Monday, September 12, 2011

James Craig Anderson Was Killed Because he was Black not Because he was Gay

Hopefully by now you have heard about how James Anderson died but for those who haven't,  seven White youths in Mississippi decided to beat him while yelling racial slurs, and then drive a truck over his body. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a racial hate crime. I found his murder incredibly triggering and that is why I didn't write about it before. I have however been following this story very closely.  As a Black mother with Black sons, what happened to Anderson represents my worst nightmare.

This weekend as I was going through my reader, I noticed that several gay blogs have finally gotten around to writing about this story. Please note that Black blogs have been writing about Anderson's death since it happened, and I doubt that without their constant attention, that this story would have made the national news.  At any rate, reading these gay blogs I learned that Anderson was Black and gay. A light bulb clicked on, and I realized why his death had suddenly been deemed worthy of coverage - his sexuality.

When Anderson was just another Black man, who was a random victim of White supremacy, none of the GLBT blogs had a damn thing to say about it.  I suppose it was considered not to be a gay issue. Now that it has been revealed that Anderson was a gay man, being beaten and then driven over by a truck is suddenly deemed horrifying.  To that I say fuck you - fuck you ten thousand times over. They weren't screaming gay slurs at Anderson, they were screaming racial slurs at him and believing  that you can appropriate his death to advance the cause of gay rights is repulsive.

The moment that it was revealed how and why Anderson died, it should have been an issue for every single social justice blogger, because his life was worth something.  It should never have been about what group he did or did not fit into, because looking at any individual is never enough to know exactly what oppressions they have to negotiate on a daily basis.  Social justice is supposed to be about intersections, because most people will negotiate multiple site of oppression throughout their lifetimes, but for the GLBT blogs that decided to ignore what happened to Anderson, until it was revealed that he was gay, apparently that is not a truism.

As I read the commentary about how horrified these writers were about how he died, and the racial slurs aimed at him while he was being beaten, the bile rose in my throat. Only caring when it was revealed that Anderson was a part of the LGBT community is a reflection of White privilege. This coupled with the fact that Blacks are continually framed as uniquely homophobic and the fact that Black LGBT members are constantly erased made me absolutely sick.

I don't believe that these White GLBT bloggers represent the entirety of the BLGT community, but they most certainly represent a faction that is determined to place their oppression over and above the oppression that others face.  This kind of appropriation is something that we have seen repeatedly, because it serves a political purpose. It manifests in things like Gay is the new Black, or the outright appropriation of the civil rights movement and civil rights sheroes and heroes. Caring about racism, only when you can redirect it or make false analogies is racist.  I say again for emphasis, it's racist.

Since the first Black person set foot in the new world, we have been the victims of White supremacy. From slavery, to Jim Crow, to the present day, Blacks are still under assault.  It does not always manifest in brutal murders, but it is an everyday occurrence, which effects life chances, health care, education, the media etc,. There isn't a single social institution that is not effected by racism, because White supremacy is insitutionalized.

Ignoring any kind of ism because it does not directly effect your life, only encourages the idea that under certain circumstances, oppression is not only natural, but good.  Deciding that just because you would never yell racial epithets or run over a Black man with a truck, does not erase the fact that your daily actions directly support the institutionalization of racism, or that you benefit from such oppression on a daily basis. Silence in the face oppression is participating in the marginalization of another human being. 

The moment it was revealed how Anderson died people should have been horrified and waiting until his death could be used political is absolutely disgusting.  I found myself wondering how these people sleep at night?  This is not ally behaviour and I would have much preferred them to completely ignore Anderson's death, than to twist it for their own ends.  In instances like this, silence and erasure is a good thing.

I know that some of these blogs have justified their failure to talk about Anderson's death by wrapping their commentary around the fact that James Bradfield, Anderson's partner is unable to file a wrongful death suit.  To me this just stands as more proof that they viewed his death as irrelevant, until it could serve their purposes.  I cannot begin to properly express my rage at all of this.  I will however say, the very next time I hear that Blacks are uniquely homophobic, Anderson's name will cross my lips because he is the perfect example of the various ways in which some members of the White LGBT community fail the very same people they claim to want as allies and the way in which some members of the White GLBT community fails to realize that they are not representative of their communities. There are Black GLBT members, and if you had not spent so much time framing gay rights as a White issue, you would have realized that oppression, no matter how it manifests is a terrible thing. Finally, Anderson died because he had the nerve to take up space as a Black man, and any speculation beyond that or an attempt to insert yourself in his death, only cheapens your fight for justice. Homophobia will never trump racism, but they are each in their own way a terrible blight on humanity.