Monday, June 21, 2010

Another Juneteenth Disaster: This Time In the Gay Community

Juneteenth is a very important day to people of the African Diaspora.  It celebrates the emancipation of American Slaves.  It was officially made a holiday in 1980 and is celebrated in over 30 states, as well as many border cities in Canada. Many people choose to ignore the importance of this day, and this is directly related to White Privilege.  It was not their ancestors that were enslaved, and it is not White people that have to live with the after affects of this.

I was not surprised to learn that yet another group of people who claim to be allies to the Black community, as well as having Black members, decided that Juneteenth was a perfect opportunity to put their racism on display.  In case anyone is wondering, I am directing this post specifically at White American gay males

Last weekend (June 18-19), Chuck Knipp gave a performance playing the role of Shirley Q Liquor at the Russian River Resort. The Resort attempts to cater guessed it, the GLBT community.  The tickets for the event were a mere ten dollars and The Russian River stated that Chuck Knipp in the role of Shirley Q Liquor is one of their largest draws.  It seems natural that a gay resort would seek to support gay entertainers; however, what Chuck does is a modern day genderized Minstrel show. 

Shirley Q. Liquor is a fictional character performed in blackface. In bars, radio stations, and other venues, she is presented as an inarticulate woman who struggles to remember the names of her nineteen children (Kmartina, Oranjello, Shithead, Gingivitis, Chlamydia, and Couponida to name a few) while surviving on welfare checks, ham hocks, Kool-Aid, collard greens, and malt liquor. Ms. Liquor drives a Cadillac, shoplifts, and testifies in church every Sunday. She seeks to entertain audiences (whom she notes are primarily "gay men, their moms and rednecks") with songs such as "If I Was a White Lady," "12 Days of Kwanzaa," and "Who is My Baby-Daddy?" (source)
Knipp claims that his performance is actually a tribute to Black women -- and I suppose this is how he justifies making a mockery of us on Juneteenth.  Black women have worked hard to protest his shows and to get them canceled and as a result, Knipp no longer gives advance warning when he is performing.

Knipp is a gay White male playing to largely gay White audiences, so I don't want hear any shit about focusing on his sexuality.  His actions and the support he receives is a direct example of the racism in the White GLBT community.  Do you think for one minute this racist tool and the people that support him are thinking about the trials and tribulations that Black lesbians, Black Trans Women, or Black cisgender heterosexual women face?  He is making a mockery of us because he wants a piece of the White male cisgender, heterosexual privilege package. 

So I am going to say for what feels like the millionth time: just because someone faces a marginalization, does not mean that they are not an asshole, and it does not mean that they will not use whatever privilege society has attached to their bodies to hurt others.  Just like Perez Hilton, Chuck Knips's body oozes privilege at almost every turn.

This man, who claims to honour Black women dressed in Blackface on JUNETEENTH.  No matter how many times Blacks say that Blackface is offensive, White people cannot wait to crawl into it. I find it ironic that White gay men have loudly proclaimed how homophobic the Black community is, and yet they seem to have no problem resorting to racism and laughing as though it is a joke.  

What do you think Knipps reaction would have been had someone yelled a gay epithet at him?  Do you think he would have smiled pretty and been amused?  Well sitting there dressed as a fat Black woman in Blackface, claiming to have 19 chiren' named after discount stores and venereal diseases, he might as well be screaming nigger at the top of his ignorant lungs.  

To the White members of the GLBT community: clean up your shit. Supporting  Knipp's performances simply encourages the idea that  minimizing people for the sake of comedy is appropriate, and further encourages people to use their various privileges to attack those who are socially "othered".  You get nowhere by ignoring our feelings on this issue, and if you really and truly want the support of the Black community the next time your civil rights come up for a vote, I suggest you start acting like we matter.