Thursday, July 16, 2009

My answer to L.Z. Granderson - There should be no pride in comparing forms of oppression

This nonsense about "Is Black The New Gay," just reached another plateau of bullcrap today.

L.Z. Granderson, an award winning columnist and a gay man of color has written a piece that, while I agree with in some parts, is indicative of the division mentality that I find so mind-boggling:

Black is still black.

And if any group should know this, it's the gay community.

Bars such as The Prop House, or Bulldogs in Atlanta, Georgia, exist because a large number of gay blacks -- particularly those who date other blacks, and live in the black community -- do not feel a part of the larger gay movement. There are Gay Pride celebrations, and then there are Black Gay Prides.

There's a popular bar in the heart of the nation's capital that might as well rename itself Antebellum, because all of the white patrons tend to stay upstairs and the black patrons are on the first floor. Last year at the annual Human Rights Campaign national fundraiser in Washington, D.C. -- an event that lasted more than three hours -- the only black person to make it on stage was the entertainment.

When Proposition 8 passed in California, white gays were quick to blame the black community despite blacks making up less than 10 percent of total voters and whites being close to 60 percent. At protest rallies that followed, some gay blacks reported they were even hit with racial epithets by angry white participants. Not to split hairs, but for most blacks, the n-word trumps the f-word.

So while the white mouthpiece of the gay community shakes an angry finger at intolerance and bigotry in their blogs and on television, blacks and other minorities see the dirty laundry. They see the hypocrisy of publicly rallying in the name of unity but then privately living in segregated pockets. And then there is the history.


He does have a point about how the visibility of lgbts of color is minimized in gay community at large and the madness of some lgbts after the Proposition 8 vote.

But in all honesty, he splits hairs in an ugly fashion with that comment about the "n-word" and "f-word." I mean it's like saying if a gay black man is attacked by both a racist and a homophobe carrying baseball bats, he is going to run away from the racist quicker than he would from the homophobe. And that point about the "hypocrisy of publicly rallying in the name of unity but then privately living in segregated pockets" is also a good one to make.

But the hypocrisy of talking about unity but ignoring a segment of your population because of religious beliefs and ridiculous ideas of masculinity and femininity is an equally good point.

For me, the part that stuck out in Mr. Granderson's piece in a bad way is the following:

The 40th anniversary of Stonewall dominated Gay Pride celebrations around the country, and while that is certainly a significant moment that should be recognized, 40 years is nothing compared with the 400 blood-soaked years black people have been through in this country. There are stories some blacks lived through, stories others were told by their parents and stories that never had a chance to be told.

He would have a point except for one thing; as I understand it, some of those gays at Stonewall were black. That's yet another thing about lgbts of color you don't hear about during Black History Month.

The fact that he didn't mention the inclusion of black gays in Stonewall but rather contrasted it to black history (wouldn't Stonewall be considered a part, albeit a small part, of black history) emphasizes the basic emptiness of his piece.

Why is it so hard for folks to say that gay rights are African-American rights because lgbts of color are touched by both communities? Why is it so hard for folks to say that there are times in which the black and gay struggles intersect?

That is why I am so damned weary of this argument about "is gay the new black" or "can the gay rights movement compare itself to the civil rights movement."

For one thing, the argument is so self-defeating.

You generally don't end up with an intelligent discussion. What you end up with are folks who compare abuses like they are marks of honors. Getting your head busted open for being black or gay is not a trophy and should never be seen as such.

So blacks say that gays can't compare their struggle to the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s because they didn't face slavery and segregation. Big deal. If you wanted to be stupid about it, some can say blacks can't compare themselves to Jews. Remember this country kept blacks as slaves, but the Nazis tried to exterminate Jewish people.

I say we are losing touch. In the long run, the forms that oppression take is not as important as the harm it can do.

Or, if you want to be direct about it, did Mamie Till and Judy Shepard cry different tears when they learned about the deaths of their children?

Is the hurt of a black girl who has been told that she is ugly because she does not fit the European standard of beauty any different than that of a young white lesbian who has been bullied in her school because of her orientation?

Is my worth as a black man more important than my worth as a gay man?

Are we so damned wrapped up in talking about how we have been oppressed that we forget that all oppression must be stopped?

It's sad that Mr. Granderson did not ask these critical questions.

Yet another wasted opportunity.



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15 comments:

John said...

This is one of my favorite articles of yours. Every time someone tells me that gay civil rights are not the same as black civil rights because black people faced a lot more discrimination than gay people I have no idea what to say. This is a perfect response.

BlackTsunami said...

Thank you John. I'm glad you enjoyed it ;p

Nakhone said...

Bravo Alvin! I couldn't have said it better. I am going to respond to LZ's piece on my blog SoCal Voice. I am a new fan of your blog.

-Nakhone

Unite the Fight! said...

I think part of the problem too is that LGBT history isn't taught much (if at all and definitely not in high school and below), and sadly, a lot of it has been lost.

I wouldn't say that having both LGBT and African American history taught would be useful for comparison, but good to see how they intersect. It would also serve to help us see that we have all suffered many years (even before Stonewall and even before the civil rights movement of the 50s/60s) from the harm of discrimination and persecution.

BlackTsunami said...

Thank you Nakhone ;p

Anonymous said...

Very well said. I was disturbed by the Granderson column but I'm glad some healthy debate it taking place. It's counterproductive to divide social justice issues by one category or another. It's all part of the same struggle for human rights.

Aesop said...

The Nazis also tried to exterminate gay people

BlackTsunami said...

And I read somewhere that there blacks who were also persecuted under the Nazi Germany regime. YET another place the both struggles intersect.

the cajun said...

Yet another great essay. Thanks for this.

Chris said...

This article sums up what I've been feeling ever since this "debate" began. To me, the arguing of whose prejudice is more worthy of merit is a sick, twisted reversal of bigotry: "My genetics receive more discrimination than your genetics, therefore, I am superior to you."

Thank you for being a sane voice on this. We need more sanity right now.

Andrew said...

It is RELIGION we MUST confront, not black Vs. White - that is just a diversion.

RELIGION and ONLY RELIGION has made gay WRONG. THAT is the enemy.

We lost in California because of RELIGION - and the color doesn't matter.

We will never have equality if we allow the "wrong" of homosexuality to continue.

BlackTsunami said...

I would have to disagree just a bit. It's a perversion of religion that has gotten us to this point. And I only say that because it has been my faith in God that has allowed me to accept myself as the gay man He made me to be. I don't think religion is the culprit but how man has twisted religion for his own purposes.

Mad Professah said...

I don't even understand why LZ Granderson's piece is getting as much attention as it is--it's so damned weak!!!

Nice blog, by the way

BlackTsunami said...

Thank you Mad Professah,

Not just for your compliments but for seeing the same thing I saw about Granderson's piece. I was greatly disappointed when I finished it. It looked as if he ran out of things to say in mid-stream and just decided to wing it.

Silverbackbutch said...

Thank you Alvin. As a white, working class lesbian, I will continue to do anti-racism work, continue to build coalitions with my allies until all of us are free. You eloquently point out that comparison is not helpful. If we work together, and support each other, the world is a safer place.