly will kick this "Shirley Q. Liquor" caricature, a twisted excuse for "comedy," to the curb.
Bloggernista, a gay/AIDS activist, wrote, "White gay men talk a good game about how much they love strong Black women like Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige, and Janet Jackson. But when it really comes down to it, white gay men consider the lives of Black women spectacle to entertain themselves; and in the case of the white man in blackface known as Shirley Q. Liquor, to denigrate, humiliate and profit from. Shirley Q. Liquor is, in the words of the self-described 'forty-five-year-old, fat, gay white man' (Charles Knipp) who created the character, 'a welfare mother with nineteen kids who guzzles malt liquor, and drives a Caddy.' (Knipp) likes to justify his 'comedy' by saying that his performances are about 'lancing the boil of institutionalized racism.' I guess that's why he gave Shirley Q. Liquor nineteen kids with names like Cheeto (sounds like an ape to me), Orangello (again, sounds like an ape to me), Chlamydia, and Kmartina. Because performing a character in blackface based on Ronald Reagan's grotesque image of a 'welfare queen' and having her name her kids after STDs is really how to break down racist stereotypes and prejudices."
Therefore, doesn't Knipp get it that what he's doing is highly offensive and demeaning to African-Americans? What's funny about blackface, an utterly despicable practice that whites used for decades to humiliate and cheapen another race of people? This alleged "comedian" needs to get real. MLK would roll over in his grave in disgust.
To be balanced, let me mention that RuPaul ('memba him?) is a Knipp supporter. I suppose that when you're desperate to resuscitate a career (if that's what you still call it), you'll latch on to whatever you think will work for you. And if RuPaul can't see this Shirley Q. Liquor "loony tune" for the garbage it is, I feel sorry for him. Unfortunately, he's one of the many victims of racist conditioning that has occurred for far too many years.
White Gay Racism: Taboo and too Hot to Handle?
Is an honest and substantive discussion of white gay racism simply "too hot of a potato" to handle? Is the subject essentially off limits?
Last year, political blogger AngryGayBlackCanadianman wrote an eye-opening, illuminating piece on the subject entitled, "Why Does Society Ignore the Racism of the White Gays?" First, he spelled out the following: "In society, people are judged based on appearance first; people see race not sexual orientation. People will discriminate against a black person first before they go after a white homosexual. White gays can travel through the mainstream unscathed compared to people of colour."
He continued, "Some white gays have claimed they have 'similarities' to Blacks because they also encounter discrimination. It is true that some white gays encounter discrimination due to their sexual orientation. However, in society you simply cannot compare the struggles of the white gay community to that of the black race. White homosexuals also have the support of the liberal white media that can also be anti-black."
(Before I go further, it also needs to be pointed out that the African-American GLBTI community is actually "squeezed between a rock and a hard place"--racism and homophobia. These can be oppressive and crushingly heavy crosses to bear. Whites cannot fully conceive how racism and homophobia in tandem can exact a severe psychological and emotional toll on Black GLBTIs.)
The political blogger also stated, "Yet you never read in print, listen to news broadcasts on the radio or television about white gay racism." He makes a valid point--I certainly cannot remember media coverage on the subject.
Just why is that? The blogger's answer is that Caucasians control the mainstream media. "White gays and straights are the top editors, the managing editors, producers, editors-in-chiefs, in the mainstream press. You will also notice the lens will be, of course, from a Eurocentric perspective."
The (Near) Invisibility Of Us All--(I'm Talkin' About Blacks Here)
Over the years, some white GLBTI media--which have included the Advocate, the Washington Blade, and the Dallas Voice--, have been criticized, roundly and sharply, for their lack of coverage of African-American GLBTIs and their issues. As well, these publications have been taken to task for not infusing racial diversity in their works.
The Washington Blade (located in the District of Columbia, my home town), originally entitled the Gay Blade, published its first issue on October 5, 1969. The Blade was established as a way to fill a perceived hole in the organization of social communications within D.C.'s gay community.
Most notably, from day one and through the mid-1980s, many perceived the Blade's news coverage as being "white-washed" for its lack of reporting of D.C.'s Black GLBTI population. I find all of this fascinating and rather peculiar because during that time period, Blacks were the majority population in the District; at about 70 percent (African-Americans continue to be the majority population, at around 60 percent).
To its credit however, I've seen improvement in the Blade's coverage of the African-American GLBTI population over the last few years. However, the publication needs to "roll up its sleeves" and work even harder if it sincerely wants to be truly representative of this segment of the overall GLBTI community.
Political blogger AngryGayBlackCanadianman mentioned that last year, Rolling Stone magazine did a feature on Charles Knipp/"Shirley Q. Liquor." Both Rolling Stone and Us magazines are owned by Jann Wenner, a white gay man.
For years, Keith Boykin, author, broadcaster and former aide to President Clinton, has asked, "Where are the Black gay couples in the media?" According to Boykin, "the gay and gay-friendly media aren't making it easier to believe" that two African-American males can be in a same-sex relationship.
Boykin asked, "So, do Black same-sex relationships really exist? Sure they do. The trouble is, the media doesn't show them. Almost any time we see a Black gay man represented in the media, he's either alone or with a white man. In contrast, white gay men are often shown in relationships with each other.
When almost all the images of Black men are either by themselves or with white men, the message is sent that Black-on-Black relationships either don't matter or don't really exist."
Recently, there have been two television programs about African-American gay men in same-race relationships: here! tv's "The DL Chronicles," and Logo's "Noah's Arc," which has a huge following. "DL" debuted in 2007, with four episodes. Currently, no new episodes are running.
What happened to "Noah" is bewildering, to say the least. Abruptly cancelled last year after only two seasons, "Noah" was Logo's flagship series and it's most popular. Now on DVD, the program continues to have a cult-like following.
According to Boykin, "'Oddly enough, the network never actually made the announcement about the cancellation itself. Instead, the information came from the actors on the show.'" However, soon after word of the series' demise spread, Logo came out with a statement that a "Noah" movie would be produced. The film, "Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom," was released in October.
New movie notwithstanding, why in the world would a network jettison its numero uno cash cow? Knowledgeable sources, which requested anonymity, told me that there were "significant tensions, creative differences, and power struggles" between Patrick-Ian Polk ("Noah" creator/director/writer) and the powers-that-be at Logo. "Interesting," eh?
McClurkin, "Liquor"--White GLBTIs Should Just Say "NO" to both Poisonous Concoctions
Remember last year's political storm that ensued when the Obama campaign invited gospel singer and evangelical pastor Donnie McClurkin to a gospel concert it hosted last year in South Carolina? Up in arms and outraged, gay activists (predominantly white) vehemently attacked and then protested the campaign's move. As you're probably aware, McClurkin has made controversial comments about homosexuality, which he has likened to a "curse," and has stated is a "choice."
The situation became so contentious and inflamed that Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), held a ten-minute call with then Senator Obama, urging that the singer not be allowed to appear at the event. However, the Obama camp did not remove McClurkin, portraying the choice as "a principled decision" and part of the Senator's continuous rhetoric "of bringing people together even if they disagree." Though, the Obama campaign did make a concession: Andy Sidden, a gay South Carolina pastor, gave the prayer that opened the concert.
Now, I've always repudiated McClurkin's odious, noxious homophobic views and comments. Therefore, I was highly offended and disappointed that the Obama camp invited McClurkin in the first place. Although I'm an Obama supporter, I've always felt that the McClurkin invitation was part of a calculated strategy to make further inroads into the African-American community.
And as far as I'm concerned, there's no excuse for that. The entire episode left a really bad taste in my mouth.
Now that I've said that, let me say this: if predominantly white GLBTI organizations (which includes the HRC) believe that McClurkin is so repugnant, shouldn't they direct some of that same righteous indignation towards the racism Charles Knipp embodies in his despicable "Shirley Q. Liquor" caricature? And if the white gay intelligentsia/power structure can demand censure of actor Isaiah Washington, they should be willing to do the exactly same regarding Knipp. Think about it.
Can't We All--Black and White GLBTIs--Play Together?
From the very beginning, countless predominantly white GLBTI bars and clubs (and GLBTI organizations, for that matter) have yanked their welcome mats away from the feet of African-Americans. Sadly, this practice continues today.
In 2005, the San Francisco HRC found that Les Natali, a Castro bar owner, had discriminated against Black patrons and job applicants in violation of local anti-discrimination laws. But because Badlands was not a city contractor, the HRC didn't have the authority to levy fines or take other punitive measures against the bar. Subsequently however, a mediated settlement was reached between the complainants and Natali. Terms of that settlement were not disclosed.
Over the years, several of my white gay friends and associates have asked, "Why are Black Gay Prides necessary? Aren't the Black gays and lesbians who attend them practicing a form of segregation?"
I've always responded with a resounding "No." Let me elaborate.
Largely, Black Prides were established in the early '90s because many gay pride events were overwhelmingly white. From a single, pivotal event in Washington, D.C. in 1990, Black Gay Pride has grown to 35 gatherings nationwide which generally attract 300,000 individuals between April and October.
African-American lesbian columnist and blogger Jasmyne A. Cannick stated, "'There are still only sprinkles of African-Americans at the mainstream celebrations. As Black lesbians and gays, we wanted to celebrate not only our sexual orientation and identity but our race and cultural heritage as well.'"
Which brings us to the cancellation of this past July Fourth's "At the Beach" Los Angeles Black Pride, one of the most highly anticipated and attended Black Gay Prides in the country. Traditionally, the celebration has been held at Point Dume in Malibu. But not this year.
So, what happened? "At the Beach," according to Cannick, "is still a Black event taking place in a predominantly white part of town. A town that for the past several years hasn't been too keen on thousands of Black bodies ascending upon its beaches on a holiday weekend, and finally found a way in an effort to move the celebration from Malibu this year."
She continued. "The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, in cahoots with the City of Malibu, has at the last minute issued a 'special condition,' a 200 percent increase in fees to the tune of $18,000 and a reduction in the hours of operation of Pride, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., this year. They are claiming this is needed because of an incident that occurred last year, an incident in which the Sheriff's are claiming a gun was brandished and a near riot erupted.'' Cannick stated that she attended the 2006 celebration, and didn't remember that incident.
"I'm not surprised, though," the columnist followed with. "It's no secret that over the years, Black Pride participants have consistently and quietly dealt with the harassment and the racism from the Sheriff's office, including having their cars towed, getting ticketed and unwarranted searches."
Cannick ended with, "We know it's no easy task to be Black, but being Black and gay isn't any better at times."
Yeah. You got that right.
Editors' Note: This is part of an ongoing series in conjunction with QBliss magazine. You can find more posts by Wyatt O'Brian Evans at Bilerico-DC or his homepage.