Wyatt O'Brian Evans

Racism: The Cancer that Slowly Consumes Our Very Souls

Filed By Wyatt O'Brian Evans | March 10, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: LGBT community, racism, racism in the gay community, Wyatt O'Brian Evans

In the early 1990's, I viewed a fascinating PBS series on racism conducted by Frances Cress Welsing, the distinguished African-American behavioral scientist and general and child psychiatrist practicing in Washington, D.C. Famous for her "Cress Theory of Color Confrontation," which explores the practice of racism (white supremacy), she's the author of "The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors."

According to Welsing, those who classify themselves as "white" practice white supremacy in order to ensure "white" people's genetic survival. Her theory is based on the insightful work of the renowned Dr. Neely Fuller, Jr., who states that racism, or white supremacy, "is a global system of domination against people of color."

Welsing's functional definition of racism is "the local and global power system structured and maintained by persons who classify themselves as white, whether consciously or subconsciously determined; this system consists of patterns of perception, logic, symbol formation, thought, speech, action and emotional response, as conducted simultaneously in all areas of people activity (economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex and war). The ultimate purpose of the system is to prevent white genetic annihilation on Earth--a planet in which the overwhelming majority of people are classified as non-white (black, brown, red and yellow) by white-skinned people. All of the non-white people are genetically dominant (in terms of skin coloration) compared to the genetically recessive white-skinned people...Together, the system and culture of white supremacy produce the phenomenon of racism."

According to the behavioral scientist/psychiatrist, "In the collective white psyche, Black males have the greatest genetic potential (of all non-white males) to cause white genetic annihilation. Thus, Black males must be attacked and destroyed in a power system designed to assure white genetic survival."

The following "tidbit" should make white supremacists cringe. Stephen Ohlemacher of the Associated Press (AP) in August wrote a piece entitled, "Whites Fading Fast as Majority in US." It stated, "White people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2042, according to new government projections. The article added that by 2050, Caucasians would constitute 46 percent of the population, Blacks 15 percent (a relatively small increase), Hispanics 30 percent, and Asians 9 percent.

Food for thought, you think? Well, actually, let's call it the main course.

Now, it's time to have our "dessert."

Strolling through CNN's "Black in America"

rac1.jpgRecently, CNN aired "Black in America," it's much ballyhooed, four-hour special which, according to the network, took nearly a year to produce. The lofty goal of the broadcast was to clue you in to "what it's really like to be Black in America."

I'll give CNN their "props"--"BIA" was insightful, engaging and compelling on some levels. And as host and "tour guide," the capable Soledad O'Brien was sensitive and probing. However, I found that the program didn't go far enough, didn't delve deep enough.

But let me tell you what really blew my mind: the alarming and dire statistics Ms. O'Brien dropped on the audience. Data that made you feel that you were whisked more than forty years back in time to August 28, 1963 when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his electrifying, historic "I Have a Dream" address from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when he spoke of his fervent desire for a future where Blacks and whites, among others, would coexist harmoniously as equals. The statistics CNN presented made you question just how much really has changed for persons of color, particularly African-Americans, since the riots of the late 1960's ravaged dozens of American cities.

Some of the more glaring stats:

  • Black men continue to have the highest HIV rates in the country, although African-Americans make up only 13 percent of the population.
  • AIDS is the number one killer of Black women between the ages of 25-34. And among women recently diagnosed in this country, two-thirds are Black.
  • Every 30 minutes, a murder is committed in America, and 49 percent of the victims are African-American. That percentage is staggering because again, Blacks constitute only 13 percent of the population.
  • There are nearly a million Black men in prison.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for African-American men is at 10 percent, twice that of white men.
  • It is nearly impossible for a Black ex-con to land a job, even a minimum wage position.

The telecast noted a Princeton University study on the barriers to Black men obtaining low-wage jobs. That study stated the following, which is stunning: that an African-American man with a clean record fared no better than a white applicant just out of prison. In other words, the study's findings suggest that being Black in America today is basically equivalent to having a felony conviction.

The study also stated that employers claimed that the reason they won't hire Black men is because they "are lazy; have a poor work ethic; and present themselves badly, especially with respect to their attire."

Let me say that in my experience--and in the experience of many of the "brothas" I know--those employers are spouting rubbish. I've always been well prepared and impeccably dressed when I interview. As well, I carry myself in a professional, business-like and self-assured fashion. Therefore, I've had incidences where white employers considered me threatening and intimidating. As a result, I've been shut out of certain positions.

Then, there's my name: Wyatt O'Brian Evans. And, I've always been well spoken. And with years of voice training, even more so (my entertainment background includes being a voice-over instructor and talent). Subsequently, on various occasions when I've called to book an interview, the person on the other end of the line presumed I was white.

You can just imagine the look on the interviewer's face when he/she finally met me in person! One idiot was so flustered and uncomfortable that I ended the interview mid-way through. I announced, "I'm obviously not what you expected. So, don't waste anymore of my valuable time." I got up and left.

And, I can't fail to mention the "nasty little indignities" that I and other African-American males must endure and "suck up" on a regular basis: racial profiling; the inequitable and harsher treatment by police; the suspicious/disapproving looks whites can give you when you're in so-called "white" neighborhoods; then, on the flip side, the ways whites attempt to make you feel "invisible;" the trying experience of flagging down a taxi in New York City; the disconcerting encounter of standing alone in an elevator with a white woman who glances at you with unadulterated fear washing over her eyes, and then clutches her purse just a little tighter.

In "Black in America," D. L. Hughley, the popular African-American actor, comedian and producer, said he believes that as a Black man, he's always a target of the police. "'When you're Black, your skin color is always in the equation. It doesn't matter how rich or how famous you are.'"

Gay Civil Rights, Black Civil Rights: Simpatico?

Over and over, sometimes at ad nauseam, you hear white gays equate gay civil rights to Black civil rights. But is it an accurate comparison?

Nearly a year ago, I interviewed African-American gay activist and writer Kenyon Farrow on this topic and others. And in his article "Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black," he wrote, "While homophobia in the Black community is certainly an issue we need to address, Blacks of all sexualities experience the reality that many white gays and lesbians think that because they're gay, they 'understand' oppression, and therefore could not be racist like their heterosexual counterparts. Bullshit. America is first built on the privilege of whiteness, and as long as you have white skin, you have a level of agency and access above and beyond people of color, period. White women and white non-heteros included...I also think the white gay community's supposed 'understanding' of racism is what has caused them to appropriate language and ideology of the Black Civil Rights Movement, which has led to the bitter divide between the two communities."

According to Farrow, a few mostly-white gay organizations--most notably the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)--were largely responsible for making the argument that gay rights were comparable to civil rights. "This push from HRC, without any visible Black leadership or tangible support from Black allies (straight and queer), to equate these movements did several things:

  1. Piss off the Black community for the white gay movement's cultural appropriation, and making the straight Black community question non-hetero Black peoples' allegiances, resulting in our further isolation.
  2. Giving the (white) Christian Right ammunition to build relationships with Black ministers to denounce gay rights from their pulpits based on the HRC's cultural appropriation.
  3. Create a scenario in their effort to go mainstream that equates gay and lesbian with upper-class and white."

Shirley Q. Liquor: That (Very) Cheap Shot of Cheaper Booze

If gay whites wish to liken gay civil rights to Black civil rights they must truly be sincere about it. Exactly what does that mean? By honestly embracing and espousing those principles and teachings the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights architects infused into the Black Civil Rights Movement.

And if they do that, gay whites most certainly will kick this "Shirley Q. Liquor" caricature, a twisted excuse for "comedy," to the curb.

rac2.jpgBloggernista, a gay/AIDS activist, wrote, "White gay men talk a good game about how much they love strong Black women like Tina Turner, Mary J. Blige, and Janet Jackson. But when it really comes down to it, white gay men consider the lives of Black women spectacle to entertain themselves; and in the case of the white man in blackface known as Shirley Q. Liquor, to denigrate, humiliate and profit from. Shirley Q. Liquor is, in the words of the self-described 'forty-five-year-old, fat, gay white man' (Charles Knipp) who created the character, 'a welfare mother with nineteen kids who guzzles malt liquor, and drives a Caddy.' (Knipp) likes to justify his 'comedy' by saying that his performances are about 'lancing the boil of institutionalized racism.' I guess that's why he gave Shirley Q. Liquor nineteen kids with names like Cheeto (sounds like an ape to me), Orangello (again, sounds like an ape to me), Chlamydia, and Kmartina. Because performing a character in blackface based on Ronald Reagan's grotesque image of a 'welfare queen' and having her name her kids after STDs is really how to break down racist stereotypes and prejudices."

Therefore, doesn't Knipp get it that what he's doing is highly offensive and demeaning to African-Americans? What's funny about blackface, an utterly despicable practice that whites used for decades to humiliate and cheapen another race of people? This alleged "comedian" needs to get real. MLK would roll over in his grave in disgust.

To be balanced, let me mention that RuPaul ('memba him?) is a Knipp supporter. I suppose that when you're desperate to resuscitate a career (if that's what you still call it), you'll latch on to whatever you think will work for you. And if RuPaul can't see this Shirley Q. Liquor "loony tune" for the garbage it is, I feel sorry for him. Unfortunately, he's one of the many victims of racist conditioning that has occurred for far too many years.

White Gay Racism: Taboo and too Hot to Handle?

Is an honest and substantive discussion of white gay racism simply "too hot of a potato" to handle? Is the subject essentially off limits?

Last year, political blogger AngryGayBlackCanadianman wrote an eye-opening, illuminating piece on the subject entitled, "Why Does Society Ignore the Racism of the White Gays?" First, he spelled out the following: "In society, people are judged based on appearance first; people see race not sexual orientation. People will discriminate against a black person first before they go after a white homosexual. White gays can travel through the mainstream unscathed compared to people of colour."

rac3.jpgHe continued, "Some white gays have claimed they have 'similarities' to Blacks because they also encounter discrimination. It is true that some white gays encounter discrimination due to their sexual orientation. However, in society you simply cannot compare the struggles of the white gay community to that of the black race. White homosexuals also have the support of the liberal white media that can also be anti-black."

(Before I go further, it also needs to be pointed out that the African-American GLBTI community is actually "squeezed between a rock and a hard place"--racism and homophobia. These can be oppressive and crushingly heavy crosses to bear. Whites cannot fully conceive how racism and homophobia in tandem can exact a severe psychological and emotional toll on Black GLBTIs.)

The political blogger also stated, "Yet you never read in print, listen to news broadcasts on the radio or television about white gay racism." He makes a valid point--I certainly cannot remember media coverage on the subject.

Just why is that? The blogger's answer is that Caucasians control the mainstream media. "White gays and straights are the top editors, the managing editors, producers, editors-in-chiefs, in the mainstream press. You will also notice the lens will be, of course, from a Eurocentric perspective."

The (Near) Invisibility Of Us All--(I'm Talkin' About Blacks Here)

Over the years, some white GLBTI media--which have included the Advocate, the Washington Blade, and the Dallas Voice--, have been criticized, roundly and sharply, for their lack of coverage of African-American GLBTIs and their issues. As well, these publications have been taken to task for not infusing racial diversity in their works.

The Washington Blade (located in the District of Columbia, my home town), originally entitled the Gay Blade, published its first issue on October 5, 1969. The Blade was established as a way to fill a perceived hole in the organization of social communications within D.C.'s gay community.

Most notably, from day one and through the mid-1980s, many perceived the Blade's news coverage as being "white-washed" for its lack of reporting of D.C.'s Black GLBTI population. I find all of this fascinating and rather peculiar because during that time period, Blacks were the majority population in the District; at about 70 percent (African-Americans continue to be the majority population, at around 60 percent).

To its credit however, I've seen improvement in the Blade's coverage of the African-American GLBTI population over the last few years. However, the publication needs to "roll up its sleeves" and work even harder if it sincerely wants to be truly representative of this segment of the overall GLBTI community.

Political blogger AngryGayBlackCanadianman mentioned that last year, Rolling Stone magazine did a feature on Charles Knipp/"Shirley Q. Liquor." Both Rolling Stone and Us magazines are owned by Jann Wenner, a white gay man.

For years, Keith Boykin, author, broadcaster and former aide to President Clinton, has asked, "Where are the Black gay couples in the media?" According to Boykin, "the gay and gay-friendly media aren't making it easier to believe" that two African-American males can be in a same-sex relationship.

Boykin asked, "So, do Black same-sex relationships really exist? Sure they do. The trouble is, the media doesn't show them. Almost any time we see a Black gay man represented in the media, he's either alone or with a white man. In contrast, white gay men are often shown in relationships with each other.

When almost all the images of Black men are either by themselves or with white men, the message is sent that Black-on-Black relationships either don't matter or don't really exist."
Recently, there have been two television programs about African-American gay men in same-race relationships: here! tv's "The DL Chronicles," and Logo's "Noah's Arc," which has a huge following. "DL" debuted in 2007, with four episodes. Currently, no new episodes are running.

What happened to "Noah" is bewildering, to say the least. Abruptly cancelled last year after only two seasons, "Noah" was Logo's flagship series and it's most popular. Now on DVD, the program continues to have a cult-like following.

According to Boykin, "'Oddly enough, the network never actually made the announcement about the cancellation itself. Instead, the information came from the actors on the show.'" However, soon after word of the series' demise spread, Logo came out with a statement that a "Noah" movie would be produced. The film, "Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom," was released in October.

New movie notwithstanding, why in the world would a network jettison its numero uno cash cow? Knowledgeable sources, which requested anonymity, told me that there were "significant tensions, creative differences, and power struggles" between Patrick-Ian Polk ("Noah" creator/director/writer) and the powers-that-be at Logo. "Interesting," eh?

McClurkin, "Liquor"--White GLBTIs Should Just Say "NO" to both Poisonous Concoctions

Remember last year's political storm that ensued when the Obama campaign invited gospel singer and evangelical pastor Donnie McClurkin to a gospel concert it hosted last year in South Carolina? Up in arms and outraged, gay activists (predominantly white) vehemently attacked and then protested the campaign's move. As you're probably aware, McClurkin has made controversial comments about homosexuality, which he has likened to a "curse," and has stated is a "choice."

The situation became so contentious and inflamed that Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), held a ten-minute call with then Senator Obama, urging that the singer not be allowed to appear at the event. However, the Obama camp did not remove McClurkin, portraying the choice as "a principled decision" and part of the Senator's continuous rhetoric "of bringing people together even if they disagree." Though, the Obama campaign did make a concession: Andy Sidden, a gay South Carolina pastor, gave the prayer that opened the concert.

Now, I've always repudiated McClurkin's odious, noxious homophobic views and comments. Therefore, I was highly offended and disappointed that the Obama camp invited McClurkin in the first place. Although I'm an Obama supporter, I've always felt that the McClurkin invitation was part of a calculated strategy to make further inroads into the African-American community.

And as far as I'm concerned, there's no excuse for that. The entire episode left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Now that I've said that, let me say this: if predominantly white GLBTI organizations (which includes the HRC) believe that McClurkin is so repugnant, shouldn't they direct some of that same righteous indignation towards the racism Charles Knipp embodies in his despicable "Shirley Q. Liquor" caricature? And if the white gay intelligentsia/power structure can demand censure of actor Isaiah Washington, they should be willing to do the exactly same regarding Knipp. Think about it.

Can't We All--Black and White GLBTIs--Play Together?

From the very beginning, countless predominantly white GLBTI bars and clubs (and GLBTI organizations, for that matter) have yanked their welcome mats away from the feet of African-Americans. Sadly, this practice continues today.

In 2005, the San Francisco HRC found that Les Natali, a Castro bar owner, had discriminated against Black patrons and job applicants in violation of local anti-discrimination laws. But because Badlands was not a city contractor, the HRC didn't have the authority to levy fines or take other punitive measures against the bar. Subsequently however, a mediated settlement was reached between the complainants and Natali. Terms of that settlement were not disclosed.

Over the years, several of my white gay friends and associates have asked, "Why are Black Gay Prides necessary? Aren't the Black gays and lesbians who attend them practicing a form of segregation?"

rac4.jpgI've always responded with a resounding "No." Let me elaborate.

Largely, Black Prides were established in the early '90s because many gay pride events were overwhelmingly white. From a single, pivotal event in Washington, D.C. in 1990, Black Gay Pride has grown to 35 gatherings nationwide which generally attract 300,000 individuals between April and October.

African-American lesbian columnist and blogger Jasmyne A. Cannick stated, "'There are still only sprinkles of African-Americans at the mainstream celebrations. As Black lesbians and gays, we wanted to celebrate not only our sexual orientation and identity but our race and cultural heritage as well.'"

Which brings us to the cancellation of this past July Fourth's "At the Beach" Los Angeles Black Pride, one of the most highly anticipated and attended Black Gay Prides in the country. Traditionally, the celebration has been held at Point Dume in Malibu. But not this year.

So, what happened? "At the Beach," according to Cannick, "is still a Black event taking place in a predominantly white part of town. A town that for the past several years hasn't been too keen on thousands of Black bodies ascending upon its beaches on a holiday weekend, and finally found a way in an effort to move the celebration from Malibu this year."

She continued. "The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, in cahoots with the City of Malibu, has at the last minute issued a 'special condition,' a 200 percent increase in fees to the tune of $18,000 and a reduction in the hours of operation of Pride, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., this year. They are claiming this is needed because of an incident that occurred last year, an incident in which the Sheriff's are claiming a gun was brandished and a near riot erupted.'' Cannick stated that she attended the 2006 celebration, and didn't remember that incident.

"I'm not surprised, though," the columnist followed with. "It's no secret that over the years, Black Pride participants have consistently and quietly dealt with the harassment and the racism from the Sheriff's office, including having their cars towed, getting ticketed and unwarranted searches."

Cannick ended with, "We know it's no easy task to be Black, but being Black and gay isn't any better at times."

Yeah. You got that right.

Editors' Note: This is part of an ongoing series in conjunction with QBliss magazine. You can find more posts by Wyatt O'Brian Evans at Bilerico-DC or his homepage.


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coloredqueer | March 10, 2009 3:14 PM

I congratulate the folks running this blog to have such an open discussion on racism which our "leaders" in gay rights movement usually try to avoid as it "threatens" their positions of power and wealth.

All the views in this commentary from the attempts of HRC to define gay rights movement as "civil rights" struggles of blacks to racism in gay establishments are the hard facts of life for non-white LGBT people.

I don't think that all whites are racist, however, it is the institutionalized racism that plagues gay organizations. The LGBT rights movement have gone so far with those supremacist attitudes that they have appointed "whites" with a very narrow understanding of the issues to lead groups working on international and immigration rights where "white leaders" using their own white privilged life experiences interpret the needs and rights of "non-whites."

This is a good start of at least acknowledging the issues of racism within the movement and obviously we have a long way to go before accomplishing any real changes. If our influential leaders could put the interests of the broader community above their own self-interests they would be kindly looked upon by history as we all know that in next two decades the demographics of the US would dramatically change and the LGBT rights movement would fall behind in adopting to those realities and would suffer losses -- Prop 8 is a wake up call.

Goodness, that was a lot to digest. I agree w/ some of the statements made by author but not all. I just watched Milk and of course I noticed that people of color nor women were strongly represented in the biopic. Many movements have usurped the language & activities of the civil rights movement. I've always viewed the usage of ideologies from black civil rights movements as an example of how effective the movement's tactics were at generating change. And yes, the gay movement has been primarily represented by white gay males. There is also the question of sexism in the gay movement. Women were not initially included in the movement, as were not blacks. White gay males were able to maneuver throughout the system to generate social & political change because of their privileged status as white men. I remember controversial book, the Isis Papers, but have not read it in many years. Overall, an enlightening and thought provoking commentary on the state of black/white gay relations. Imagine how powerful a social movement could/would be if we were able to somehow embrace the differences among us and join forces. We can all look to Washington to see what happens when American people, gay, straight, black, white, Hispanic, middle eastern, Asian, Native American, young & old, liberal, democrat & republican all come together to support a common cause. Together, we can change our country and impact the world in a positive way.


"As long as the ties that bind us together,are stronger than those that tear us apart, all will be well."

Mojustice

I am sorry, for all the good that this article does, Frances Cress Welsing's views on homosexuality are so morally repugnant and damaging that it is difficult for me to focus on all of the other brilliant points regarding white gays embracing Shirley Q. Liquor, et al. Overall (when I read it 20 or so years ago), in spite of it's incisive points, it was a tract of black supremacy as opposed to white supremacy; it was like every other nationalism (i.e. Nazism) that I have every read about, only in blackface.

Also, I am not sure if I would give the "liberal media" as much credit for being pro-gay and anti-black, occasionally exactly the opposite can occur.

Yes, these are sensitive topics that must be discussed, but the discussion needs to take place both ways.


I watch CNBC the financial channel all day every day. Keith Boykin is a favorite talking head of Larry Kudlow's, of the Kudlow show. He usually represents Obama's financial plans. Boykin never come out as a gay man or for gay marriage, or two black men getting married. Why not ? Is he afraid of giving conservative jackass Kudlow a heart attack ? Boykin is good at criticizing the media, but he IS the media.
Shirley Q Liquor is an old story and that old horse has been beaten to death on all the blogs. Is she still around in Texas ?
The second in command of the NGLTF is an African American woman executive, GLAAD has an influential African American executive on it's board, HRC has a whole panel of African American "people of faith" on it's committee, ect. ect., so I don't understand where the argument is that LGBT orgs don't hire African American LGBT's. They sure do alot more than President Obama's administration.

Kevin

Greetings! First, I want to thank you, "Coloredqueen," and "Mojustice" for taking the time to weigh in with such thoughtful, substantive comments. Bravo.

Kevin, let me state that my fervent desire to
open up a bold, honest and meaningful conversation about racism--particularly within the GLBTI Community--was the major reason why I crafted this series. Thank you and the others for helping me realize that. I believe it's a conversation that's long overdue.

About Dr. Welsing: I, too, wholeheartedly agree with you that her statements about homosexuality are indeed "morally repugnant" and potentially damaging.

However, her statements on the origins/roots of racism, and its appalling, devastating and chronic affect and impact on people of color--particularly Blacks--have tremendous merit. And certainly shouldn't be overlooked. Or discounted.

I sincerely believe that we can reject some statements/ideas/beliefs a particular person espouses; however though, we do have the capacity to find merit in other statements that same person makes. We have to practice being objective, and being open-minded.

I don't expect each reader to agree with everything I present here. But, look what's now happenin'--a worthy dialgoue; an engaging, enlightening conversation.

So now, let's come together as a "Collective Community"--GLBTIs of all races and ethnicities--and "handle our bizness."

Great article, Wyatt. It gives a lot to think about.

I don't know much about Welsing's thoughts on anything other than what's quoted here, but her description of the origin of racism sounds pretty accurate to me, considering:

1. The "one-drop" rule
2. The new-ish Christian fundamentalist movement in Europe to prevent a "demographic winter"; that is, to prevent the white race from being out-numbered by other races
3. The fear many white people in the US have that Mexican/latino immigration literally means that part of the US will be ceded to Mexico, and that people in Mexico are planning this
4. The amount of energy spent by racists not just to maintain white superiority, but to maintain racial segregation
5. The way people of color, especially black people, get defined by the media as less attractive than white people
6. The number of times I've heard racists complain that "white people are becoming a minority in their own damn country"

Yeah, I never heard that theory stated quite like that, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

As a gay man of color who is also a sociologist, I tend to have more of a Marxist view of how racism came about. This whole idea of "envy" and fear of losing one's gene pools smacks of the early 20th century eugenicists. For my money, I think the Smedley's Race in North America and the ideas discussed on the PBS documentary "Race: The Power of an Illusion" resonate with me. But the problem you discuss is real, wherever we think it came from...

A great author who discusses the ramifications of the slave system on African Americans is Dr. Joy Leary. She wrote "Post_traumatic Slave Syndrome"--EXCELLENT book that I highly recommend.

Wyatt O'Brian Evans | March 10, 2009 8:26 PM

Chris

Thanks much for your input, and for sharing those resources--notably Dr. Leary--with us!

This gives me the opportunity to, on BILERICO, show my appreciation to Mr. Russell Olivera, Executive Director/Founder/Editor-In-Chief, of QBLISS for allowing me to create and run this series.

You can read the series in its entirety at
www.qbliss.net. Also, please feel free to visit my personal website: www.wyattobrianevans.net.

Anthony in Nashville | March 10, 2009 9:06 PM

Wyatt,

While this was a thought-provoking piece and I look forward to reading future installments, I have to disagree with a couple of points.

Quoting Welsing to set up your article is very problematic. She is very well known for equating being gay with weakness, and blames black gay men in particular for destroying the black family and falling under the "spell" of white men. I went to one of her speeches, and she said black men smoking cigarettes indicated a desire to perform oral sex on a white man. She is crazy, and a favorite reference for "conscious" black people who want to justify their homophobia.

As for Shirley Q Liquor, the only times I hear about her are from other black LGBTs. Maybe I've just been in polite company, but I do not think she has a lot of appeal in the "mainstream" gay community. She is a fringe artist at best who is undeserving of any attention. I believe she counts on these frequent "exposes" by black LGBTs to stretch the 15 minutes of fame she used up years ago.

You do raise a good point in that white gay men love them some Donna Summer, Janet Jackson, Mary J, Oprah, Beyonce, et al. But they don't seem to have any experience or friendships with black people. Are black people just there for entertainment?

For me, the clearest example of racism in the gay community was the cancellation of Noah's Arc. I don't think anyone has gone on the record with an explanation for why Logo killed the show. Maybe there was a lot of behind the scenes drama, like with Dave Chappelle's show, that we just won't be privy to. But you can bet that a white show would not have been treated so poorly.

With regard to LGBT leadership, I feel it's a double edged sword. The gay movement has almost always been focused on white men, who tend to adopt a "we know best" attitude when it comes to making decisions, even if it's something they have no experience with. On the other hand, I see very few black LGBTs stepping up and trying to become involved with these organizations. At a certain point, you have to work with the people who are making themselves available for organizing/service/appearances.

Wyatt O'Brian Evans | March 10, 2009 9:45 PM

Anthony

I'm loving this! "The Conversation" is continuing. Thanks so much for your thoughtful, insightful comments.

Now, allow me to respond to some of your points:

1. Too much of what you term the "mainstream gay" community has embraced, and continues to embrace, this despicable caricature. Shirley Q continues to be popular.

2. About "Noah"--there was a lot of "behind the scenes drama". I believe your gut is correct. Actually, I'm privy to what happened; however, I've promised the source who has the direct "lowdown" on what happened that I'd keep my lips "zipped."

3. On Gay Rights Organizations: In the past few years, it appears that these organizations have made a stronger, more concerted effort at being inclusive. However, much more work needs to be done. And, ALL sides of the "racial aisle" (I'm talkin' all races, ethnicities in the GLBTI Community) need to continue to reach out more--and more effectively--to each other.

4. Lastly, Dr. Welsing: she is NOT crazy. Far from it. She's brilliant. I met her face to face at a seminar a little more than 20 years ago. As I stated to Kevin (see earlier post), even though we may not agree with some statements/beliefs/views of a particular individual, we cannot automatically dismiss other statements which that particular individual espouses because they very well may have merit and value.

Being objective and keeping an open mind are some of the ways we can further an open and honest dialogue--and travel the road to solving the problem.

I am sorry, any psychologist that buys the Mandingo theory of black masculinity (blacks do have bigger you-know-whats), which was perpatrated by whites, is CRAZY.

And as another poster pointed out, anything that smacks of genetics brings up the issue of eugenics.

To carry Welsing's theory of anxiety in to it's logical conclusion, it would be reasonable to say that gay white men experience the most anxiety in a white dominated power structure because of their inability to reproduce. And me, I should be dead.

The woman (and she may be well-intentioned) is a homophobe and a racist. And many black folks with nationalist inclinations eat this shit up. Is our self-esteem as black people that low to buy this BS?

Better to have used Frantz Fanon for that phase of your argument, Wyatt.

Anthony in Nashville | March 11, 2009 7:13 AM

Hi Wyatt,

Thanks for responding.

You know I would love for you to pour the tea on Noah's Arc, but I understand if you can't tell. The truth will come out at some point.

You may be right about Liquor's popularity. I certainly didn't know there was a Rolling Stone profile. I'm not denying that some people are feeling her. I was not thinking she was on "that" level, if you know what I mean.

I agree that it will take effort on everybody's part to make sure the LGBT community reflects the diverse makeup of its participants. It's just that so often in my conversations with non-white LGBTs, they seem to believe it's the sole responsibility of whites to "reach out." Sometimes you have to meet folks half way.

You've given me something to think about with regard to Welsing. Obviously, what I recounted earlier is my enduring memory of her and that makes it easy for me to put my foot down on all her ideas. But like the song "Ebony and Ivory," there is good and bad in everyone.

I guess that is part of my problem when dealing with Welsing, Fuller, Steve Coakley, Asante, et al. Some of their ideas sound good but their homophobia cancels them out in my mind. Paying too much attention to them makes me feel like I have to "balance," "separate," or "choose between" my race and sexuality, and I don't have the mental energy for that.

Anthony

I'm Metis, look white and was raised to know nothing about or express nothing about my heritage (although I've been trying to reconstruct that since), which allowed me into the locker room, so to speak, while growing up (which was a bit chilling at times, and I'm ashamed to admit that I was not as quick to defend Native peoples as I was to defend GLBT people while still in those closets). White culture is completely blind to its own prejudices. It's not unusual to hear "oh, I have nothing against Native people, my friend is Native, etc." and then a minute later they're talking about stereotypical associations with alcoholism and violence. I think some of these organizations might be more open to do something about prejudice within the GLBT community, but need to be challenged more to actually see where it exists in themselves and around them. And that's not going to happen as long as white-dominant organizations surround themselves with white people.

But it's also wrong to assume that understanding racism will lead a person to rid themselves of their own prejudices. It made me sick when David Ahenakew, a former First Nations leader, sounded off against the Jewish peoples and tried to justify genocide. We can't assume who our allies and enemies are.

Wyatt O'Brian Evans | March 10, 2009 10:06 PM

Mercedes

Thanks so much for sharing your personal and heartfelt story. I appreciate that.

In order to help stamp out racism, we have to first understand it. Then analyze it. And that leads to the creation of an open and honest dialgoue, which, therefore, will put us on the path to reach our end result.

Keep reading!

Maybe some white LGBT's can be intimidated by blacks accusing us of racism if that is what your aim is in this blog. However, I don't feel any hatred towards our black brothers and sisters, haven't lynched you, haven't tarred and feathered you, haven't locked you up, we have just been kind to you. Maybe we don't mingle in gay bars but neither do you. We have a common denominator of being queer and sexual lovers. I really feel your anger is misplaced and aimed towards us white LGBT[s) and away from the enemy, bigoted heterosexual white bigots in Texas and Washington D.C.
If your aim is to intimidate through white guilt for black gay power, I don't think it will work with the queer community.

This is from President Obama's book, Audacity of Hope regarding a bigot that said the N word in front of his father, Barry.
In a bar in Waikiki, Barry was having a drink with his father-in-law when a large white redneck loudly announced that he didn’t see why he should have to drink with a "n****r."

Barry walked across the bar, looked the redneck in the eye, and quietly lectured him on the folly of bigotry.

"This fella felt so bad when Barry was finished," recalled Gramps Stanley Dunham, "that he reached into his pocket and gave Barry a hundred dollars. Paid for everyone’s drinks on the spot. And Barry’s rent for the rest of the month."

It was a frequently told story that would inspire Barack when he was growing up – a fable telling how it was possible to heal even the ugliest of America’s racial scars.


Anthony in Nashville | March 11, 2009 7:55 AM

Charles, I usually agree with your comments but this response is giving me the sense that you've already decided not to take this article seriously.

I didn't read anything in Wyatt's essay that proclaimed a desire to "intimidate" white LGBTs through "white guilt." He is just putting some unpleasant facts out there.

True, white gays may not have practiced some of the violent acts you described (most white straights haven't, either). But things don't have to be that explicit in order to be discriminatory.

In bars, for example, I think there is difference between not speaking to someone and a policy that unofficially bars blacks from entering the establishment. I've read enough stories, and experienced it myself, to know that happens in gay clubs. And it's basically accepted by white gays.

Then you have the issue of media images, or lack thereof, which has been raised many times but continue to be unacknowledged. I look at the recent Advocate with Matthew Mitcham on the cover. The Wanda Sykes interview in the same issue was more historic and substantive, and I believe she is more popular than Mitcham, yet she was bumped from the front page in favor of a storyline that, frankly, we've already seen with Greg Louganis.

With people complaining there aren't any openly gay black celebrities, I think this was a missed opportunity to show that the mainstream LGBT community values non-white LGBTs.

And of course there is the porn industry which I admit is a dicey area because everyone is sexualized and people have different motivations for consuming it. But I think the low production quality of black-oriented porn, as well as an unwavering reliance on the homothug or Mandingo buck archetypes, says that many white gay men reduce black men to "a big penis with a face."

Anthony

On one hand Charles, I agree with you that the tone, sometimes, of black LGBT's in a dialogue such as this tends to be rather preachy and accusatory in tone as opposed to a dialogue. Starting this essay with even those quotes by Welsing, for example, is a firebomb.

But I would like to hear a description from you as to how kind "you" have been to "us." We can go back as recently as the blow up after Proposition 8 that took place in the blogosphere. Or the lack of outreach to our ethnic (black and Latino) communities in California, as if you either took the vote for granted or gave it up for loss (but you weren't respectful enough to think that you had to "win" the minority vote) Or the Shirley Q. Liquor story. Or the segregation in gay bars in San Francisco. Or the dearth of black LGBTs in high profile gay civil rights organizationns (until recently). And let's not go to the Mandingo assumptions that white gay men make of black gay (and occasionally "straight") men in the bar scene. How about in Chicago, when some gay black teens on Halsted Street were seen as a threat to the neighborhood. Those are examples that fly off the top of my head. I trust that others could provide examples.

None of that sounds very kind to me.

Frankly, I think that it has less to do with "white supremacy," per se, and more to do with the fact that "being gay" is the only location where a gay white man experiences discrimination, therefore the assumption that "being gay" is the default discrimination experience for everyone that identifies as LGBT.

To be frank, that would be true for me. I've gone to Black Gay Prides, for example, and have been accused by people of being "too white." I don't go to them anymore, but that is a personal decision. I understand why they should exist. And so should you.

Hi Kevin
How kind have I been? I worked hard and donated dollars to get Ron Oden, an out gay black man elected Mayor of Palm Springs a few years back. He won due to overwhelming support from white gay men.
I don't see this whining blog helpful. Pam Spauldings always puts forward a well reasoned arguments about the racial divide in the LGBT community. Jasmyn Cannick also puts forward an intelligent argument. To blur the lines and accuse white LGBT's of being responsible for the Tuskeegee experiment is just plain wrong and silly.

Charles, I did not mean you in a personal sense. I interpreted "we" and "you" as equating to the at-large gay community and the black community.

No offense intended.

And just to balance it out:

1) We can't very well throw Shriley Q. Liquor in white LGBTs face and not look at our own tepid response to the highly offensive stereotypes of black women and black gay men (which affects all LGBTs) by Tyler Perry simply because he's "making coin" (far more than Knipp) and he's black.

2. At least white LGBT's did march on the religious institutions that they felt oppressed them: the Mormon Church, Saddleback, the Catholic Church, etc. We neither condemned nor marched on conservative black churches that spout the exact same homophobic garbage in black communities. Hell, many of us are still in those churches, for reasons that I DO understand.

Personally, I was glad to see white LGBT's march on churches, even though there was a backlash for that.

3. There would have been nothing wrong with both condemning Isiah Washington and criticizing the over-reaction to him. Again, our primary response: we leapt to his defense.

After all, if I remember correctly, one of the reasons David Geffen was dragged out of the closet kicking and screaming was because they protested Andrew Dice Clay more or less the same way, if not even more vehemently.

Anthony in Nashville | March 11, 2009 8:06 AM

I agree that some black people will act like Tyler Perry and other celebrities can do no wrong because they're "getting paid" and anyone who criticizes them must be "hating." But history has shown that there's always money available for black folks if you are willing to promote a stereotype. Do we value dignity as much as money? I think we know the answer to that question.

The church issue is one I can't really speak on with authority since I quit attending many years ago, but it's still frustrating to see black gays have such devotions to these institutions that do not respect them. I look at that program in Atlanta a few months ago (where Al Sharpton delivered his classic line about preachers looking for trade) as an example of the kind of outreach that will hopefully become more common.

Wyatt O'Brian Evans | March 11, 2009 8:18 AM

Again, I'm loving this! I want to thank everyone for their comments. We're creating a heartfelt dialgoue on racism, particularly within the GLBTI community.

We all have to be able to practice objectivity to find the necessary solutions to complicated problems. True, Dr. Welsig is homophobic. But her theories on race have merit and value. When you really analyze them in an objective manner, they make a lot of sense.

To Charles--if you're really reading and digesting this series, you'll know what my "aim" is.

And, I don't believe there's anything wrong with the "tone" of this series. I state very early on that I don't believe that all whites are racist.

And if it takes a "firebomb" to open up that honest and bold dialgoue and conversation on the subject--since there's been so much "verbal constipation" which continues to shut down this very discussion--so be it. That's a good thing!

To narrow the racial divide and to come together as a Collective Community, isn't it worth it to seriously consider ideas, concepts and beliefs that we might not normally consider? Isn't that part of President Obama's philosophy?

Wyatt, considering my reaction to Dr. Welsing, I can well imagine what the white gay reaction to Dr. Welsing would be; then you have the merry-go-round bitchfest all over again.

In one sense, introducing Welsing isn't all bad: one thing that a white LGBT wouldn't understand is that a black LGBT is often hit witha race appeals to justify homophobia. The whole gay=white thing. While a poster on another blamed that phenomenon on the dearth of exposure in mainstream LGBT organizations (and there is some truth to that), that particular meme predates Stonewall. It's been out there for a long time. And a white LGBT may not understand that such appeal exists at all or why it exists. They may not understand how powerful that appeal is or how to cut through it.

In that sense, introducing Welsing may not be a bad thing.

One more thing. One effect of racism (generally, not in the gay community) is that there are statements that we hear in black communities that we don't talk about outside of those circles. While I understand why AAs do that, we can't very well ask for help from the GLBT community at large if we remain silent about some of those things as well.

Wyatt O'Brian Evans | March 11, 2009 10:41 AM

Kevin

Your valid points are well-taken.

Please keep reading the series because as you'll soon see, I address all sides of this complicated issue.

One more thing, then I have to work. LOL.

Let's be sensitive to the fact the neither black communities nor gay communities are monolithic; the A-List gays vs. the D-List gays would be one example, accounting for regional differences.

Too often discussions like this break into a neat and lazy binary of gay-black. That's problematic.

Charles, you are way kinder to Jasmyne Cannick than I am.

I am not doubting your individual efforts commitment to bridge the divide.

And I am unaware of the accusation that you describe about the Tuskeegee experiment.

And please read my note below vis-a-vis viewing both communities as monoliths.

My read on this from a mainstream gay community perspective (which may be simplistic and flat out wrong) is that class divisions in gay communities are simmering up, especially in the aftermath of the Prop 8 debacle. Class differences are also appearing in black communities as well (middle- class blacks and blacks in positions of political power are and have speaking on behalf of gays for years). I think that may be my other minor objection to the article, class is as much of a "firebomb" in this debate as ethnicity.

The article started out over at Bil's introduction bringing in the Tusgehee experiment, and then the firebombs up top, which I didn't think were applicable to blame todays modern LGBT movement. I listen to Pam Spaulding on Sirius radio give a very intelligent and spot on discussion about race. I guess I am spoiled by reason.
Wyatt comes from a Texas perspective, but Michael Crawford was once with HRC and I don't understand blasting non-profits because of discrimination. Another thing that is troubling about the article are the male models with no captions. I thought the cute Asian guy was the owner of the bar that prohibited blacks since his photo was next to the incident reported. Very confusing and not professional OpEd.

I have to go read that, then, but considering the times, I very highly doubt that those who did the Tuskegee Experiment were "out."

Staying in the closet would completely afford them to act in ways that are complicit with white supremacy. Of course, one can be "out" and be racist at the same time but there is no doubt that being "out" can also force someone revise and alter their views as far as racism, sexism, etc.

Yeah, absent the evidence of white closet queens that conducted the Tuskegee experiments, that's a bit of a firebomb. The more specific the context, the better, at least at this point in the conversation.

But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't know about the history of racism in this country so as to be better able to understand the pecuilar anxieties of black people in general and black gay people in particular.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 11, 2009 12:20 PM

I agree with Kevin about the utility of Franz Fanons ideas. Fanon’s books The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks are often thought of as just anti-colonialist but they make a lot of sense if you look at racism in France and the US as a justification for internal colonialism, a policy of separating a part of the work force for superexploitation, ghettoization and unequal treatment. Anyone who rents the film Battle of Algiers can see the blazing power and truth of his ideas. I checked and both Brainblocker and Netflix carry it. It got the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival and was banned in France for a time so you know it’s a an excellent flic.

The stats you mentioned plus all the recent economic stats are a confirmation of the role that racism plays in internal colonialism in the US. Across the board African American make less, find it more difficult to get credit, have less savings and a much larger huge unemployment rate, especially among teens and younger adults. In the last few months as the economy ground to a halt almost 4 million working people have been fired. Last hired; first fired is still in effect - 13.4% are Black. This is on top of an uncounted pool of unemployed and underemployed people already in place because of Clinton’s NAFTA, a policy which led to the massive export of union jobs with good pay and benefits.

Yor're right to challenge the idiocy that things have gotten better. Lunchcounters and votes aside, they've gotten worse.

I think the easiest way to handle scum like Charles Knipp is to do him what we do to Buju Banton and Sizzla; scandalize him and organize a serious boycott against him thru our websites. Boycotts work. Several Jamaican homophobic reggae artists are screaming because the get canceled as often as not. Lets see to it that Charles Knipp gets a chance to scream too.

In terms of carrying this dialog forward I think thats very important. We lost in California because the liberal self-appointed GLBT leadership is Eurocentric in the extreme. No on 8, rather than confront Obama's bigoted statement "Gawd's in the mix" simply and patronizingly ignored it. And critically, they absolutely refused to do any outreach in 'minority' communities in California, a staggering strategic blunder in a state where Euroamericans are not the majority. I and plenty of others were warning about that months before the election and were saddened but unsurprised about the vote and the racist finger pointing after the election.

By all means keeps this conversation going. I've never seen a better one or a more necessary one at Bilerico

A. J. Lopp | March 11, 2009 1:14 PM

This post contains 3,616 words. That is not a blog post, that is a book chapter. In less than 24 hours, this post has attracted over 25 comments, most of them being lengthy in themselves. Too big a bite, too much to chew, so many points to discuss that is it inevitable that some important points will not get discussed at all. We all want a discussion, but the size and scope of the post puts us immediately into info-overload.

I hope future installments will appear in chunks that are more manageable.

Also, it's being framed with such an overarching macro POV of "racism" that white LGBTs are bound to be offended at this point in the discussion. It's almost recreating the gay=white equation again.

Movement from the micro (racism as it exists specifically in the LGBT communities at large) to the macro (racism as a system of oppression in all of society) might make it easier to consider the arguments as opposed to getting defensive from the outset.

Anthony in Nashville | March 11, 2009 1:58 PM

I can see your point. This is getting rather lengthy. But I would like to think that reflects the level of interest in the topic. I don't know how they can break this into more "digestable" portions.

I thought this was a good effort, but there are some things that raised concerns.

First, I didn't know about Dr. Welsing before reading this article and the responses, but her theory of the origin of racism doesn't seem accurate. Racism, as I remember from anthropology and history classes, started as an ideological justification for slavery and colonialism, often bolstered by "scientific racism." Obviously, anxieties about a future in which whites are the minority does a lot to fuel the racism we see today, but I think that's more superficial, and white supremacism is more about keeping white people in a position of power and privilege than it is about fears of population decline.

Second, I'm willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt because he was using his own expertise as a black man, but there seems to be this prevailing notion that racism is all white-on-black. Though it had some nice stock photography photos of a black guy, a Latino guy, a white guy and an Asian guy, it had virtually no discussion of racism beyond the white-black dichotomy. I'm Caucasian, but was raised by a Native American step-father, and he always had a sense of people who aren't black or white being sort of ignored in the dialog on racial and ethnic issues.

It wouldn't be my place, and I'm not necessarily saying the author should try and tackle this, but I would like to see something about racism against Asians in the gay community, which I've long thought was taken for granted and accepted even more than racism against blacks (maybe I'm wrong, but that's my perception). I remember once when a friend took me to a bar in San Francisco that was frequented by a lot of Asian guys, and during a show where they brought a guy on stage and asked him if he was a top or bottom, he replied that he was a top; the guy sitting next to me said something like "If he had said he was a bottom, he'd have guys all over him."

On a related note, something about racial fetishization would be nice to see as well. This is something that comes from all angles, whether it's "rice queens" (white guys with a strong preference for Asian guys), "sticky rice" (Asian guys who exclusively date Asian guys) or the "Sorry, not into [insert race here] guys" line commonly seen in personal ads. It's one thing to be attracted to certain features that might be common in a particular race or ethnicity, but sticking exclusively to one race and/or rejecting another wholesale is where that crosses the line into racism, I think.

A. J. Lopp | March 12, 2009 3:59 PM

Yes, Larry, re your paragraph "Second": Equating the word "racism" with "white supemacy" is one of the major problems with this post --- it immediately erases the possibility that all races have to deal with racism to some extent (even whites), it then re-defines and mis-uses the word "racism" to mean only whites oppressing blacks, thereby defining whites as the only ones to blame, and evading the fact that racist attitudes can and do exist among all races, including blacks. I'll freely admit that white-on-black racism is the most pronounced form of racism in America, but I reject the idea that this particular configuration of racism can be corrected while ignoring all other configurations. We cannot end up with a disease-free society if we only address particular sub-set of patients that display a particular sub-set of symptoms.

I'm not familiar with Dr. Welsing, but one thing seems clear: Racism is a form of tribalism that developed in human nature millenia ago, has something to do with the survival of one's own group, and is today a survival-negative vestige of a behavior pattern that may have been once survival-positive (perhaps pre-civilization ... perhaps!).

So I think we have to admit upfront that racism, like tribalism, is a part of our human nature, and that eradicating it will involve us developing a "second nature" --- but civilized people do this all the time, such as when we go to the bathroom to urinate/defecate instead of just finding a remote clump of weeds, eating with utensils instead of with our unwashed hands, or tolerating the people next door who attend a different house of worship.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 14, 2009 6:21 PM

…one thing seems clear: Racism is a form of tribalism that developed in human nature millenia ago…” …racism, like tribalism, is a part of our human nature.

Wrong on both counts. Tribalism, prehistoric and modern is small in scale, very limited geographically and almost always involves groups sharing the same cultural and physiological characteristics. It is not at all the same as racism.

Racism is very different. It was created in response to the needs of European and Euroamerican business men to justify the horrors they perpetrated. Racism’s very modern creation is a religious justification for the brutal practices of kidnapping millions, treating them with inhuman ruthlessness and forcing them into involuntary servitude. It was in fact the creation of English anglican clergy, Spanish and Portuguese catholic priests and pryspeterian preachers in the pre-revolutionary Southern colonies. It differs from tribalism in its viciousness and death toll, its fundamental ties to economic life and its ruthless and violent longevity.

The sometimes robust and always justified response of Latinos/Latinas and imported workers, Arab Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, native Americans, Pacific-Islanders and so on to the depraved racism of some Euroamericans is not racism in reverse, its simply a defensive reaction. It should be supported, as was the case in Jena Louisiana, not condemned.

Wyatt O'Brian Evans | March 12, 2009 3:44 PM

Larry

Thanks for the insightful comments.

Now Larry, consider this: if racism and white supremacy are not the same, at the very least they are both inextricably linked. And historically, they both have been all about keeping a certain race of people cemented in positions of power and privilege.

And allow me to play "devil's advocate"--
various quarters have argued the following: "how can a certain group really be racist if that group really has no power--particularly institutionally?"

Keep in mind that this is a series--which means that it is unfolding. Do keep reading and have patience. The points you make, and the issues you bring up will be explored and addressed. Trust me, it's worth the wait.

And, I wish to thank Mr. Bill Perdue for stating yesterday that this series is an "important" conversation which needs to continue. Comments such as those make the endeavor all worthwhile.

Oh, okay... I figured this was a one-time sort of thing. I'll definitely keep my eye out for the next one, then. :)

I think it's important to point out that racism has more than just one definition -- it can include both structural racism and racial bias.

Regarding the question of whether a group can or can't be considered racist if it has no power, I'm familiar with that one, and I believe Spike Lee said something to that effect some years back. I think it's a very harmful idea that constitutes little more than excuse making. My answer to it, however, would be "Yes." Just because a group doesn't have power, that doesn't mean people who belong to it can't attempt to belittle others in order to aggrandize themselves.

Would you argue that the black radio DJ in New York who wrote a song making fun of victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and even called them "chinks" wasn't racist? What about the men who beat Jose Sucuzhanay to death while shouting anti-Latino slurs -- are they immune to accusations of racism because they're black? And what about Chinese-Americans I've met who casually refer to blacks as "Hakgwai" -- do you think a white person who spoke Cantonese coined that term? Or people I've met in mainland China who consider blacks to be of lower intelligence? Or the Nation of Islam's official belief that whites are all "devils" and the result of "grafting" by a mad scientist thousands of years ago?

In all of these examples, we see people attempting to elevate themselves above others on the basis of skin color, which is the very essence of racism, even if they don't necessarily have a political or economic means of institutionalizing their attitudes.

It's true that ideological racism is mostly a creation of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants in the 19th century (which is noteworthy because in those days, "white" was synonymous with "WASP"), but it's obvious that racism is present among people of all colors.

I think A.J. Lopp made an excellent point: Racism -- in general, not the ideological form -- is just another form of the tribalism that's bred into the human species. To assert that it's inextricably linked to white supremacy is both unfair and dangerous.

A. J. Lopp | March 12, 2009 4:15 PM
And allow me to play "devil's advocate"-- various quarters have argued the following: "how can a certain group really be racist if that group really has no power--particularly institutionally?"

I thoroughly disagree ---

(1) Racism at its core is not the actual exercise of actual institutional power, it is the attitude that the social wellbeing of one race politically and socially trumps the social wellbeing of another. Again, you are setting up your definitions so that racist attitudes that might exist within the black population are defined out of existence. This leads the discussion in a direction that is fundamentally unfair and useless.

(2) Blacks today are no longer institutionally powerless --- they can vote, they can attend college, they can begin businesses that earn millions and billions of dollars, they can star in athletics, they can win Grammies and Oscars, they can be elected president. Your argument, if it has any validity at all, is 160 years out of date. We need to discuss racism as it exists in today's America, not the America of 1860.

Wyatt O'Brian Evans | March 12, 2009 4:58 PM

A. J.

Thanks for your input. Varying points of view are important.

I'm not going to do a "back and forth" with you-- which would be counterproductive--but I must address a few things.

Volumes of reputable stats, studies, etc., attest to the fact that people of color--particularly African-Americans--continue to face chronic, crippling institutional racism. Therefore, my "argument" as you term it, is quite valid--and is not "160 years out of date."

As I told Larry--be patient. This is a series, which means it is unfolding. And, I respectfully ask you to allow yourself to breathe, keep an open mind, don't have preconceived notions--and by all means, try not be defensive.

And A.J., please GOOGLE Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a contributor to CNN. She's written an eye-opening, on-the-mark commentary on race which will give you more of the correct understanding about how institutional racism continues to afflict people of color.

A. J. Lopp | March 12, 2009 8:42 PM

I did not say that institutional racism does not exist --- it does, in many forms, and some instances disadvantage more races than just blacks -- but you employed the phrase "really has no power --- particularly institutionally" and I want to point out that, while that may have once been the case, it is not the case in 2009.

Today there is enough institution power in the American black population, in the form of successful black businesses, historically black universities, black media outlets, black celebrity power, black athletic stars, etc., that it is absurd to claim that they are helpless to push back against racism, or to even employ counter-racism if they were to so choose. In fact, if your claim were totally correct, then the 1960's Civil Rights Movement would have been impossible.

It is a disservice not to acknowledge the power that your group (any group outside the privileged class) does have, because it discourages individuals from doing what they can, and encourages the "playing victim" mentality. And Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, Oprah, Denzel, P. Diddy Combs, Chris Rock, Vernon Jordan, Henry Louis Gates, Jay-Z and Beyonce --- yes, they all experienced a certain measure of racism, institutional and otherwise, but none of them got to where they are today by playing victim.

colored queer | March 12, 2009 7:53 PM

Wyatt,

You have done an excellent job here in leading this discussion and at least making people pause and think. The LGBT community had put a lid on racism for too long and it just got exploded after prop 8. So, it is an excellent start.

I am just curious if you have been invited to national and state gay organizations to lead such discussions with their board, staff and membership. Since most gay orgs are so white they could really use some help with their thought process and that would help the LGBT movement as a whole. You know issues of institutionalized racism in gay community, lack of LGBT persons of color (all races including blacks) in leading roles in gay establishments, and media etc. All those defenses that we can't find black people, latin people, asian people to be involved are sort of pretty lame excuses and I am quite sure after prop 8 there would be a serious "rush" for diversification with some tokens of color but beyond those gestures I think it would really help LGBT movement if folks like you could help open the minds of our "leaders."

Otherwise, remember those Republican Conventions on TV with sea of endless white faces and some people of color positioned for cameras and that is one thing which really helped Obama and mainstream media ran with..all those white men in that party who just could not connect. Is that what is happening to gay rights movement?? no new faces, lack of fresh ideas and energies to organize people of all colors at grassroots level, power in the hands of few whites at the top, killing of healthy debates with disagreements, dismissing our diversity...list goes on..and then we turn around and start bashing others for our losses..

Wyatt O'Brian Evans | March 12, 2009 10:39 PM

A.J.

To a large degree, you are off the mark. You need to re-read my last post to you. And do continue reading the series.

And to you, "ColoredQueen"--Wow. We are of the same mindset!

As far as working with national gay organizations are concerned, my manager and I are developing and working on several projects regarding this issue. For me, this issue goes beyond what I'm doing for BILERICO and QBLISS.

In rhe coming months, I'll let everyone know more. Please routinely visit my website,
www.wyattobrianevans.net and join my email list for updates, etc. That way, you'll be the first to know.

"ColoredQueen," thanks much for your interest and support!

You seem to refuse to acknowledge the point I am making, that blacks are not so powerless that racist attitudes on their part can be or should be summarily dismissed.

This is obviously territory where you refuse to go. I'm not surprised, you're not the first black writer who claims there is no such thing as black racism ... and as for persuading you, I give up.

Wyatt O'Brian Evans | March 12, 2009 10:52 PM

"Colored Queer"

My bad--I've been referring to you as
"Colored Queen." My apologes.

Everyone,

I am a white gentleman and I can say is this is a superb series on racism, a much needed topic of discussion. We ALL need to think about this and be open and sincere on the discussion on racism. Racism has always been around and it is enlightening to read Mr. Evans well-written article and take on it.

Yes, this may be a little lengthy for some people, I totally disagree with that. There can never be enough written, thought or discussed about the issue of Racism. Mr. Evans may have had some thoughts or made some comments that does not suit everyone, but isn't that the Freedom of Speech and Press, tht this great country has.

Mr. Evans is a gifted writer and it is refreshing to have the needed discussion and message heard. I appreciate Mr. Evans for "hitting the nail on the head." I hope Mr. Evans explores this subject more as well as many numerous controversial subjects.

I would like to thank The Bilerico Project for allowing Mr. Evans to share this series and I hope we see more of this writer. Bilerico, I thoroughly enjoy your site, daily.

thanks again, Norm

Yeah, A.J., the anti-Latino and the anti-gay slurs that were thrown at Jose S. when he was killed really bothered me, as I was a witness to something similar over 20 years ago. My feeling is we can go up and down who has what type of power in this society. One thing is for sure; the murderer had "the power" to beat the man to death with a baseball bat.

I have also felt that way about people like Dr. Welsing and other black nationalists who say )more or less) that homosexuality is a white thing. Then it would seem to me that racism is a component of homophobia for some blacks (I've heard and read this many times). As far as power is concerned, there is little that could be done to affect a white man within the structures of domination, but the power that can be exercised against a gay or lesbian of color can be devastating.

Why are black people such shit starters? Wyatt Evans, you, are crazy so are every person you referenced.

Black Gay Pride events were organized so they could be black ONLY not because of racism. Blacks always participated in Gay Pride events.

Blacks do not come out in the same numbers as whites because they have this bigoted notion that being gay is white. Lack of media representation is because of lack of openness. The only out black gay people in mainstream media are RuPaul, Wanda Sykes and Wilson Cruz (half black). This lack of representation will continue until black gay people hold those anti-gay bigots in their community accountable.

It's an insult to compare gay people's struggle with that of blacks. Gay people have faced oppression all over the globe for thousands of years. Blacks have not. Being gay is punishable by death in some countries (mostly in Africa and Southwest Asia) and even more in the past including the United States. That never happened to blacks. Gay people's very existance have been questioned. Not so with blacks. I don't want gay people's PEACEFUL struggle for EQUALITY compared with black people's struggle.

"It's an insult to compare gay people's struggle with that of blacks. Gay people have faced oppression all over the globe for thousands of years. Blacks have not."

Actually, it is a mistake to compare different civil rights movements in this way. This is not a contest about who is the most marginalized, or who suffers more. The circumstances will differ, the laws pertaining will differ, the spin on history will differ (and, um, yes, people have been killed for being black, many times with the assent of the law, so I don't know how you arrive at that one). But all forms of bigotry are an affront. Comparing is a game that nobody wins.

Miguel

Although I appreciate the time you took to comment, it's so sad that you've spewed such vitriol and used such inappropriate language. And the insults you've hurled at me make me seriously question your sanity.

Miguel, you are totally off the mark. You need to learn your American history. As well, you need to provide sources to back up your claims.

Keep reading, however. It's my sincere wish that my series will educate you, and open up your mind. It certainly has touched a nerve with you, which is evidence that you know that the series is presenting various truths. Now, that's a good thing!

Wyatt, deflect, that's all you know how to do. Why do I have to provide evidence? Your whole column was anecdotal, no evidence what so ever.

Miguel

First off, I'm proud of you--you heeded my warning about using inappropriate language and hurling insults. You need to learn that we can disagree without being offensive, rude and ignorant.

Second, I'm not going to have a "back and forth" with you. I have much more important things to accomplish. As you should.

Third, I'm not deflecting--YOU ARE. Miguel, instead of slandering a part of the population, you need to present sources and quotes to back up your inflammatory, odious, defensive, and irrational charges.

Fourth--I'm providing statistics, data, and quotes from experts and first-hand sources. You are not. And, you are not comprehending what you're reading. Now, that's a shame.

Fifth--Get a grip and calm down! Geez! It's beyond obvious that my series (it's not a "column" by the way), has touched a BIG nerve in you. When that occurs, that means there's TRUTH. And usually, lots of it.

I wish you well.