Sunday, March 22, 2009

Homophobia and Racism: The Failed Policy Of Ranking Oppressions

I have a new post up at Global Comment

We live in a world of social constructions. Even before our bodies physically enter the world they are framed. Much of our life is spent performing the different roles that have been thrust upon us.

In many cases, the identities that we are forced to take on are contrary to any form of social equality. The majority of the planet negotiates at least one ism and in so doing we have a tendency to privilege our experience over the experience of another, rather than being cognizant of the ways in which the isms interact. We have come to see resistance as seeking power, yet this approach is problematic because we socially understand power as the ability to oppress another.

The British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology performed a study in which they concluded that homophobia was more prevalent than racism. I believe that it is essential to note that both racism and homophobia are evils within our society. However, the desire to rank oppressions is a false project. Even asking the question of prevalence assumes that a form of “good” oppression exists. It further ignores that there are many people who must negotiate multiple sites of oppression. If we begin to question by asking which is worse, homophobia or racism, we are purposefully ignoring the experience of people of color that identify as same gender loving.

This “study” involved questioning 50 people to ascertain their beliefs in regard to homophobia and racism, and from there they drew the conclusions that homophobia was a larger social problem. Asking 50 people what their thoughts are is hardly a scientific study. Regardless of how random the subjects are, nothing can be determined in this manner. To add insult to injury it was determined that “gay is the new black”.

“Gay is the new black” frames a gay and lesbian identity as specifically white. It says to the world that homophobia is wrong because white gays and lesbians are being treated like blacks and it is this - and not the evil of homophobia - that we must seek to challenge. The largely white male run gay and lesbian organizing groups have continually failed to use an intersectional approach to their organizing. Gay marriage has become the latest organizing push and to justify this choice over the issues that have been cited by people of colour who are same gender loving, they have continually employed strategies that are racist and/or sexist.

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