Guest Blogger

Making Sure Black Lives Matter at Home

Filed By Guest Blogger | December 18, 2014 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: anti-racism, Ferguson, LGBT organizations, racism, white privilege, white supremacy

Editor's Note: Guest blogger Dr. Herukhuti is the founder and chief erotics officer (CEO) of the Center for Culture, Sexuality, and Spirituality and editor-in-chief of sacredsexualities.org. He is the co-editor of the recent anthology Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men and a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Goddard College.


black-lives-matter-lgbt.jpgBlack lives should matter in more places than the street, to more people than police officers and grand jury members. But they rarely do -- and that's why I did not sign onto the LGBTQ organizational open letter, "From Ferguson to Freedom."

As a black bisexual man who became an activist as a teenager in New York City in response to the murders of Michael Stewart, Eleanor Bumpers, Michael Griffith, and Yusef Hawkins, I profoundly grieve the slaughter of black people -- men, women and children -- in the streets of the so-called post-racial, Obama-era United States. I know the white supremacy that pulses through the veins of this country to make such slaughter and its legal justification possible.

Like many black people who were born into a society that -- through every structure, function and mechanism at its disposal -- privileges the interests of people it racializes as white, I have had to learn how white supremacy operates as a matter of mere day-to-day survival.

But survival is not freedom, and freedom is not justice. It is easier to call for freedom and demand that agencies, groups, and individuals outside of our purview act responsibly with regard to black people than to demand that of ourselves, i.e., LGBTQ communities and organizations. But Audre Lorde's acknowledgment that our silence will not protect us extends to our lack of critical self-reflection as well. Our avoidance of the white supremacy within will not protect us, even those of us who have been benefitting from it.

So I call upon every organization that has signed the open letter to perform the hard work of cleaning out the white supremacy from within its own house as a tangible act of demonstrating that black lives matter.

But what does that look like?

Boards of Directors and Leadership Teams

If you're a national LGBTQ organization and the black composition of your board of directors and leadership team is less than the percentage of black people in the United States, increase it to at least match that percentage within the next three to five years. If you're a local LGBTQ organization and the black composition of your board of directors and leadership team is less than the percentage of black people in your area, increase it to at least match that percentage within the next three to five years.

No excuses. No compromises.

Board Chairs and Executive Officers

If you've never had a black board chair or chief executive officer (e.g. executive director, president, CEO, etc.) or the number of black board chairs and chief executives that you have had are less than a quarter of the white board chairs and chief executives that you have had, select or appoint one within the next three to five years.

No excuses. No compromises.

Anti-Racism Organizational Development

If you do not currently have a well-funded, comprehensive, whole systems anti-racism program within your organization, initiate one within the next six months.

This is not diversity or cultural competency training. This work involves conducting an assessment and inventory of the degree and sites of white supremacy within your organization, developing a comprehensive strategy for dismantling the white supremacy and creating a culture and systems of racial justice (optimally with an intersectional analysis of race, gender, class, sexuality, and ability).

No excuses. No compromises.

Tokenism, Tolerance, and Comfort

If you only hire or work with black people that you know, have been referred to you by someone who you know, or who don't make you uncomfortable with their physical appearance, way of speaking about race, or engaging in conflict, start including black people into your work/professional networks/organizations who are not in those categories.

verbal_abuse.jpgThe black people you have gathered around you have in many instances been compromised as voices able to articulate to you black rage or trauma experienced within your organizations.

Compromised by the very real need to make a living, middle-class aspirations of upward mobility, respectability politics, the socialization of college educations, and, more importantly, the psychopathic need you have to never acknowledge yourself as being invested in white supremacy even as you benefit from it because while you have been denied full access to the benefits and privileges of white supremacy due to your gender and/or sexuality, you still have managed to create a queer version of it within LGBTQ spaces.

No excuses. No compromises.

Mainstream LGBTQ activism has adopted the metaphor of the closet to talk about the painful, traumatic, and dehumanizing experience of not living one's truth due to a combination of social and personal pressures to hide, silence one's voice, and modulate the truth that one's life speaks.

Many out black LGBTQ people live and work in the closet within mainstream LGBTQ spaces. We are in the closet about white supremacy. We don't speak publicly about how the experience of white supremacy in those spaces is a daily assault on our souls. We don't come out about how dehumanizing the microaggressions are. We don't proclaim our truth loudly, proudly and without equivocation.

Mainstream LGBTQ organizations don't create space for us to do so -- spaces that are free from the economic, professional, or financial punishments that usually come with speaking our truth.

Don't believe me? Consider all the thoughts and feelings you have had about this article and about me while reading it. Consider all the nearly unconscious decisions you have been making while reading about whether I am someone with whom you would ever work professionally. All the conclusions you have been making about me as an activist, professional, and human being.

If you have power within an LGBTQ organization to decide who gets hired, who gets funded, or who is contracted as a consultant, then what you have been thinking and feeling while reading this article are the risks at stake for black LGBTQ people in the closet within your organization.

Black lives should matter in more places than the street, to more people than police officers and grand jury members. But they rarely do. That's why the closet is alive and well in many LGBTQ organizations and so is white supremacy. Freedom is not justice and letters are not enough.


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