These truly are trying times for our society where we have to ask what we are doing wrong. Why are the issues of racism, homophobia and sexism still plaguing our society? Why are the freedoms, rights, and protections that many have fought and died for in generations’ past being circumvented by those proclaiming God’s Law into the laws of man? Why do we have to fear for the safety of our children now, with more awareness and social consciousness, than any other generation before us while protections against discrimination are being ripped away? Why are women beginning to lose complete, autonomous control of what they can or cannot do with their bodies? Why are minorities still facing so much adversity?
The truth is that those issues never left us, rather they are momentarily placed in our periphery until we are forced to see what our extremists, or ignorance, or complacency has brought upon us. You see, the questions are never easy to say out loud while admitting the complexity to the answers because doing so leaves us with even more confusion than before. A quick look at the highly biased media is a testament of the roller coaster for the past several months and what it means to be a minority in this country.
Our very existence has been the epicenter for challenging the opinion of social constructs, political reform and change. The lows have been painful and the highs brief because it shows how much more work needs to be done. But the worst part of all of this is when adversity, animosity and sometimes violence that is being directed at us, those of us that understand the plight because it so often mirrors the same struggle, is never held prolonged attention to the other groups. In other words we don’t help each other out.
We are fragmented. We see each other during moments of great pain but don’t take the active steps to ease the pain. Possibly even prevent them. Why? Because one group feels like even though they understand our pain that they don’t truly know it. Or that by that associating with that group will make them look worse. Or complacency. Or apathy. Or who knows what else.
So much debate is also centered on how we are not listening to each other. What’s in place is awkward statements, tension then resentment. We should be united and feel united not like forced coworkers we exchange pleasantries to keep up appearances. Kind words are wonderful in times of great pain, confusion and doubt. At least they are for the short term. But what happens months later is a fleeting memory because we as a society have adapted the mentality where we will discard anything we feel does not directly affect us. Then this cycle of no progress continues. But we cannot allow it to continue this way.
As a gay African American man I do not always feel completely welcomed in the two groups I belong to. Maybe that is some latent insecurity of mine that I haven’t dealt with that bubbles up to the surface. Or maybe it is because I see the dissension between these two groups. Maybe it’s because of the numerous times one or both has confronted me about the other part of me they are unable to fully accept because of preconceived notions. I know it’s not just me that experiences the same sensation.
And when people like me witness tragedies that affect one group the most being ignored and cast aside it makes me extremely frustrated and sad. It makes me think of how much more progress would be made if these groups united together under the same cause. That I am constantly hoping that these groups will see the vested interests they share more rather than the differences. That all these groups will come together work together while supporting each other.
Just because we belong to a marginalized group does not mean we cannot not hold the same prejudices towards another minority. We cannot afford to be only for “us” anymore. We have to be for everyone.
For instance today a letter recognizing the travesty in our judicial system that denied Trayvon Martin and his family the justice they deserved this weekend was sent as a means of comfort. Will any efforts to prevent further travesties be made by the core LGBT groups like how to prevent things like this from ever happening again or will it be forgotten?
When will HRC and GLAAD and other Gay Inc. organizations realize that marriage equality is not the only focus that this community needs? When will they notice that there are people of color that are targeted in the same manner Trayvon was which led to his murder. That more comprehensive attention needs to be focused on the members of this community that feel like they have no voice at all because both sides continue to believe the other will take up the slack?
Same goes for the African American community leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. When will the NAACP take steps to be truly inclusive of all its brothers and sisters that feel left out because our needs as queer men and women are far too often ignored? How many more cases like Mark Carson or Marco McMillian are going to happen before they acknowledge that there are people of color being left behind? Are they willing to see the bias that exists within the organization? Is it fear or willful ignorance that I feel like barely a mention was given to either of these men in a time where being of two minorities makes some of us even more 0f a target for hate, discrimination, and violence.
The story of Carlos Vigil is a prime example of the need for unity. This teen felt so lost because of the pain and shame that was being placed upon him that he felt he had no other reprieve than to take his own life. Were there other factors that contributed to his untimely passing like that of his ethnicity or race? Sadly we will never know the answer but why ever leave something like that to chance? It is our responsibility as activists and advocates to stop assuming and reach out whenever we see someone struggle, whether they belong to our community or not because they are all a part of community.
So where do we start? We need to look at various organizations that are fighting for equal rights. I’ve written several times about the intersectionality that exist within our society that makes so many feel left out because they are being left out, cast aside, or sadly forgotten. This dichotomous existence, an intersection of self where one’s cultures conflict or are apathetic to each other. It’s like a family where we see two parents fighting in front of their child then looking for them to pick a side. It makes coming out harder because you feel like no one will listen to what problems you face by other members of either community.
This is not limited to LGBT people of color. It goes with gender, class, age, education, and many other demographics work within this paradigm. It is a demanding emotional exercise to constantly feel you have to reconcile aspects of yourself that within yourself work so well but to the rest of the world doesn’t fit. Ignoring it by the leaders of these groups only make it worse.
We see that lesson in the interview given by Juror B37 of Trayvon’s case as a prime example of what willful ignorance looks like and what happens afterward. All the while she describing why a she sided with a murderer rather than a child, her rhetoric was nothing but it’s not our problem, its theirs”. She so easily believed that the issues we have faced in the past like racism have already been dealt with when in reality they still plague our society. Since she believed it didn’t directly affect her that she only focused on the person she related to, the murderer.
Another example is the controversy surrounding the Cheerios commercial of an interracial couple and their daughter that was subsequently followed by the torrents of racism after it aired. Then we see children being interviewed about the controversy and then are grateful to hear they are fine with the notion of races mixing. It’s heartwarming and innocent. But it is also a part of the problem. We assume all will be well even from not knowing if the sample of children that participated in this feel good antidote was demographically diverse. Because if they were all from big northern metropolitan cities like New York, they aren’t a true representation because there are children in the south that certainly would have already been taught to hate differences.
What I’m saying is that our society too often is willing to blindly accept anything that helps them escape the truth. And even though we should be concerned with how our views affect the future, we need to be just as focused on the adults who have the power now. The ones that are on varying levels teaching hate. This is an example of us not dealing with what is right in front of us. It makes us complacent and more willing to accept more of the same.
Well I’m sorry but I have had enough of that formula. There is too much frustration and hurt that means we have to make analogies or be crass in order for you to hear our collective voices when we tell each other we all have a component the other side(s) need. How many more times will we keep ignoring each other instead of taking formal steps to build the nonexistent bridges?
I do not want these layers of prejudice and hate and ignorance and apathy and division we quietly accept in this country to pass on to another generation. I do not want our generation to continue the same traditions of fear based either in faith or bigotry that we encourage by not openly discussing our differences to bring forth understanding. And I don’t want us to continue the dialogue where we are too rigid in our mindset or beliefs that we are bot at least willing to see and hear a viewpoint different than our own.
There are a lot of families in pain right now. We need to ensure that no other family has to go through it.