A few thoughts swirled in my head as our nation celebrated the life of this great Civil Rights icon while in preparation for the inauguration of the most divisive president-elect in my lifetime. (The term ‘bitter irony’ comes to mind.)
The first, shared by many on Twitter as well, was that there’s no way on God’s green Earth that we could ever pass another holiday for a Black man in this racial climate. If we can’t get proper justice for the brazen killings of Black men even with damning video evidence, a federal holiday is pretty much out of the question.
The second was imagining the horror, and immense frustration, that he might feel seeing our nation regress so badly with respect to race relations: with the election of our first Black president as the catalyst .
The third was a bit more reflective.
I proudly identify as a Black & Gay man. But there are significant problems within each of those communities. With each death of a Black man or woman at the hands of authorities, we must look at the deaths of Black men and women by our own. Where are WE remiss? Do we treat each other with respect? Do we value our own lives? Do we treat each other as we demand of the white majority?
I’d like to believe ‘mostly yes’, but wouldn’t bet my savings on it.
It’s easy to protest against a race-baiting fascist, backed by a racially tone-deaf House and Senate in a criminal & judicial system that was built on racism, and demand our due rights. The hard part is making sure that, within our community, we are treating one another with the same standard that we’re demanding.
The same is true of the LGBTQ community. Racism, ageism, and ‘fatism’ are rampant. However, since they’re all masked under the guise of ‘sexual preference’, they’re often excused and sometimes even encouraged.
I can’t speak for the lesbian community, but I’ve heard many gay men state a racial preference for dating while vigorously feigning victimhood when called a racist. In fact, I had someone once tell me that I was a cute… for a Black guy. And I’m sure that he saw nothing wrong with saying so. He likely meant it as a compliment. Therein lies the racist rub.
Don’t get me wrong. Gay men don’t own any exclusive rights to sexual racism (see John Mayer). But this is an ongoing issue within the community, and a huge one for gay and bisexual men of color. So as I see gay men celebrating the life and ideas of Martin Luther King, and using those words and ideas to fight legislative attacks on LGBTQ civil rights, do they also think about applying those same ideas to their treatment of each other? Again I’ll say, I’d like to believe ‘mostly yes’, but still wouldn’t bet my savings on it.
I may be an idealist, but I’m also not naive. I know that these aren’t easy issues to dissect within these communities. They are complex and multi-layered. The question, however, still needs to be asked. As minorities, are we willing to give the same consideration to our fellow community members that we’re asking from the majority?
If the answer is NO, we need to some soul searching… and perhaps re-read our history books. Maybe then we’ll finally and truly understand Dr. King’s “dream”.