A gay white male student recently shared his thoughts on the similarities between being a black person dealing with racism and being a gay white person dealing with homophobia.
via Huffington Post
Mainstream gay culture privileges the white narrative, and it does so at the expense of its own legitimacy. As Baldwin understands and so eloquently states, the fight against homophobia and racism are undoubtedly entwined through their shared struggle for human dignity. However, conflating the two does discernible harm, both to those persons of color who are repeatedly forgotten in progressive social movements, and to white LGBTQ persons who tarnish their own humanity by forgetting the humanity of others.
In one of the most interesting excerpts from the piece, the student examines Baldwin’s point that white gay citizens often feel slighted because society teaches them that they are entitled to ‘white privelege’ and therefore supposed to be protected from bias and hatred.
Baldwin explains that white LGBTQ men and women feel slighted precisely because they know that had they been straight, they would have been heirs to incomparable privilege. In a 1984 interview with Richard Goldstein, then the editor of the Village Voice, Baldwin said, “I think white gay people feel cheated because they were born, in principle, in a society in which they were supposed to be safe. The anomaly of their sexuality puts them in danger, unexpectedly.” He went on to say:
Their reaction seems to me in direct proportion to their sense of feeling cheated of the advantages which accrue to white people in a white society. There’s an element, it has always seemed to me, of bewilderment and complaint. Now that may sound very harsh, but the gay world as such is no more prepared to accept black people than anywhere else in society.
He concludes the write up with the thought that although strides are being made with gay rights, they will never be the same as the struggles with racism.
As we celebrate Black History Month this February, and as we await the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality, we must remember that the struggle to restore dignity to people is not finished. The work to ensure that all people have access to fair and equitable employment, health care and proper medical attention and aren’t targets for violence by the police or their fellow community members must continue even after gays and lesbians are granted the right to marry the persons they love. This is not a new civil rights movement as some have said but a different one.
Baldwin’s legacy teaches me, as a white person and an LGBTQ activist, that gay will never be the new black, and that the fight for racial equality is far from over.