I've been thinking a lot about racism and LGBTQ communities lately. I don't know that I ever stop thinking about this, but I've been thinking about it recently with the release of the documentary Stonewall Uprising and Showtime's The Real L Word, as well as BET's list of Who's Who in the life (really?). I'm also teaching a course on queering popular culture at the NSRC Summer Institute, and, of course, Pride weekend here in the Bay. This also came up on a listserv that I'm on and I was just reading the comments to an article on Advocate.com about Arizona's racist immigration policy.
All that said, I need to speak a little bit about the racism that takes place in the LGBTQ community. And, I don't mean dating preference or even the general white racism where your friends and their friends make ridiculous comments in your presence. I'm talking specifically about representation and the lack of representation of people of color, not just on (cable) television, but in films, on panels, etc. And I know this has been talked about before, perhaps ad nausea, but it's more than just the problems with the lack of representation. It's really about the pain of being underrepresented and, many times, misrepresented. How many more times are we going to see the loud Latina femme who is only interested in sex? Or, how many more documentaries will be made about queer history where Native, Black, Asian, and Latino faces are curiously absent? Were we not there? As a Black queer who moves in these spaces with her colored (and white) friends, I know this is not the case. We're there at the table organizing, just as much as we are deejaying and dancing at the tea parties. We're there on the front lines throwing shoes and punches against homophobes, speaking out on the intersection of oppression, and mentoring younger queer folks. And we're there, working with white allies who agree with us about racism, then talk over us when we disagree on a minor point and continue to talk and talk until they prove their point about what good allies they are and how they're going to push on through to continue to figure out how to be a good ally in spite of cynicism (true story).
So, what gives? How can our erasure and absence persist in these representations, in these moments, in our history? The Real L Word and white Whitney's dreadlocks may not have the same relevance as, say, Bayard Rustin when talking about queer of color history and representation, but it does matter. Representation tells us something about ourselves and tells other people about us too, even if we ignore it, say we don't engage with it, or we laugh it off/away. And, I think it's irresponsible for white queers to continue to be complicit with this telling about who we are. I don't need you to speak for me or even speak on my behalf. I need you to speak on yours, with integrity, reflection, and a commitment to getting the shit right.
So, I'm calling on white queers again to step up, hard. And really give us a reason to celebrate.