Editors' Note: Guest blogger Phil Reese began his career of LGBT advocacy in central Michigan and now resides in Champaign, IL where he teaches Middle School and attends graduate school at the University of Illinois. Phil is passionate about news, social networking, information science and mobilizing LGBT people to become more active in their communities.
It's time to lay the cards on the table. White gay men pontificate about race as if race and sexuality were mutually exclusive--like black gay men don't exist. I'm not talking about lesbians, in fact they seem a might more inclusive. This whole post is aimed at men. Sorry dudes.
White gays constantly exclude black gay men from everything from their social networks right up to organizational leadership--and especially from the discussion of the relationship between the gay and African American communities. Yet, straight black men also often ignore the existence of black gay men--or pigeonhole them with certain stereotypes. As such, to minority communities, the fight for LGBT Equality seems like a battle being waged by whiney white middle class suburban douche-bags.
The rift seems to grow as both groups loudly laments the perceived prejudice of the other--and each takes increasingly marginalizing verbal swipes.
The best example of this are the post Prop-8 wailing spewing from queer Caucasians, putting blanket blame on this generic specter of "The Black Community."
Gay Is Not the New Black
Gay is not the new black, nor is LGBT Equality the shitty sequel of the Civil Rights struggle. That's comparing apples to tomatoes. Though there are noteworthy links between the movements, this entire correlation between Queer Equality and Black Equality is soaked in bad feelings; the square peg won't fit the round hole, so quit forcing.
Privilege often prevents white gay men from perceiving racial issues accurately, minimizing pain black men feel daily by comparing the pain of losing court battles or having bills fail. This ignorance breeds contempt in the straight black community who disassociate with such rhetoric. 'You couldn't care less about us until its convenient to compare yourselves to us; then you want to annex our struggle as if it were yours!' This frustration comes off as hatred to the white gay male writing establishment, who amp up the tension.
Merciless white gay attacks on President Obama, regardless of action or inaction, come across as subtly coded racism. President Obama has championed gays more than any previous president--and though he did overpromise and underdeliver--attacking his positive acts as 'too little too late' just proves white gay men generally really are ignorant of their privilege.
I'm not going to quit criticizing the gaffs of the White House, mind you, but I also criticized the gaffs of the Bush White House. Frankly, I expect better from this administration. At the same time, I've recognized and celebrated the positive actions, unlike many white gay bloggers and pundits.
That blind blathering gives cause to the African American community to label white gay men totally oblivious.
The Real Enemies of Equality
All of this run-around is a waste of time and energy and gives heart to the real enemies of equality. Nazi skinheads like ones now being enrolled into the armed forces are loving that queer Caucasians and African Americans can't stop getting at each other's throats.
That the news broke of the quiet enlistment of known white supremacists, and passed with little fanfare in the National media--while white gay criticism of Obama's policies popped up every ten seconds--is proof positive that our vigilance in countering our true enemies is compromised. 'Birthers' and 'teabaggers' are growing with their racist and homophobic creeds, which should ring the alarm for both our overlapping communities.
White gay men need to be called out on their prejudices, however they need most to be challenged by gay black men.
Black gays must directly confront biases in the gay community, and must be visibly vigilant to maximize impact. Black gay men stand in a unique position to accurately comment on both racism and homophobia from an authentic perspective, much more than mine. However, black gays miss hundreds of opportunities daily to educate and create positive change.
Many black gay men have more to worry about than policing homophobia in the African American community or combatting prejudices with queers. Black gay men are far more likely to be homeless or dealing with other economic pressures than their Caucasian counterparts. There are also social pressures for black gay men to avoid 'making waves' in either the LGBT or African American communities.
You must have courage, however. This rift will only widen, and we cannot bridge the gap without the help of vocal black gay men. White gay men have an obligation to shed themselves of bigotry when confronting the African American community. Stop referring to the black community as some unconnected 'other.' This alienating, belittling language makes it difficult for black gay men to feel comfortable working with the greater gay community. The black community is not responsible for Proposition 8! Point the finger inward; maybe the white men in charge made some mistakes (perhaps not engaging communities of color).
Black gay men will never feel comfortable as part of the whole community until white gay men get jolted and realize that African Americans already are part of the Community. Likewise, black gay men must prioritize clearly engaging other gay men on ignorance. When the gay community at large stops sounding so ignorant, we may finally be able to forge more powerful alliances. Its about trust, and the trust is lacking because of the words of gay white men like myself. Its time to check ourselves and work on being more inclusive, rather than exclusive