Remembering our Roots; Being Aware of Behaviors

“What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?” – Amandla Stenberg

My dear queer children,

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been becoming more aware about how my identity as a queer person interacts with my identity as a mixed person of color. I love who I am and where I come from, and I wouldn’t have experienced some of the best moments that I’ve experienced if it weren’t for my identity. However, I also am oppressed as a queer person of color. People (mostly white, cisgendered, upper-class individuals) both within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community tend to create their LGBTQ+ spaces to be only for people who look like them, which tends to, again, be white, cisgendered, upper-class people. Queer people who don’t fit into this category are excluded from these spaces and also don’t feel safe around these highly selective areas.

I will preface the rest of my post with this: when I say white people, I do mean all white people. While I know most of my white readers probably do not engage in this cultural appropriation, white people as a whole have racist tendencies. I don’t say this to offend you or to make you feel guilty. But I do say this because it’s important to be consciously aware of how you may be biased and how your behavior may contribute to our racist culture. I’m not going to lie, because of my upbringing, I’m sure I have racist tendencies that I must be conscious about and subsequently dismantle. And there are people of color who have racist tendencies as well. However, white people as an institution have much more pervasive and stronger racist tendencies than people of color. In short, this post isn’t meant to alienate my white audience. It’s to help all of us be critically aware of potential biases that we may have and to change these prejudices.

The quote I used for this blog post speaks to how racist the LGBTQ+ community can be. While most white LGBTQ+ people avoid including brown and black LGBTQ+ in their spaces, they love to take their cultures and call them their own “trends.” I’ve seen way too many pictures, videos, and social media posts by white LGBTQ+ people that appropriate the culture of brown and black people. I’ve seen them wearing makeup that appropriates Mexican people’s Dia de los Muertos, and I’ve seen them pretend to be black by acting in disrespectfully outlandish ways and by wearing dreadlocks and similar black hairstyles. Some may claim that white people are actually appreciating brown and black peoples’ culture. However, if they really appreciated it, they would help create spaces that included people of color and valued their personhood, instead of just using them for the culture.

I bring this issue up with you all because we need to be cognizant and reflective of the habits that we pick up from those around us. While we are independent, young adults, we still have a tendency to observe those around us and pick up their mannerisms after being surrounded by them for a period of time. As such, we can be exposed to and contribute to racist behaviors if we are not aware of them.

This is all important because we need to remember that black and brown people were such a powerful influence on queer activism. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were black and brown transgender women who threw the first stones at the Stonewall riots. Many of the demonstration and protest tactics used by the gay and lesbian (GL) civil rights movement were from the African American civil rights movement; peaceful protests and sit-ins are just two of the tactics that the GL civil rights movement used.

Our community is where it is at today because of the efforts of black and brown LGBTQ+ activists. And despite the racism and transphobia that modern QPOC activists have experienced from their own communities, they continue to be activists in the fight for human rights.

Thus, my queer siblings, we must remember the impact that people of color have had on our rights and how they have given their lives for us. We must be critically aware of our behaviors and make sure that they are not racist ones. In addition to this, we must be aware how our identities intersect. For example, I will never have to understand the issues that a black trans woman will face. White, cisgendered gay men will never understand the erasure that I experience as a brown, queer person. Thus, we also have to understand how some identities, particularly queer and trans people of color, experience so many more hardships than their white, cisgendered counterparts. In short, we just have to be aware of the systemic issues that people of color in our community faces.

That’s all for this blog post. As always, please let me know if you would like me to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

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