On June 1, Pride Month 2020 kicked off with the President and Attorney General deploying armed forces to violently disperse peaceful protestors in Black Lives Matter Plaza, formally known as Lafayette Square in the nation’s capital. This was done so that the President could pose in front of a church, which he later did while holding a bible upside down in a failed and widely condemned photo-op.
Since then, the global conversation has shifted toward social justice, specifically, racial equity and the abusive relationship between police departments and Black communities across the world. This discussion has been propelled into the global and national spotlights alike, by a slow drip of newly released videos of police body camera footage. These videos catalog a chilling and apparently systemic style of excessive force policing against unarmed Black and Brown people who later die in police custody or shortly thereafter. While some of these cases are over a year old, they are only now being given the scrutiny they deserve.
The debate surrounding policing as an institution in American society has garnered new and sharp criticism because of the manner in which White allies to Black justice have become victims to the same violence Black Americans have been dealing with at the hands of law enforcement since 1619. From Minneapolis, Minnesota to Aurora, Colorado, White journalists and protestors alike are being pepper-sprayed, beaten, and arrested. Yards from the White House gates, Australian media was beaten by armed forces as they covered the peaceful demonstrations outside the White House.
As White Americans join with Black protestors and activists, the sureties otherwise guaranteed by their racial privilege, all but cease to exist, as they become targets of systemic widespread police violence in the name of racial justice for the first time in a generation.
As a quieter than normal Pride Month rears to a close, there is an opportunity for African Americans to reflect on and reshape our culture’s tolerance for our own brothers and sisters and children who identify as Black LGBTQ+ in the very same way we ask White Americans to reexamine their culture, so that our races can exist alongside one another, leaving neither race above, or behind the other. African Americans must ask ourselves how some of the ways homophobia throughout our culture is connected to the over generalization of and to larger trends that devalue the diversity of Black lives. Hatred knows no race, it is the power structure of the masses, which perpetuates oppression. None of us is free, where some of us are not. We must first meditate on these questions so that we may all be free.
Because of centuries of generational trauma and social setbacks caused by racial injustice, the national narrative of Black racial subjugation is inherent to the way Black people characterize their identity and experiences as Americans. It should remain as such until the chains of racism are destroyed, but it should also make African Americans slow to discriminate and turn a blind eye away from the violence experienced by Black gay, trans, and queer Americans on a daily basis. Racial identity is so central to American life that it is difficult for people of color to imagine that they too, benefit from privilege in other areas of social characterizations like gender, class, and sexual orientation.
While it is difficult to declare any form of oppression or bigotry worst than another, a discussion of the intersectionalities that Black gay, bi, trans, and queer Americans experience is not only necessary as a component of racial justice but innermost to the fight for racial equality. Cisgender, straight African Americans cannot expect to triumph in the area of human and civil rights, without the activism, political engagement, and inclusion of the just-causes of our Black LGBTQ+ communities.
Anyone on the spectrum within the Black LGBTQ+ community knows that the battle for civil and human rights in our country is usually met with violence and armed resistance by the hands of taxpayer-funded police and armed forces. More locally within Black culture, this understanding is reinforced by the violence and exploitation endured by Black LGBTQ+ youth through social and oftentimes sexual exploitation of our most vulnerable because they are ostracized from the moment they are suspected of being different in this way. Black LGBTQ+ walk a tightrope between their existence as members of multiple marginalized groups within larger American society for fear of death. Black LGBTQ+ peoples face racial discrimination and inequity within the larger
Gay rights movement in the same way Black women have struggled for belonging in the larger mainstream feminist movement. Andrea Jenkins, a Black woman, who became the first openly Trans woman to be elected to political office in The United States when she was elected to City Council in Minneapolis, Minnesota, told the New York Times this month, “That’s where I live, at the intersection of LGBT politics and racial injustice.” Black trans women have a life expectancy of just 35 years old. The last time the westernized human race had that life expectancy was the late middle ages just before the fifteenth century which was 600 years ago.
Our country is siloed into cohorts that define where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are headed. These groups have to move decisively in a strategic and unified manner to reach common political goals on a national level. African Americans are a diverse group of women, men, boys, girls, who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and cis and transgender peoples. These LGBTQ+ people are our lawyers, school teachers, doctors, and our politicians. Representation in government is necessary for all peoples, not just a specific group of us. Black trans women are Black women. Gay Black men are Black men. They are no less in need of the coalition of mainstream Black racial activism than a cisgender Black woman or man. In reality, they are in dire need of it.
One cannot both be an oppressor, while at the same time, claiming a moral high ground regarding institutional racism simply because the main component of it adversely affects them. It is the very same institution of racism that allows affluent White trans children to transition earlier in age and to get therapies they need, while Black trans kids are beaten and kicked out of their homes. It is the very institution of racism that allows for older White trans women to transition and pass while remaining gainfully employed, while Black trans women result to sex work and are killed while no one bats an eye. It is the very institution of racism that devalues the life of any human being and now more than ever, we have to be the change. Black pride is gay pride is trans pride. LGBTQ+ peoples have existed since the beginning of time. New Yorkers will most likely elect their first openly Black and Afro-Latino gay men in Mondaire Jones and Richie Torres this primary election cycle.
If you cannot see how all of our experiences and outcomes are interconnected, the train is leaving the station with or without you because this movement is bigger than any one person. There is room on the Trump train for people who want to live in the world of the past, but you can only ride with them if you are willing to move to the back.
Shanique Perez is the Mom of two elementary-school-aged sons. She is a college student with a Journalism and Public Relations concentration. She has been writing, editing, and proofreading for over six years. Her previous career in recruiting and client retention has sharpened her outreach and public speaking skills. She has written resumes and cover letters for clients. Shanique was born in New York City and the self-identified Afro-Latina American is of African American, Puerto Rican, and Panamanian descent. Shanique Perez grew up in Southeast, Washington, D.C, and attended The Madeira School in McLean, Virginia where her innate ability to communicate through writing evolved into a tool for political, social, and economic activism. She lived in Houston, Texas for six years before relocating back to D.C. after Hurricane Harvey in August of 2017.