Rev Irene Monroe

Will the HRC-Logo debate be a white queer public soliloquy?

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | August 08, 2007 11:58 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: HIV/AIDS, HRC, LGBT homeless, Logo, presidential debates, race

There has been a lot of talk with enthusiasm and optimism concerning the upcoming historic televised HRC-Logo Forum on issues important to America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer voters. With a star-studded cast of 2008 Democratic presidential hopefuls like frontrunning senators Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama to the low-polling but queer-friendly former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel bringing up the rear, the excitement is palpable in many queer communities across the country.

There is, however, at least one LGBTQ community nationwide that knows very little about the HRC-Logo debate - the LGBTQ community of African descent.

“Why would I know about this debate?,” LaShaun Williams of New Orleans told me. “Before Katrina the black and white gay communities was separated. Now after Katrina even moreso because only those who have money either stayed during the city’s renovation or had money to return back. Our community is smaller and more invisible than ever and the gay paper down here doesn't now and never have circulated where black folks live.”

But the complaints that the news about the HRC-Logo debate not reaching black queer communities via newspapers is not only endemic to New Orleans’ queer community where many can understand its present-day fragmentation, but the news did not circulate well in big bustling cities with large and active LGBTQ communities like my hometown of Boston.

“I have yet to see Baywindows or even your paper Rev. [In Newsweekly] make an appearance here in Mattapan, [a predominately black enclave of Boston].” Rhonda MacLean stated.

While circulation of queer papers to black enclaves is a problem, so too is turning onto to the LOGO channel for many LGBTQ people of African descent to seek out entertainment or to find out what’s happening in their communities. Logo is the nation’s leading television and broadband network for LGBTQ people with more than 1,000 hours of content and approximately 27 million viewers across the country, yet many LGBTQ people of color feel excluded by its programming. Logo describes itself as providing “LGBT audiences with a place where they can see themselves and be themselves through a mix of original and acquired entertainment programming that is authentic, smart and inclusive.”

“Girl, it wasn’t until Noah’s Arc that I had a reason to watch anything on that channel,” Anthony Reed of D.C. stated. “I see ourselves in too many coon acts and clown performances to really see a commitment by the channel.”

But those in this community who do know of the debate have told me they were "underwhelmed" about the entire brouhaha.

“How is this debate going to speak to the specific interests of same gender loving people when HRC doesn’t, the Logo channel doesn’t, and the papers never have,” Joanne Strayhorn of Newark, New Jersey commented.

And much of the overwhelming disinterest in LGBTQ communities of African descent about this upcoming historic debate is the belief that issues pertinent to them will once again be left out of not only the public discourse but also left out of the overall interest of politicians wooing this community as an important and vital voter bloc to have. The queer community is a decisive electoral force that politicians have learned over the years, for their own campaign survival, that they must at least wink at.

But their winks have never cast eyes on this nation’s black same gender loving communities. And the issues concerning white queer communities are indeed vastly different from the black community.

“We got an entire community dying of AIDS and I know the first question that’s going to come out of somebody's mouth will be that of gay marriage” Rita Johnson of Detroit told me.

Social research shows that African-American same-gender households have everything to gain in the struggle for marriage equality and more to lose when states pass amendments banning marriage equality and other forms of partner recognition. For example, in November 2005, Equality Maryland and the National Black Justice Coalition published "Jumping the Broom: a Black Perspective on Same-Gender Marriage." And the statistics revealed the following: Forty-five percent of black same-sex couples reported stable relationships of five years or longer. And 20 percent of black men and 24 percent of black women in same-sex households are denied health care benefits for their partners by the government.

While there is still overwhelming evidence that suggests marriage would be beneficial for same gender loving couples, many in the black queer community still argue that the community is not tied in a knot about same-sex marriage, as queer media present, many are just simply not kissing up to the issue, since the issue appears and presents itself as a white queer moral imperative and not the AIDS crisis in the black community.

There is another crisis in the black gay community - homelessness among its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth. When 42 percent of the country's homeless youth identifies as LGBTQ, and approximately 90 percent within this group comprise of African American and Latino youth from urban enclaves like New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles, many black LGBTQ voters argue that this issue is neither simply a black issue that the African American community should address nor a queer issue the LGBTQ community should address, but rather a problem this nation should address since it has reached epidemic proportions.

With many LGBTQ voters of African descent experiencing the downside of diversity by not being fully included in the both African American and gay communities the HRC-Logo debate is viewed as a white queer public soliloquy giving the illusion of inclusion.


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With all due respect, I am white and only know about the HRC/Logo debate via this blog. Thanks to todays technology and free internet access via public libraries, everyone has the same access to information regardless of race.

As far as black GLBT issues being vastly different than white GLBT issues, then by all means speak up! Make your voices heard and questions answered at the debate.

Leland Frances | August 8, 2007 1:54 PM

As one who has praised you in an earlier thread for your courage in calling bullshit on Obama's tambourine shaking, I was surprised with much here.

Perhaps some of your piece got deleted somehow, but as I read what appeared you seem to contradict yourself. On the one hand you suggest that the forum will be irrelevant to gays of color, quote another woman of color as implying marriage is unimportant to her, then quote statistics that reinforce how precisely important the benefits accruing from legally recognized same gender relationships would be to couples of color.

Trust me. I loathe the Human Rights Champagne fund with a capital LOATHE. After over a quarter of a century in existence, they have failed us so strategically and practically that they are something of the Enron of gay organizations. And MTV/Logo is little better. The two institutions have in common one mission above all others: bringing in money. That HRC refused to invite other national groups to cohost the event only reinforces that they seem to believe they have a patent on "gay equality" and will use their association with this event for yet further money vacuuming through fund raising letters already printed and waiting to be mass mailed.

Yet, forgive me but you seem to fail to illustrate that "the issues concerning white queer communities are indeed vastly different from the black community." On the contrary, you only demonstrate that they overlap. Absence of protections and benefits of marriage. AIDS. Homelessness of LGBT youth. Failure of our "leaders."

I concede that racism and racialist indifference is still a factor in LGBT organizations and the white gay community at large, but that is an unlikely topic for Presidential candidates. And, sorry, but there is such an overpowering scent of self-perpetuating professional victimhood to your piece that I would have expected it more to have come from a large bottle of Eau de Jasmyne Cannick. At times I thought I was reading a demand for a kind of 21st century, lavender variation on the "White Man's Burden," calling on white missionaries to carry The Word, or at least "The Advocate," to the poor people allegedly too ignorant and incapacitated to look for it themselves, for relief workers in rainbow flag-colored hip boots to slog through New Orleans to lift the helpless "Negro" aboard the streetcar named Desire.

Most amazing is that, you ignore entirely the fact that a Pulitzer Price-winning out gay man of color is one of the moderators of the forum. Is that silence to imply that you think Jonathan Capehart is some kind of Auntie Tom who will fail to include any issues specific to Black LGBTs in his questioning? Is he the gay community's Clarence Thomas?

One would have thought you would have complained about the fact that an ostensibly nongay reporter has been invited to join him. Now THAT's an insult both to out professional gay journalists and the community at large. In 2007, are we still on such a flimsy raft of insignificance that we have to send Huck to beg Massa for something for Jim to eat? [Not to mention the fact that Margaret Carlson's credentials as a progressive are dubious given she was a constant dishonest demonizer of Gore during the 2000 election and has literally slept with the enemy in the form of Fred Thompson. Yet, I suppose we should be thankful they didn't invite Andrew Sullivan or Anderson Cooper.]

I sincerely look forward to future essays in which you address ways that racism influences both the imbalance in attention to and solutions for the issues which all LGBTs share and those for which racial variables play a large part.

Thank you.

Thanks for this post! I, too, wonder whether there will be any discussion of AIDS -- broadly and particularly in African American communities -- and LGBTQ homeless youth. I'll be keeping your analysis in mind as I (another white queer media maker ... ) live-blog from the forum tomorrow night.

--Jessica

beergoggles | August 8, 2007 2:42 PM

Humm.. First you say:

many in the black queer community still argue that the community is not tied in a knot about same-sex marriage, as queer media present, many are just simply not kissing up to the issue, since the issue appears and presents itself as a white queer moral imperative

And then the evidence points to:

homelessness among its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth. When 42 percent of the country's homeless youth identifies as LGBTQ, and approximately 90 percent within this group comprise of African American and Latino youth

Do you notice any cognitive dissonance? Could it be that the 'non-existent' prejudices of the black /hispanic communities leads to these kids being kicked out their homes?

I also have a question for anyone who might know the answer: The majority of the lgbt movement is centered around integration with the general population (pursuit of marriage and such). However, there is a very strong tendency amongst the black community to stay apart, to not be just like everyone else. Does this translate into queer black folks being unwilling to integrate into the greater LGBT community?

I don't know where you get the idea that "there is a very strong tendency amongst the black community to stay apart" from the gay community, beergoggles. Of course there are people who don't want be part of the larger gay community (whatever that is), but that has nothing to do with race.

I also don't know you label the desire to "not be just like everyone else" as a negative. There are quite clones in both the gay and straight community for my tastes.

Sorry for the double post, but, beergoogles, I'm not sure what you're trying to say about with your cognitive dissonance comment. I see nothing inherintely dissonant about the lines you quoted, nor did I see anything in the original about the prejudices of black/Hispanic communities towards gay youth. Is your point that the post should have addressed these prejudices?

beergoggles | August 8, 2007 4:23 PM

Dennis,
The cognitive dissonance is saying that the black/hispanic communities are not homophobic while at the same time stating that black/hispanic gay kids are the most likely to be homeless without even daring to explore the possibility that the kids are homeless because black/hispanic communities are so homophobic that they kick gay kids out of their homes.

And my statement about the strong tendency of the black community to stay apart comes from experience. There is an insularity amongst the general (non-gay) black community that is far greater than that of the most militant gay isolationists who are a very small minority. So basically what I'm asking is, is whether that insularity plays a role in black gays actually not wanting to be part of the gay community?

BG~ I'd suggest you learn a thing or two about what you're talking about before you go off saying that there's cognitive dissonance in what others are saying. She said that marriage is often framed as a white gay issue. Then she said that homelessness is high amongst LGBTQ people of color. No dissonance, just facts.

While you're sitting around pointing out the things that you think that the Reverend should have addressed in this post (because every post needs to be about every topic, I take it?), you seemed to have put your head in the sand when it comes to white racism, which, you know, exists. I'm getting sick and tired, both as a latino gay guy and just as a person, that white gay people think they can just sit around and think about how perfectly non-racist they are, and then go off and criticize the racism of other white gays. Yep, racism in the white gay community exists, but it's always someone else.

Whatever.

You're saying that blacks tend to separate themselves from "Everyone else". I'm going to guess that "everyone else" means white folks, in the way that white people are seen as without race, neutral, normalized, while everyone else can be reduced down to skin color. Well, let me tell you, I grew up in a mostly white school. By mostly white I mean that there were about 18 black students and another maybe 30 latinos out of 4000 students. And it wasn't that everyone else was staying away - it was caused by white flight to the suburbs here in the Indy area. We can sit around and pretend that minorities separate themselves and ignore America's histories of apartheid and slavery, but guess what? Whites are plenty racist and are willing to pack up their bags if there's even one family of color living on their street so don't tell me that white people want to get along with everybody and it's minorities' fault for modern-day segregation.

And then you talk about how LGBT homelessness is caused by rampant homophobia amongst blacks and latinos. Well let me tell you that I'm getting sick and tired of white people telling me that my family is somehow more homophobic than theirs, or coastal-urban gays telling me that Indiana is a "gay hell" or anyone else who says that only the people who have more money in general in this country are somehow the only ones who accept gays. White people are plenty homophobic and I'll take my chances here with the latinos in my family and community before taking your judgment of my community.

Also, the Reverend did address what you're talking about in this previous post.

but that's not the point. The point is that you put your head in the sand about homelessness amongst LGBT youth of color, and amongst people of color in general, when, gee, that's at least in part due to white racism that keeps money with the white folks and out of everyone else's hands (that "everyone else" wasn't referring to white people). No, you have to blame everyone else besides white people, I guess, instead of realizing
that the problem is complex and has multiple sources and could possibly include YOU as a perpetuator.

Whatever.

Leland~ "professional victimhood"? She's professionally a reverend. And I suppose that's what you say to anyone who points out any sort of discrimination so that you don't have to deal with it. Am I right?

I can't even begin to address your other points because most of them are just too ignorant.

Alex, bitter much? Just because someone points out something that you disagree with, their posts are "ignorant"? To quote you:

Whatever.

I thought the purpose of these discussions is to value and consider ALL opinions, not just the ones you agree with or come from a minority. I happen to agree with a lot of what Leland is saying. I know some of this from experience. I have tried to involve the black gay community in the HRO battle, SJR7, Indy Pride, even registering them to vote. I am met with little to no interest. I can't even get my black friends to attend Black Pride. One is on the "down low" and others simply didn't care. How do you fight that apathy? I am not saying that there have not been black folks involved in the above mentioned but when I hear someone from a minority community critical because there is not enough minority representation, it strikes a nerve with me as someone who has been in the trenches and asked for support from everyone in the GLBT community.

Just so you know, I have reached out to the Latin community as well and was met with even more indifference.

I have no idea what its like to be Latin or black, just like you have no idea what its like to be me...or Leland for that matter. We should all (myself included) put ourselves in someone elses shoes and not dismiss their viewpoint and listen objectively. Perhaps there are different ways to say what beer goggles and Leland were trying to say but it doesn't make their views any less valid.

I am open for suggestions on how to involve all people of color in issues the affect the ENTIRE glbt community.

Leland Frances | August 8, 2007 9:39 PM

I'm displeased to find myself lumped in with some opinions expressed abouve, but Alex. Alex. Alex. I know you have more to offer than the timeless logical fallacy of "you're white, I'm not; you disagree with me therefore you're racist. And, ignorant, too." Thanks for not calling my mamacita ugly. Of course, you presume that I'm not a person of color myself. I'm not, but in your impulsive kneeJERK reaction not even considering I might be was discarded. Just as was thought and my point-by-point, reasoned analysis of the flaws and incoherence in this unfortunate rant regardless of anything else the reverend might have been right or have written about previously. I trust that Harvard’s Right Rev. John Shelby Spong taught her better.

And as you both repeatedly use it, might I respectfully take this opportunity to say, mi amigo, that isn't it far past time that you jettisoned the moldy linguistic chic of the Q-word? It's so tired, anti-academic, ahistorical, pseudo intellectual and sophisticated, and entirely counterproductive.

I'm just going to say that I actually did read BG's post and I did respond to his points. he was simply trying to blame minorities for segregation without addressing any of the incredibly obvious causes of the problems he was talking about, like LGBT POC homelessness. He was just trying to pawn the blame off on minorities. But I'm not going to respond any further to anything about that since he's not defending himself, and I'll have the respect to wait for him to do so so that it's clearly what he means to say instead of what others think he was saying.

Leland~

Wow. Just wow. "you're white, I'm not; you disagree with me therefore you're racist. And, ignorant, too". Well, I was so not saying that. and I didn't assume that you were white; just that what you said was ignorant.

I think the way that you simply erase what I said with that statement above, choosing to ignore me and then call me reverse racist is just another Bill O'Reilly debate tactic. Just like you said to the Rev.:

And, sorry, but there is such an overpowering scent of self-perpetuating professional victimhood to your piece that I would have expected it more to have come from a large bottle of Eau de Jasmyne Cannick.

See? it's so easy to ignore minorities if you just say that they're acting like victims! Gawsh! Why can't we all just get real jobs instead of whining about white folk!

Your reference to Spanish, though, with "mamacita" and "mi amigo" to try to e-race me from this discussion just makes want to throw a brick at the computer screen. YOU don't get to use those words effectively call me a stupid spic. YOU don't get to pretend like you know enough about my community to just throw that language around at the same moment that you're saying that I'm playing a race victim (which I'm not). YOU may think that you're privileged enough to take that sort of language from us and use it against me, but guess what, you're not, and you never will be.

I was going to respond further, but actually your pseudo-progressive hipster move of stealing culture and fashioning it into a weapon has just left me too angry.


Kevin~

I'm sorry that you haven't had much luck working with the black LGBT community here in the Indy area. I don't know enough details to help you out with that situation or to give you any suggestions. I do hope that you keep trying and that your efforts are genuinely trying to help out other people of other races for their own benefit as they define it (I'm sure you are).

but I'm going to respond that I probably have a better idea of what it's like to be white than white folks have of being black or latino. Because that's the dominant culture here, I can't turn on the TV without seeing white people on there (not that that's a bad thing). I just went to an LGBT political get-together, and everyone there was white (once again, that's not inherently bad, but just kinda irksome). I spent most of college hanging out with white people because the schools that I went to were mostly white. I mean, it's like saying that straight people have just as much understanding of gay communities as gays have of straight ones. No, we have more because we're forced to live in both worlds. There are still a whole lot of straight people who have never even met an openly gay person.

I'm not going to say that I value or disvalue everyone's opinion here, but I am going to react to them. And no, not every opinion is equal. Some are more valid than others. I think that the opinion that homosexuality is morally wrong is incorrect, and I'm not afraid to say so. And when I see unquestioned white privilege being behind someone's opinion, I'm going to point it out. And yeah, racism makes/has made me bitter.

But please keep up the work that you do for the queer communities. Just make sure that when you are working on "issues the affect the ENTIRE glbt community" that you consider the fact that not everyone who's LGBT is going to agree on what those issues are. (In fact, that was the whole point of the Rev's post.)

beergoggles | August 9, 2007 12:00 AM

BG~ I'd suggest you learn a thing or two about what you're talking about before you go off saying that there's cognitive dissonance in what others are saying. She said that marriage is often framed as a white gay issue. Then she said that homelessness is high amongst LGBTQ people of color. No dissonance, just facts.

You're just being willfully ignorant. Let me guide you through it step by step in case you didn't understand it.
Stated as fact: black/hispanic community is not homophobic
Statistical fact: black/hispanic gay youth are disproportionately homeless
Possible reason: gay black/hispanic kids get kicked out of their homes more often than non-black/hispanic kids
Possible cause: gee, could it be *gasp* homophobia?

This is not explored by the Rev because it might lead people to actually think that the black/hispanic communities are in fact homophobic. White folks are too scared of being called racists to call these communities on their possible child endangerment because non-white gay kids aren't worth the risk of being called racist.

He was just trying to pawn the blame off on minorities. But I'm not going to respond any further to anything about that since he's not defending himself, and I'll have the respect to wait for him to do so so that it's clearly what he means to say instead of what others think he was saying.

Thanks for waiting. Considering I'm a multiracial mutt that was pretty much never accepted in any 'community' growing up, I usually don't feel the need to pull punches on the issue.

I'm getting sick and tired, both as a latino gay guy and just as a person, that white gay people think they can just sit around and think about how perfectly non-racist they are, and then go off and criticize the racism of other white gays. Yep, racism in the white gay community exists, but it's always someone else.

White gay people don't really care for the most part about stuff that doesn't affect them. AIDS? It was only a really big problem when it was a white gay disease. Meth epidemic? Have you seen the racially broken down statistics for it? Homophobia? The white gay community makes enough of a stink about it when it affects them. Do you really think they want to get their hands dirty addressing the homophobia in non-white communities and risk being called out as racists? Heck, you just pulled the 'latino gay guy' card in this post. White folks won't be touching this with a ten foot pole even if you paid them now.

"GLBTQ Community"??????

What community? Black, white, Latino, GLBTQ, take your pick. I see no community here.

Merriam-Webster:
1. a unified body of individuals

Every one who is commenting here seems more interested in insulting and tearing each other down than in trying to understand the central point that Rev. Monroe was trying to make.

I, for one, was enlightened.
Am I white? Yes.
Am I straight? Yes.
Am I prejudice? Probably...aren't we all to some extent?

Take a few moments and reflect. Walk a mile in another's shoes. Consider the possibility that you may have more formal education than someone else, but just possibly you may not actually 'know' as much as someone else.

Open your heart and your mind and strive to be a true community.

Our GLBTQ children are our future, and they are looking to you to set the example. What type of example are we all setting?

In order for LGBTQ folks to become a true community and have the credibility and acceptance we all long for, we must begin to exercise compassion and understanding for each other.

Read what Rev. Monroe said again with compassion and understanding in your heart. See if you can 'feel' anything that you didn't on the first read.

Then again, what do I know? I'm just mom of a young transman, trying to instill in him what it means to be part of a community.

Respectfully,
Kim Pearson
Executive Director
TransYouth Family Advocates
www.imatyfa.org



Leland Frances | August 9, 2007 10:55 AM

Bottom line, Alex? I'm sorry that whatever I write so strikes a nerve in you that dialogue is instantly disengaged. But you are still personally attacking me, unnecessarily "race-washing" my critique, rather than addressing its points, while continuing to assume more about me than you are in a position to know. Is it impossible to be born into a family whose first language is Spanish and yet NOT be a person of color? Are no Caucasians birthed and reared in Mexico or Spain or Japan or Zimbabwe? Have you ever spent any time outside the continental US? One of the reasons I left Indiana was because so many Hoosiers have such a limited set of cookie cutter shapes for people.

One COULD be a non-Spanish speaking racist, and Rev. Monroe's essay would STILL be poorly contructed, riddled with obvious self-generated contradictions, at times incoherent, incomprehensively ignore that one of only two professional journalists invited to participate in this "white queer public soliloquy" is Black, and a tedious waste of a lot of time and words to assert only one thing: that most gay media and most gay organizations fail to adequately include people of color in their efforts.

If you were thinking with your brain rather than the Priapismic chip on your shoulder, you'd have immediately seen that I totally agree with that assertion.

"The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives." - Audre Lorde.

You're just being willfully ignorant. Let me guide you through it step by step in case you didn't understand it.
Stated as fact: black/hispanic community is not homophobic
Statistical fact: black/hispanic gay youth are disproportionately homeless
Possible reason: gay black/hispanic kids get kicked out of their homes more often than non-black/hispanic kids
Possible cause: gee, could it be *gasp* homophobia?

Where in the original post is the text in bold stated as fact? I've read it several times and I'm just not seeing it. The quote from your first post (that starts, "many in the black queer community still argue...") says nothing about homophobia in the black population.

beergoggles | August 9, 2007 12:25 PM

Ok Dennis, I'll give you that. It actually pays lip service to the lack of homophobia in the black community and completely omits any indication to the contrary such as the dwindling congregants at gay-accepting black churches and even just plain gay-tolerant ones.

Personally, I have to admit that I'd be disappointed too if the first question is about marriage. There are plenty of other issues that affect our community other than just DADT, marriage and ENDA. While those three are obviously important, so is homelessness, health care, HIV/AIDS, homophobia, hate crimes, immigration, youth, etc. etc. Point being, there is a list with hundreds of possible topics, putting marriage first would be rather frustrating.

I don't know about the black community anymore than what I hear from friends who aren't white - but I can speak for my experience here in the Midwest. In Indiana, for example, we're trying to stave off a marriage amendment, but no one is really fighting for the right to marry. Our priorities are vastly different from the coasts where they have most of the protections we're still striving for. I'd like to know I can't get fired for being gay. I'd like to know I won't lose my housing. Or my child. THEN I'll worry about renting a couple of tuxes - first, there's a lot of work needed to make ALL Indiana LGBT folk safer rather than gaining some state-level tax breaks for some of us.

I usually try to refrain from racial discussions, mostly because I think most people get way overheated when trying to have a rational discussion about the topic. Nonetheless, I'm going to weigh in here and I apologize in advance if my ignorance offends anyone.

First, let me say, I've found some point of agreement with just about every comment above. Not all, but most. I think everyone is getting way too testy and self-righteous over a topic that affects us all. It doesn't help to think you're not part of the problem and it doesn't help to point fingers at people who don't think they are part of the problem. So, shame on each of you for falling into that trap.

One of the major problems I see is that most people don't realize their racism and when told they are racist, they get pissy because they don't believe they are. Academics have a much broader definition of racism than the average Joe. That is something that should be taken into consideration.

Another issue here is that racism exists on ALL sides of this debate. Just because we white folks are the majority doesn't mean we're the only ones with racism problems. I've been in several "only white person in the room" type situations and let me just say - there is racism in the black community too. I tried to attend Black Expo in downtown Indianapolis one year and literally got ran out of downtown with threats of physical violence (and one good shove!) and screams of "This is OUR space, you don't belong here." Seems like racism to me.

Now, is that racism as big a problem as white racism? No, but it exists and any attempt to deny it is truly ignorant. So let's be clear about this much - racism is alive and well and it exists in some fashion or another is EVERY community. Period.

But here's the rub - how much is racism and how much is just human "differentism"? By differentism I mean that natural human instinct to discount anyone or anything different. Racism is a very virulent form of this naturally occurring human behavior.

Why do I bring this up? Well, it refers back to my statement that most people don't realize they are being racist. Let me explain by way of example...

If an HR manager has two candidates (both interviewed and therefore race is a factor) who are completely equal in terms of experience, education, and fitness for the job, all but the best HR managers (or those who have so-called quotas to fill because of strict HR policy) are going to pick the person most like them. It's natural, we pick those we feel most comfortable with whether that's a woman picking another woman, a white picking another white, or a Latino picking a fellow Latino. We look for common ground and that drives the decision making process.

Of course it just as often introduces bias in the decision making process and therefore discounts the "different" candidate so it's hard to say when "all other things being equal" really are "equal".

So, what's the point? The point is that when you say someone is racist, that has certain societal connotations that refer to the ugly, nasty, hateful kind of bigotry and racism that most people abhor. So, when you tell some they are racist (particularly a white person,) you're throwing the baggage of slavery, persecution, violence, and disenfranchisement of the past onto their shoulders. I think it's safe to say a good solid majority of white people would never say that lynching, slavery, disenfranchisement or segregation should be the law of the land once again. Those folks certainly exist, but I wouldn't call them a majority.

There are plenty of -isms that we, as humans, are guilty of. Sexism, racism, classism, even nationalism (remember a nationalist believes their country is the best in the world, regardless of reality). They are all part of the human condition that I lump into my new -ism, differentism.

So, instead of pointing at each other and arguing about whether or not we're racist, let's start talking about how to behave when someone says something offensive or off the mark. Is it really productive to accuse someone of being racist? Wouldn't it be better to simply educate them and free them from their ignorance?

I get offended rather regularly with anti-gay slurs, off-color remarks, etc. I don't call those people homophobes as a matter of course. I explain to them that another gay person would be offended at that remark and explain to them why. The person is usually humbled, sometimes embarrassed, and rarely makes the same mistake again - at least not around me. I reserve homophobe for those who are truly bigoted anti-gay hatemongers. It reserves the power of the word. Overuse of labels like racist, homophobe, or bigot render those words powerless and a mockery.

Remember Godwin's Law - As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one. This teaches us two things 1) humans are prone to hyperbole and rhetoric and 2) overuse of a label renders it powerless. (There are a number of corollary's to Godwin's Law - Read Steph's, it's one of the best)

I think everyone, from Rev. Monroe in the original post to every commenter in this thread could step back and see how what they've said could be interpreted as offensive, rude, or otherwise ignorant in some way. Hell, I'm sure I've made an ignorant statement or two in my own response, which is why I added my disclaimer right at the top.

The point is this: We need to have serious discussions around issues of race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity and other such topics. As long as we resort to finger pointing, name-calling, or -ism baiting and hyperbole, we're not furthering the discussion or making progress for the oppressed.

BG~

Heck, you just pulled the 'latino gay guy' card in this post.

Well, I didn't know that bringing up one's background now is just a "card". Maybe while you're pointing out homophobia you shouldn't be pulling the "gay card" either.

It's just that the problems that you're citing have multiple sources - segregation, homelessness - and some of the most obvious and most powerful sources are white people, but you're just eliminating that and saying that it's only minorities' fault for these problems. I'm not saying that there's no homophobia among black/latin people, I'm just saying that it's basically a colonialist idea that the whites are so advanced and they need to educate all these minorities on the subject and I'm tired of it. So I'm calling it out.

Maybe we need more racial discourse here. I've posted on how the Homeless and Runaway Youth Act has lost funding during the Bush Admin (I'm not going to find the post here now), and maybe that needs to be portrayed as a race issue as well, considering that most of the people making tat decision are white and the people hurt are mostly black/latin.

But then you say:

White folks won't be touching this with a ten foot pole even if you paid them now.

Well, I think there are quite a few white people participating in this discussion, which I hope is good that they're at least reading this whole thing. There is a chance for change, I suppose, if some people here, all of us, see what we're doing to contribute to this problem and what we can do to solve it. I'm just not going to go so far as to say that it's only minorities' fault.

And, at the end of the day, and I don't say this to many people, I do always appreciate your comments on this site and hope that we can have other discussions on other topics here. I'm sorry if my original comment was a bit too heated and accusatory, but I'm standing by my points there.


Jerame~

Well, yeah, people do tend to separate themselves, but I hope that it doesn't just become an excuse to wash our hands and not try to fix things. There may be racism against whites among blacks, but I don't see it as a major source to the problems the Rev. discussed. Sorry that you were thrown out of a space intended for black people, but, well, you already know my thoughts on queer separatism and the need for safe queer spaces. There's a different power dynamic and when you never have a specific space that's unencumbered by the dominant group along an axis of identity telling you what to do, sometimes you just need to create that space for yourself.

I'm just hoping that your comments weren't intended to say that people should just sweep these issues under the rug.


Leland~

I'm beginning to think that you're just not going to get it. The Rev. and I have emailed back and forth a bit on this, and she referred to the "blindsightedness of white privilege". Well, now I can see what that phrase means.

Your sarcastic apology up there just shows that you don't know that you don't have the right to claim those cultural indicators and use them against me. It's arrogant, colonialistic, and mean-spirited in the way that you know exactly what's going to offend me and what's going to plug into this ethnic power divide and then you just used it.

And then you just tack on an Audre Lourde quotation at the end there. It just keeps on coming!

beergoggles | August 9, 2007 3:29 PM

Well, I didn't know that bringing up one's background now is just a "card"...

My apologies, I got a little carried away there. Sometimes it is a card and others it isn't. Just like the gay card actually. There's several ways race, gender, sexuality can be used and one of them is a bludgeon to cut off a certain angle of approach to a conversation and sometimes it's easy to think that's what happens.

It's just that the problems that you're citing have multiple sources - segregation, homelessness - ...

Yes I agree, but I've always been a firm believer in doing the utmost to get the log out of our eyes before we criticize the mote in someone else's. To me that means we need to confront issues within racial and sexual minority communities ourselves without looking to the majority. Ever watch the MLK Returns episode of Boondocks?

Maybe we need more racial discourse here...

Yes we do, and we need people to not close ranks when criticism comes. In real life its not an easy thing to do. Discussion goes a lot better here on the net because people seem freer to comment on these issues.

Well, I think there are quite a few white people participating in this discussion, which I hope is good that they're at least reading this whole thing.

Indeed. However, look at the absolute scarcity of responses to this when Pam posted about it out at Americablog: http://www.americablog.com/2007/08/will-hrclogo-forum-address-issues.html
People are either indifferent or scared to touch it, I can hear the crickets.

And I appreciate your articles and the effort you put into them :)

Alex, I think it was clear from my ending that I don't want to sweep any of this under a rug, quite the opposite. I'm trying to draw attention to the fact that we are way too quick to label someone racist, homophobe, bigot, misogynist, etc. when education and patience go a lot farther.

Instead of pointing fingers and blaming some -ism for every grievance or miscarriage of justice, we need to realize that a person's ignorance isn't necessarily willful.

I'm also saying that the definition of most -isms vary from person to person. So, by calling someone racist, you are starting a completely DIFFERENT conversation. Instead of dealing with the issue of the injustice/slur/offense/whatever you're really arguing about the definition of racist. (You can replace racism with any other -ism you like.)

Basically, there's overt oppression and there's the oppression of ignorance. Overt oppression deserves to be called what it is when it happens no question, but lashing out at ignorance just because you're tired of explaining it isn't really helpful.

Most ignorance is borne of lack of experience, not willful blindness. Do those people who truly just don't know the right thing to say/do/feel/think really deserve to be labeled the same as people who would injure/defame/discriminate against you on purpose?

I don't think that's fair and I think that's where these conversations tend to break down. Someone gets offended at someone else's lack of understanding. The irony is that in the act of being offended by someone else's ignorance, you display your own ignorance in turn.

These are very important conversations that need to happen. But they need to happen in a way that respects those that are willing to engage and try to understand - even if they are ignorant of the issue to start with. If they are willing to engage, they can be taught. If they can be taught, they can teach others. Teaching others is a hell of a lot more productive than calling out someone's ignorant statement or calling them a blank-ist or blank-ophobe.

That's the point I was hoping to make there. These conversations are of the type that deserve the respect of leaving the hyperbole and posturing at the door and being willing to accept some offensive statements as lacking in knowledge rather than lacking in humanity.

Leland Frances | August 9, 2007 6:35 PM

NN NOW I'm demonized for quoting Audre Lorde??????????????????????????????

Wow. Simply wow! But, ya got me. I confess. I'm that notorious exploiter of poets. In my fiendish, racist, colonialist, you must have forgotten sexist, desire to mock you I desperately Googled, "obscure Black lesbian poet who died of cancer," and TA DUH! her name popped up and that quotation which must have nothing at all to do with what you and Rev. Monroe wrote, or the way you react to those who dare disagree with you, drenching them with indictments for first degree isms in an attempt to distract from your rhetorical failure and folly in the first place.

I apologize for that. I also apologize for not realizing that you personally own language, race, LGBT issues, wisdom, insight, and, now, poetry, as well as apparently sharing a patent on 20/20 knowledge and understanding with Rev. Monroe—for simplicity’s sake, let’s just call it omniscience. Before I kill myself, could I please just quote one more person. It's okay, he was white like me.

"Out of the mouths of babes comes.....oatmeal." - Oscar Levant.

Jerame~

I guess we just disagree about where these conversations break down. You think that it's when minorities appear too angry and scare away the whites (correct me if that's not what you meant, but that's what it boiled down to for me) so they need to be more calm and then more people will listen. I think it breaks down because too many people (white and non-white) are too willing to ignore these sorts of things because they're worried about being polite and not offending good people. Sometimes you have to offend to make a point. Especially, in my experience, when it comes to people in privilege, however that's defined. Like some people just aren't going to hear any other language.

Esp. since someone like Rev. Irene gets called a "professional victim" and compared to Jasmyne Cannick for what's actually a really polite and reserved post (for the record, and you know this, I'm a big fan of Jasmyne Cannick as well, but there is a huge difference in writing styles here). It's just like even bringing it up gets someone labeled as an angry victim, enough to make you just wonder if certain people here, the ones putting huge restrictions on this sort of discussion to make it more "productive", aren't just trying to close down the discussion.

Because if the Rev's post is professional victimhood, then hot damn, no one can say anything about race without being labeled that.

And on a side note, I guess there's no equivalent here, but there might be another post, but being condescendingly referred to as "mi amigo" or being told that I'm going to insult someone's "mamacita" made me angry. My original response was just going to be "FUCK YOU" but I calmed down and the brick at the computer screen reference was the calm answer. I don't know how to explain something like that to you without actually describing the emotion I felt, because there really isn't a way for you to access it otherwise. If there is, please educate us. I hear what you're saying about willful ignorance, etc., but I don't see how someone can accidentally make a comment like that, "oops, I didn't know that those words were references to your ethnicity, I just use them in conversation with all my friends". I don't think it's ignorance, I think it's knowledge of exactly where to stab.

I know, I know, I need to stop taking these comments so seriously.

Also, I didn't call anyone racist. Seriously, look back, I just said people were ignoring racism. They can take that as they will.

But you did just join the club of people who've "shame"d me in the comments. With Matt Hill Comer. I'm building my list, I'm building my list, lol.

Ok Dennis, I'll give you that. It actually pays lip service to the lack of homophobia in the black community and completely omits any indication to the contrary such as the dwindling congregants at gay-accepting black churches and even just plain gay-tolerant ones.

As another poster pointed out, the issue of homophobia in the black community was discussed in its own essay. Why was it necessary to discuss that issue here? If homophobia in the black community is so critical to your understanding of this discussion, I think you should take the time to read the essay and, at the very least, acknowledge that the Reverend did a bit more than pay "lip service" to it.