Monday, May 2, 2011

Dear White LGBT People Stop Appropriating From Black People

I know that we have had this discussion repeatedly, but it is an absolutely necessary conversation.  In recent years, there has been much mistrust between Blacks and the White LGBT movement.  As regular readers of the blog know, I support LGBT rights and view the matter to be a civil rights issue.  What I do not support is the outright appropriation of Black history in a bid to achieve these rights. The following video was sent to me via e-mail.



Synopsis:

The video begins when a White male and a White female pull up to the offices of Senator Shirley Huntley.  In the background Dr. King's I Have a Dream Speech is Playing.  They hold up a yellow banner that reads Senator Shirley Huntley marched in Selma didn't learn a thing. When they realize that the police are coming they get in their car and leave.

Later at the office the White male says to a Black female working for Senator Shirley (2:57)

Black Female: I think it is accusatory to say she didn't learn anything
White Male: I think if she learned anything she would have voted for equality as someone always would and Dr. King didn't just support racial equality he support equality for all people and that is well documented throughout history.  I'm looking at people like his own wife, Corretta Scott King and her support for LGBT rights.
Black Female: You know she supports civil unions
White Male: So it's like a separate water fountain for LGBT people. I don't want civil union; I want marriage equality and I want full equality beyond that.

Even when they are told that their attitude is offensive, they quickly dismiss her by saying that Shirley's voter is offensive because "it is leading to the death, murder, and suicide of my people." After leaving the office the senator calls them on the phone and tries to have a conversation regarding her vote and she continually reminded of her ignorance because of her position as a civil rights fighter.

Let me be clear, as people in her constituency, they absolutely have a right to be heard by their senator; however, it is not their right as White people to suggest what Shirley should have learned from the African-American civil rights movement.  This is appropriation and outright White privilege at work.  There are several ways that they could have gotten their point across, but once again, the White LGBT community decided that they had the right to make analogies that they simply cannot understand.  I am sorry, the gay marriage/civil union debate is not now, or ever will be the same as the fight for racial equality or separate drinking fountains. This in no way suggests that the issue of marriage equality is irrelevant; however, White people do not have the right to appropriate at will.

All this tells me is that once again, White LGBT people are concerned that they are being treated like niggers.  If a comparison is to be made, and I firmly believe that it should not be, then it should be made by Black LGBT members.  What do these people really know about racial equality, when their entire lives have been filled with White privilege? It seems to me, that the people who have failed to learn a lesson from the civil rights movement, are the White LGBT members who continue to appropriate at will. They don't even have the decency to acknowledge that racism continues to be a force against which Blacks, and in fact all people of colour must struggle against today. Most importantly, they refuse to challenge their White privilege.

How many times have Blacks said that this is offensive?  The White LGBT community must by now be well aware that the support of African-Americans is necessary, and yet they quickly cast aside charges of appropriation to make something that is uniquely a Black experience about them.  I fail to understand how they could reasonably believe that this would win them any allies.  People that believe that they have the right to steal and dictate what African American history means are not allies.  To be an ally, you need to behave with respect, and this is something that the White LGBT movement has repeatedly refused to honour.

Gay rights fall under the category of human rights, and therefore an analogy based on appropriation is not necessary. We always hear the excuse that using an analogy helps to make it understandable to people and to that I answer, then why is it always Black history?  Were there no lessons they can be employed from the woman's rights movement of the 70's and 80's?  Have there been nationalistic struggles from freedom that are relate-able to people?  This is about White people telling other White people that they are being treated like niggers and are therefore being denied all the privileges of Whiteness.  Every time this argument is made, all I hear is racism and I am not alone in this. Regardless of intent, appropriation will always be wrong.