Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

Cool Black Camp: vintage Jet magazine

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | March 04, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Icons and History
Tags: Diahann Carroll, gay history, respectable homosexuals, vintage magazine

A bittersweet flashback to torpedo bras and the struggle for equality. Most amazing to me is that, overall, the public face of Black community seemed more tolerant of sexual diversity in the 1950s than it seems today. Maybe the realities of oppression and inequality were realer to people back then.

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I have to disagree with the inference in this post; that is, that African Americans are more queer-bigoted than Whites or other groups, or that the reality of racism is qualitatively any less today.

In my experience as a queer man, white, who lived my early-mid professional life in a majority Black jurisdiction, the inference that African Americans are more queer intolerant than Whites has never matched my experience. It was African Americans who were my mentors, who welcomed me, and who accepted me in some fundamental ways that many (even) progressive Whites did not. I've experienced that bigotry across race, ethnic, and political lines. In my experience, it's pretty evenly spread and definitely not 'more' in the African American community than any other. The funders of the anti-lgbt hate movement are about as white as they come, and a majority Black city/state -- D.C. -- recently did what 90+% of majority White states would not do: extend equality.

My apologies if I misunderstood the poster, but I hope this "Blacks are more queer-bigoted than Whites" bandwagon stops soon. It's not going anywhere good or useful. This same cover could have been used to posit a different message, one that debunked that very premise.

The magazine cover reflects a questioning at a time when gay panic was at its height. It reflects a larger cultural preoccupation with the place of the "homosexual" in everyday life. In that sense, it's possible that Jet represented a more progressive bent for the time. It's also possible that perhaps the magazine's cover reflected a more ambiguous concern about "homosexuality."

But we won't know any of that from this post because all that's been presented is one cover - plonked down with absolutely no details about what might be inside the magazine, accompanied by a simplistic and deliberately provocative statement. Others here have bothered to try to engage this blog on the level of issues, but I don't think it's worth the intellectual energy they've expended. You've decided that only one magazine cover from 1953 and, according to your response below, a blog from 2010 need be the scope of your entire supposition, gingerly worded with words like "seemed" in a way that might give you an out: "the public face of [the] Black community seemed more tolerant of sexual diversity in the 1950s than it seems today."

If you're going to make quasi-sociological/historical statements like the one above, please have more research and understanding to back you up than a magazine cover from 1953 (without details of the article) and a blog from 2010. I generally enjoy your blogs, and your collection of vintage material. But if you're going to make such broad historical claims, it's best that they come with more thorough attention to context and history.

Here's some historical context for the cover:

In 1955, the town of Boise, Idaho, set about persecuting, harassing, and arresting gay men in a fit of gay panic. "By the time the investigation wound down in January 1957, some 1,500 people had been questioned, sixteen men faced charges and fifteen of them were sentenced to terms ranging from probation to life in prison." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boise_homosexuality_scandal

The vast majority of these men - all white and persecuted by white men, by the way - saw their lives ruined. The Fall of '55, a 2006 film written, directed and produced by Seth Randal, is a good introduction to this terrible and sad story.

Time magazine published "an article called "Idaho Underworld" in which it recounted the initial arrests and convictions and claimed that a "widespread homosexual underground" had "preyed on hundreds of teen-age boys for the past decade".[14] Time followed up on January 2, 1956, reporting additional arrests and sentencing and the suggestion from Boise psychiatrist John L. Butler, who had been appointed director of the Idaho Department of Mental Health in December 1955, that rather than sentencing the homosexual adults to prison terms, the state should instead "build up community supports for them....One alternative might be to let them form their own society and be left alone."[15]"

In this context, it's problematic to even think of "sexual diversity," given that sexuality was seen in fairly black and white terms: Predatory Fags and The Rest of Us.

Another bit of history: Following 9/11, several Black churches were among the few to raise their voices *against* the ramped-up surveillance and profiling of immigrants. That doesn't mean that things were perfect between Black and immigrant communities, but this meant something.

Here's more: Patrick Johnson's recent and engrossing book Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South--An Oral History shows the complicated ways in which Black Southern Churches have actually accomodated gay men. That might not happen in the rainbow-flag clad way we see in say, a gay-friendly church in Chicago, but it happens and it's complicated and worth noting.

We could go on with all kinds of such examples. But the point isn't to keep having to prove whether a community was/is tolerant or not - the point is to contextualise matters, and to not make blanket statements on little more than an image and comments on a blog. This blog does the opposite.

And I would suggest that anything about the supposedly rampant homophobia in the Black community needs to be accompanied by a sense of the blatant racism of the gay community.

Take look at Immigration Equality's blog (since we think blogs represent so much) and their xenophobic comments on immigrants (which will probably get scrubbed out now)? And are we seriously going to miss the blatant racism of the white gay community blaming the Black community for Prop 8?

And are we seriously going to assume that the Black community today does not understand "the realities of oppression and inequality." Seriously? Are we really assuming that what gays are going through today actually equals race-based oppression?

>> "Are we really assuming that what gays are going through today actually equals race-based oppression?"

I'm sorry, but why is that even open to discussion? Are we to play a game of "my oppression is worse than your oppression"?

I doubt many of you were alive in the early 70s, when there was a spate of fire bombs thrown in gay bars, mostly across the South. I can still vividly remember a photo taken after one of them, in which you can see, quite clearly, a cluster of bodies and one outstretched arm trying desperately to get out a roof top level window. Yeah, it's not the same as centuries of slavery, but you want to tell me, seriously, that *anyone* deserves that kind of treatment? Whether black or white or gay or straight or male or female, OPPRESSION IS OPPRESSION. There is no damn barometer or sliding scale. IT JUST IS. And if that's not good enough for you, then maybe we should just stop any discussion of it at all, because it seems/appears/insert verb of choice that no one's going to be happy until their favourite socio/economic group gets preferred treatment in the Oppression Game.

No one's playing oppression Olympics here, but it's interesting to me that you conveniently avoid one sort in order to highlight another. And if someone is going to make a statement like: "Maybe the realities of oppression and inequality were realer to people back then" then, yes, absolutely, they need to be called on their forgetting that oppression and inequality are pretty real to the Black community today.

And seriously - you're now going to decide that someone can talk about what a BLACK magazine's cover says about "homosexuality" and but no one can then talk about how race enters this discussion?

Sean,
Looking through all your comments, it's evident that you're determined to rewrite Gloria Brame's original post AND turn this into an indictment of the Black community's allegedly widespread homophobia. And as for personal examples and history, I think it's safe to say that every one of us writing - and reading this - could come up with both personal and historical examples of lots of incidents.

That doesn't address my point here: Don't use a magazine cover from 1954 and, when you're challenged, a blog from 2010 to make a crudely simplistic and overarching point about history that you simply don't have the research to back up. Sure, it gets eyes to your blog but this is one more example of the ways that teh gayz and their straight allies just don't get the issue of linked oppressions/structures of oppression and choose instead to constantly look for other people to blame - and in a culture where racism lies continually under the skin of everyday discourse, it's easy to choose people of colour to blame every time.

I really disagree, Yasmin. I know I'm projecting here - but it seems more as if you're upset that a white woman posted about the issue.

Where were you when the Rev Irene Monroe said the same thing? Or Pam Spaulding? Or any of the myriad guest posters on Bilerico every Black History Month? There was a whole SERIES on Bilerico about African-American leaders from the 20s-60s that focused on how tolerant the community was then versus now.

And the overwhelming verdict from all bloggers on Bilerico about this topic was that the black community had become more conservative in their politics and attitude toward LGBT rights.

Are African-Americans the most intolerant group of people on the planet? Of course not. You saw me kick back at that idea after Prop 8 went down in flames. But to constantly lash out at anyone who says that a large section of the black community is generally intolerant of LGBT people is like me trying to defend evangelical Christians from Iowa from attack just because they're more than likely white while ignoring all the homophobic things they're currently doing.

It's ridiculous. And it's race-baiting where none was intended.

No, I'm not upset that a white woman posted about this issue. I don't even assume that Gloria is white - and, for that matter, I don't assume that Sean is white, either. White privilege can sometimes be dissociated from actual skin colour - it's a question of wanting to be part of a particular power structure.

But here's the simple point: Gloria Brame's original post was vastly reductive and simplistic, and it used one - then two - short examples to make larger historical points. That's unlike anything else that has appeared here so far - unless you can show me any different. If someone is going to make such vastly generalised and uncomplicated statements, they - and not their defenders in comment threads - should be able to back up their assertions with more facts and analysis.

And I'm not sure what you mean by "constantly lash out" - unless you mean this comment thread here. Otherwise, given that I've actually not been that present or present at on any of the other threads, I'd have to agree you're projecting here.

As for "But to constantly lash out at anyone who says that a large section of the black community is generally intolerant of LGBT people is like me trying to defend evangelical Christians from Iowa from attack just because they're more than likely white while ignoring all the homophobic things they're currently doing." I don't think that's the parallel you mean, is it? This assumes that somewhere in this conversation is someone, presumably me, who is defending homophobia because the homophobes are Black? Um, no. I wouldn't deny homophobia in POC communities, but I'm also asking why those discussions don't come about along with racism in the gay communities.

And I'm also wondering when we give up the monolithic oppression olympics and start talking about how dominant power structures depend on various communities to battle each other for turf and power.

"It's ridiculous. And it's race-baiting where none was intended."

Well, if we are going to talk about race-baiting - which you bring up - there's a case to be made that the original post by Gloria is an example of race-baiting, not my words. I'm sorry, Bil, but I'm tired of white people using that race-baiting accusation when anyone gets called out on their racialised/racist rhetoric.

Yes, you are projecting a great deal here.

Chitown Kev | March 5, 2010 10:10 AM

Bil, I don't have a problem with Dr. Brame posting this.

In fact, I wouldn't have been opposed to her linking to the Black Voices article (although I can understand and appreciate why she didn't do that).

My issue is with the specific content and inferences of what she posted, especially in light of the fact that (as you point out) this material has been done and reviewed again and again by black posters and historians (black and white and straight and gay and white gay...etc.). Certainly, even a cursory review of that material is warranted.

>> "No one's playing oppression Olympics here"

We're not?

Sorry, but when you write "Let's not talk about the gay community's racism because....there's no such thing?", you are very much playing the Game.

"Oppression Olympics" refers to the idea that someone assumes their oppression is somehow ranked higher than that of others and they constantly attempt to show that by engaging in a series of competitions.

When I state, "Let's not talk about the gay community's racism because....there's no such thing?", I'm being sarcastic and pointing to the fact that we don't ask the same questions of gays as we do of Blacks. That's not playing OO, that's pointing to the ways you and others frame the issue in very particular ways to suit yourself.

If anything, as my comments here should make clear, we should be thinking about intersectionality and how the dominant power structures keep things the way they are by playing race against sexuality. Unfortunately, these limited and limiting posts like Brame's and the ensuing comments where commenters like you insist on making it all about demanding answers from the Black community (and without an apparent clue about the implications of putting yourself in that role as the questioner) only end up reinforcing those dominant power structures.

[shrugs] This is not going to be a place for further worthwhile discussion, but I wanted to put my points out there so that people realise they can't keep playing these games unquestioned.

>> "Looking through all your comments, it's evident that you're determined to rewrite Gloria Brame's original post AND turn this into an indictment of the Black community's allegedly widespread homophobia. And as for personal examples and history"

That, ma'am, is your own interpretation. Not mine. If you see it there, you want to.

That's not what Gloria is saying. She's saying that blacks in the 50s appear to have been more tolerant than blacks today. Whites do not enter into the discussion.

Chitown Kev | March 4, 2010 2:26 PM

You saved yourself with that "appears."

And whites DO enter into the discussion because (as the link points out below) we had to petition "whites" for civil rights and considering the history of racist sexual stereotyping, decisions were made to downplay the sexual aspects of the black community.

For political reasons.

For example, it seems as if everyone is soooooo attached to the notion that blacks are so churchified and while there is some truth to that nowadays there was always the classical division between the church folks and the blues folks.

And it's from the blues folks where you get the type of acceptance that Dr. Brame cynically refers to here (and some of the bawdiest homoerotic lyrics, too).

Now, I am not opposed to whites (gay or straight) doing the work on black history (Martin Duberman and John D'Emilio have written at length and very repesctfully about the black community). But do the work and not in some flat and exploitive way.

Well, I suppose if you look deep enough, you can find racism anywhere, even in a magazine published by a black man for a black audience, as Ebony (and, it seems, Jet as well) was. Yes, I went to the link. I even followed through to Wikipedia to see who Johnson was, so that I wasnt being blind sided by a publication for blacks that was published by a white guy. Definitely not the case.

But all this tap dancing around Gloria's question -- were blacks in the 50s more tolerant than blacks today -- is being ignored. Were they or were they not? It's a pretty simple question.

Chitown Kev | March 4, 2010 2:44 PM

Like my Mom used to tell me (and still does on occasion), go look it up...and I mean that seriously, you will be fascinated.

No, Kevin, I want you to tell me, because if I look at it, it's going to be through my supposedly privileged white eyes, and then I'd get called on that if I didnt respond the way you wanted me to.

I'm sorry, but at some point, at the individual level, politics have to stop and personal responsibility has to kick in. I'm gearing up for a move to another country, to a part of that country where I dont speak the language particularly well and my age (which is closer to 60 than I care to admit) will be a deterent. I could just say I'm going to be discriminated against on both of those points -- which I will be, and I know it -- or I cold say fine, bite the proverbial bullet, and do it anyway, which is what I've decided to do. And I know the possible consequences, and I know I will be responsible for them. No one else.

So here's the deal. If you cant answer the question, then you're just ducking out on the responsibility. You're gonna shove it off so you can say "AH HAH!"... and I'm not going to play that game. So either answer or dont. If you dont, I'll have little choice but to accept that you're really uncomfortable with the answer. But to be searingly blunt, that's not my problem.

So answer: yes? Or no?

Chitown Kev | March 4, 2010 3:45 PM

I've now provided two links that will answer the question pretty conclusively.

Those links are also consistent as to the "why" of the answer that you seek.

I've provided some tools to get you started, whether you use them to educate yourself is your problem and I will hold you accountable for that.

And just because you view it through your particular "privileged white gay" lens wouldn't mean that you see it wrongly.

Oh, I went to the links. And I failed to see any real connection between that and the things you wrote in your first response.

So either I'm completely missing the point here... or you dont have one.

Again, we find racism where we *want* to find racism, I guess.

Gloria does not ask a question, she implies a fact:

"Most amazing to me is that, overall, the public face of Black community seemed more tolerant of sexual diversity in the 1950s than it seems today. Maybe the realities of oppression and inequality were realer to people back then."

There's nothing there that implies a questioning. Rather, it's clear that she is working off an assumption - albeit one worded in the fuzzy language of "maybe," "seemed" and "seems." Let's not change the nature of the original post here.

>> "There's nothing there that implies a questionin"

There's not?

Okay, if we have to be utterly bald about it, then let's put one out there on the table for discussion. What exactly *was* the view held by blacks about gays and lesbians in the 1940s and 50s?

Interesting. Let's evade all the issues raised by several of us here and start questioning and indicting the Black community for its homophobia, and just change the topic so that we can now start evaluating and judging and scoring the Black community. Let's not talk about the gay community's racism because....there's no such thing?

And on what grounds are we ranking oppression here? And what gives you the occasion to raise a question that has not been raised so far? And why is it necessary to question one community and not another? And does the concept of interrelated oppressions/isms just not make any sense any more?

Really, Sean, this is a cheap distraction.

Oh, for God's sake. This is just more tap dancing.

It's a simple question. If you see "indictment", it's of your own making. If you see "distraction". well, once again... it's of your own making, not mine. I just want to know. Anything else is just smoke that someone else out there is blowing.

Sometimes, you know, a cigar really is just a cigar, and a question really is just a question. So let's set the political-speak aside for a moment, shall we? What WAS the view of the black community towards gays and lesbians in the 1950s? Why is that so freaking difficult? Is it that we just dont know? That there's insufficient documentation? No records? We're just going to make educated guesses based on our 21st century hypotheses? If that's the case, then just say so and be done with it. But if you want to find sinister motives behind anything, then we really dont have anything to discuss.

Um, no. And if you're going to ask that question of the Black community - be prepared to have the same question asked of the gay community. No one is avoiding the question you claim to raise - I'm simply pointing out that your deciding to turn this discussion into that question is yet one more way to avoid the more complex issues and to display a high level of white privilege by making race and not sexuality into that which must be questioned.

Here's how it works differently (I'm not saying it should, but that this is what your line of questioning looks like if we performed the same rhetorical tricks around sexuality):

So tell me, Sean, what IS the historical view of the gay community towards the Black community?

Come, come, now, we've got lots of evidence before and after Prop 8 to give us some sense of what the gays think of Black people.

Or, here's another question: What was the view of the WHITE community towards gays in the 1950s?

I just want to know. Anything else is just smoke that someone else out there is blowing.

Sometimes, you know, a cigar really is just a cigar, and a question really is just a question. So let's set the political-speak aside for a moment, shall we?

See how that works?

Again: You have taken Gloria Brame's statement, not question, about Black homophobia and turned it into an occasion to demand to know what the Black community's views of homosexuality have been. That kind of legerdemain only comes with an awful lot of white privilege. And it's awfully transparent.


What?! Evade the issue? Change the topic?

The topic is a magazine cover. The topic is Gloria's post. The topic is homophobia in the 50s vs 2010.

Sean's question is perfectly on topic since everyone is currently saying that Gloria's post was racist because African-Americans weren't more tolerant in the 50s. When you say that's bullshit and he asks "What exactly *was* the view held by blacks about gays and lesbians in the 1940s and 50s?", that's not "changing the topic."

That's engaging in a conversation and asking a question. Shouting him down by claiming bad intent on his part isn't furthering any discussion, it's just an attempt to derail an argument that you're losing without having to answer with the facts that the question required.

Bil,

You need to calm down and look at your words before you post them.

"everyone is currently saying that Gloria's post was racist because African-Americans weren't more tolerant in the 50s."

What? No. "Everyone" is not saying the same exact thing. I think we're all coming at it from somewhat different vantage points, and it doesn't help anyone's case to turn all our points into one monolithic one. People are questioning the way Gloria Brame made one overarching comment, without much to back it up, that repeated the same old canard about Blacks being homophobic *today.*

*My* questions to Sean is: Why pretend that you can talk about Black homophobia without talking about gay racism? Why return, once again, to the spectre of the canard post-Prop 8 that Black homophobia is responsible gay oppression? Why are we not thinking more intersectionally and still resorting to these race-baiting rhetorical strategies?

I'm sorry, but anyone who can actually write that "whites do not enter into the discussion" in regard to a blog post about a Black magazine cover in the 1950s is either deliberately or naively assuming that you could actually have been Black then (or even now) and not have been/be impinged upon/affected in some way by dominant white culture.

As for "having to answer with the facts that the question required." Yes, but I guess it depends on whose facts and questions get discerned AS facts and questions, doesn't it? And who gave Sean the right to ask questions of the Black community? Why is it still the Black community's role and position to constantly have to answer the charges of homophobia? And when does the gay community have to respond to charges of racism? Or is that never? I'm trying to ask about leveling the playing field here, but, clearly, that's not going to work.

And I'll repeat - Gloria Brame's post needs to not be rewritten into some incisive, thoughtful post about race and sexuality. And the comments following say a lot about how race and sexuality get discussed these days.

>> "*My* questions to Sean is: Why pretend that you can talk about Black homophobia without talking about gay racism? Why return, once again, to the spectre of the canard post-Prop 8 that Black homophobia is responsible gay oppression?"

Because I wasnt talking about Prop 8. I was asking -- and once again, since it seems to be getting lost here -- WHAT WAS THE ATTITUDE OF THE BLACK COMMUNITY TOWARDS GAYS AND LESBIANS IN THE 1950S?

No one's answered that. Kev put up a couple of links that went nowhere in terms of addressing things. You're steadfastedly ignoring it.

But y'know, if you really want to go down this road, and it seems you're hellbent on doing so, then fine. I shall do the hair shirt and loudly declare to one and all that gay men -- gay white men -- are about two steps away from donning sheets and pointy hats. There. You heard it here first. It's what you want to hear, so there it is.

Now that we've made that clear, then let's really go for it, okay? Tell me: what *has* the Black community done for me lately? Anything? I'm not talking about Prop 8 here, by the way, because I know the easily bandied numbers are a canard. But what I *havent* seen or heard is anything from the community that *countered* it. There's a "minister" in Maryland who's screeching about gay marriage in DC -- and I'm sorry, but the Black community has been singularly silent on folks like him. No voices of outrage. No *real* discussion of the kind of oppression he's spewing. Just... silence.

And before you jump on it, yes, I know that there are white ministers as well saying this stuff. But they're not the issue here. The issue is what the Black community *itself* has done to counter what its so-called spokespeople loudly declaim on the first available right-wing talk show. Anything, ma'am? Anything at all? The white ones we can just dismiss as racists and bigots, if you wish. But what do we do with everyone else?

And further to the point, since again we all seem so determined to play the Oppression Game, yes, I know I'm supposedly "privileged" because I'm a white gay male. I am reminded of this at every turn, to the point of relentlessness, where I feel I shouldnt say or do anything at all because everyone else, regardless of race or gender or ethnicity, will tell me what I am supposed to say and do so as not to inflict my supposed "privilege" on anyone. Okay, you got it. You let me know what I'm supposed to do, and I'll do it. You tell me what I'm supposed to say, and I'll say it. Anything contrary to that is just another manifestation of my inherent racism as a privileged gay white male, so let's nip that bud right now, shall we?

And once you've done that, then we'll talk about privilege.

I'm stopping my involvement in this thread, because I'm tired of the bullshit. My input into this is being completely misread, and I'm tired of dealing with it. So you continue along and remind me what a terrible, racist jerk I am. I just wont be here to listen... or care, really.

Thanks, Sean, for proving all my points.

You have no point, and you know it.

Chitown Kev | March 5, 2010 11:04 AM

Pardon my French, but negro, please.

"I shall do the hair shirt and loudly declare to one and all that gay men -- gay white men -- are about two steps away from donning sheets and pointy hats."

Some "white gay men" want to do that anyway. Actually, I'd rather look in your face. Be proud!

"There's a "minister" in Maryland who's screeching about gay marriage in DC -- and I'm sorry, but the Black community has been singularly silent on folks like him."

And five black DC Council members voted for gay marriage in the District and some of the leading religious voices for the gay marriage in the District side were also black. You might want to look up the names Christine and Dennis Wiley, for example...

Never mind what I've written on several of the blogs about Harry Jackson (which would violate bilerico's TOS, lol)

I guess some people just dont know satire when they read it.

Yes, Kev, I'm aware of the five councilpeople that voted that way, thank you. And? What about Black Voices? Is that just an anomoly? Do we simply dismiss that as irrelevant?

And thank you to both of you for proving my point. I look forward to receiving the Guidelines for Acceptable Behavior at your earliest convenience.

Enough. The next notice that appears in my inbox is being deleted unread.

Chitown Kev | March 5, 2010 3:08 PM

Somehow, you strike me as being a little too curious to do that, Sean (it takes one to know one in that respect!)...

so I'll give this a try...

IMHO, neither one of those are anamolies. The difference is you are placing more weight on one thing (the Black Voices thread) than the other (the votes of the DC City Council).

Chitown Kev | March 4, 2010 1:58 PM

This entire piece falls so completely flat and I agree with Gus that it's very exploitive, especially with the author's references to feeling "bittersweet."

And possibly racist.

http://outhistory.org/wiki/The_Johnson_Publishing_Company

There's an easily accessible history to this material that was published in both Jet and Ebony magazines. You should have probably looked at those materials and reported on those as well.

The short answer to your question, though, is that ALL blacks experienced segregation, even GLBT blacks; there is a long history of racial segregation in the gay bar scene, for example. North and South.

"the realities of oppression and inequality were realer to people back then."

Considering that statistics regarding any number of items such as health care, education, criminal justice, etc., I think that the realities of oppression and inequality remain pretty evident to the black community.

This article is an insult.

Sean expressed my position pretty well.

I'd just come off reading a sweet Valentine's Day piece about gay couple (black) celebrating an anniversary on Black Voices, which I follow regularly. I was horrified by the reader reaction. When I came across the above and some other memorabilia for a Black History tribute I ran on my blog, I was touched to see how sympathetically people responded to gays and transsexuals, at least in the magazines I found.

That's where the bittersweet came from: I'm talking about the public face, not the private behavior.

My comment about the struggle for equality was a direct reference to the question on the cover "Are Homosexuals Becoming Respectable?", a question that is still being bounced around in America.

I am more than willing to engage and offer transparency on the issue of racism so if you would like to continue the dialogue or question me or find out more about where I'm coming from, I am game.

Chitown Kev | March 4, 2010 3:05 PM

Dr. Brame, I agree with you that the Black Voices comment thread on that black gay couple was horrific.

I don't really know where you are coming from with this though.

Most black people (though not all!) wanted to integrate and assimilate into mainstream society at that point and (as my link above states) there was a political calculation that was made by black leaders. And virulent homophobia (under the veil of red-baiting) was part and parcel of the white majority of that time.

Kev, thank you for that fantastic link. But it seems to me that this all goes to the point I was making: that sexual diversity found a place of respect and acceptance in the African-American community's public attitudes 50 years ago. Contrast that to what we read on Black Voices just last month and one has to wonder: what the hell happened?


Chitown Kev | March 4, 2010 4:23 PM

Assimilation, desegregation, and integration happened to the black community, that's what.

Or at least that's the going hypothesis.

That's what I think white people don't see and understand when they run across material like this. It's not as if the black community is in cultural isolation nor was it then.

I mean, the black community (like all other communities) wasn't exactly a paradise of sexual diversity at that time either.

So when it came to Gays.. when everyone was being severely oppressed, we were all in this together.

But as soon as one group moved up, becoming less oppressed, they joined the oppressors. Possibly to entrench their own privilege by differentiating themselves from their inferiors.

Before I overly condemn... had the boot been on the other foot, no doubt the same thing would have happened. It's human nature. Just look at the attitude to Trans people in the jurisdictions where there are GLB rights, not GLBT rights. Look at how many GLB people say that Trans rights have nothing to do with them, that in fact, Trans people make them look bad.

Remember the recent NH senate vote: that on the same day they voted for gay marriage, they voted unanimously against extending the same human rights GLBs have had for 10 years to trans people too.

Also remember how many GLBs have called this out for what it is. Not everyone is complicit in it. Not even a majority. The parallels are obvious.

Chitown Kev | March 4, 2010 5:40 PM

Well...anyone whose didn't have the class privilege to be able to escape from some of the effects of that discrimination.

Both communities have that in common, even at their intersections (i.e. the case of George Washington Carver).

I think that entrenching the "privilege" is the correct terminology.

And I'm not saying that racial integration wasn't (and isn't) a valuable and necessary and good thing to happen. But the entire issue of the downsides are rarely addressed.

And as far as what a "GLBT" version of "integration will look like and what will the cost be...?

We've had several posts over the years surrounding black history month that wondered the same thing, Gloria - especially around the black community's opinions on sexuality. I'll try to go dig up some of the links from previous posts to share here in the comments.

"Well, I suppose if you look deep enough, you can find racism anywhere,"

One need look no further than the name of this article for christ's sake - "Cool Black Camp" - a white woman thinking she has the right to identify and name (it's camp! it's cool!) media by and for black people, and holding to that position (no really it's proof that black people were nicer back in the halcyon days of the 50's) regardless of any non-white or black person showing up here to say different.

But hell, let's look further anyway. White people in this thread, including the author of the post, continue to deflect away from their racist positioning of black people as being a community that has a higher proportionate concentration of homophobes today than in yesteryear, and they continue to deny that deflection. All while repeatedly inferring or stating that gay is too the new black and black is too the new privilege. It's horseshit, but predictable.

Chitown Kev | March 5, 2010 10:47 AM

My issue here is that Dr. Brame is the one that flashes the Ph.D behind her name with an extensive list of credentials.

She rightly notes (but only in the comments) the fascinating material here.

Yet she doen't submit that material to even a cursory examination. Instead, she rights a shoddy and condescending post that does no justice to the richness of the material and throws in that last sentence of race-baiting on top of it.

And then with all those credentials, she wants to veil the incendiary nature of her post behind a "oh, I'm just a poor little white girl" defense.

As Willona on Good Times would say, "Ain't that a blip?"

Again, I have no problem with her asking the question, but the way she asks the question is dripping with privilege and it's shoddy, lazy, and condescending.

Heck, this wasn't even the first time that Jet magazine featured a cover like this.

And the content of these articles are easily accessible online as well.

Chitown Kev | March 5, 2010 11:23 AM

Well.

First of all, ANY magazine with a gay icon as Diahann Carroll on the cover IS pretty campy, if I do say so myself.

Second of all, this wasn't even the first Jet magazine cover that asked a question like this (the first was "Is There Hope For Homosexuals?" an August 1952 issue)

And the content of those articles are readily accessible online as well.

So given that this material is readily accessible and has been reviewed and analyzed extensively, I would expect that a Ph.D (with some extensive and impressive credentials) to do more justice and to be just a little more thoughtful with this material than this shoddy and condescending and race-baiting post (especially with that last line which is infuriating).

I mean, there are positive ways to use white privilege, after all, and there are gay white historians that do so.

Well, wow.

First, please note that almost all my posts here are short on commentary and long on sarcasm. You will note I specialize in odd vintage memorabilia, and most often the targets of my humor are white people. Am I anti-white?

I m 54. Old enough to remember all the details of segregation and the horrors of black oppression from seeing it in the news and in society. Fortunately or unfortunately, my parents were Holocaust survivors, and raised me with an absolute hatred of injustice and a loathing for social inequality of any kind. That may partly explain how I, a straight woman, fight for gay equality today as if it was her personal battle. It has been my political life history, since early childhood, to loathe and agitate against social injustice. That's why I have also fought so hard for sexual freedom for BDSMers: I am one and so that cause actually is personal.

If, as I did in this post, I give black people the same treatment I give white people all the time, is that racist? If I gave them a special academic level of attention, wouldn't that be reverse racism, if not downright patronizing? If I didn't include any black people at all in my posts, wouldn't that be exclusionism? If I mentioned in every post that I grew up without any relatives because the Nazis killed them all, would that make me, in your eyes, more or less qualified to speak to the horrors of oppression? Does it press any buttons in you that I'm Jewish? Female? White? Over educated? A BDSM'er? Might have a different POV than you? From my POV African-American history is American history. Does that offend you?

I learned an awful long time ago not to rank pain and suffering. My parents survived atrocities, but when I broke my nose, my suffering was real to me (though tragically not to them, you see). Real pain is real pain. It isn't a pissing contest on who suffered the most from a global perspective. When someone makes an anti-Semitic remark to me it hurts as much as when someone makes an anti-black remark to you. When gays aren't allowed to fully participate in American society as equal citizens, they HURT. It's REAL. Does it matter if I have 6 million deaths behind my pain or you have a history of slavery behind yours? All pain is equal. All pain is serious. All pain counts. To think otherwise is to place oneself in an elite of suffering. My parents lived like that. I will not. How about you?

Finally, maybe you ought to know that the only people who were really nice to me when I was a kid were black. My first playmate, my first boyfriend, my first college boyfriend. All black. And from knowing so many black people, I also know there really are no such monolithic entities as "the black community" or the "the white community" -- the homophobic racist Bible-thumpers who live in my town are not my community and, presumably, Alan Keyes is not yours.

That's why I said "the public face of the black community." The cover of one of the most influential magazines of the day qualifies as a public face. And while I only posted one of the covers here, I invite you to review my entire tribute to "Sexy Black History," available on my blog, on FaceBook and, I believe, on the sites now of some black friends. Ironically I'm sure more people think I'm a race-traitor as may think I'm a racist. It's a big strange world out there. I choose to be myself and deal with the consequences as they come.

If you wish to have an extended dialogue with me on racism, let's have it somewhere where it matters. Let's do it together on Black Voices. I have deferred from commenting there all this time. I'll put myself on the block with you, in a place where the topic is germane and where, perhaps, we can help other people begin to sort through the hysterical and bitter homophobia we saw over there.

Finally, I understand why you feel the way you do but I would like an apology for you guys calling me racist. Even if I made a mistake, or didn't phrase things as you wished, it still doesn't make me a racist. I don't deserve that label.

in friendship and peace,

Gloria

Chitown Kev | March 5, 2010 1:52 PM

Dr Brame, with all due respect, you know that:

1)"don't you know I'm Jewish?" and

2) "why, some of my best friends are black; I've even had a black boyfriend" are just MAJOR fails.

Nuff' said on that.

(Having said that, you do make a very incisive point as to who befriended you when you were young; Harvey Milk had the same experience.)

My issue with your posting is that last sentence; which strongly implies that black people don't feel "the realities of oppression and inequality" like they used to. What realities would those be, yours as a Jewish white woman?

That statement diminishes that very real suffering that the black community is currently going through in these recessionary times.


Among a lot of other things.

Gloria,

I have no doubt that your many personal examples will resonate with many readers.

Here's the problem. For the most part, the thrust of the critiques of the post, from people who may or may not be POC, is not about personal experiences to justify or explain what they've said? Yes, some have provided personal revelations but they haven't used those to prop up their entire arguments.

I'm struck by the fact that you haven't addressed a single one of the critiques with any substance. Instead, you've decided that your personal story should stand in for any refutation/engagement

I see your frustration, but here's the thing: When you write a blog like the one you posted NOBODY is expected to understand/know the entire personal history you just posted. And NOBODY should be expected to excuse what you wrote because of your personal history, which you now give us after the fact. Do you want us all to sit back and say: Ah, of course, Gloria is the child of Holocaust survivors, her earliest friends - and even her first boyfriend! were Black, therefore there can no longer be any problems with what she posted?

Sorry, as compelling as your personal narrative might be, it doesn't work like that. You put out a blog that has been critiqued as deeply problematic by a number of people coming from very different vantage points. You need to tussle with the points, not try to shield yourself from any further criticism by evoking your personal history. You may or may not be doing that deliberately - I suspect you're also caught by surprise because you may never have faced this kind of critique before in a (neo)liberal world, where personal experience is allowed to stand in for politics. And where, frankly, one's personal relationships to people of colour is allowed to keep one blind from the way one engages in systemic forms of racism, with or without realising it.

You want a personal story to make my point? I'll give you one. I was once told by a store assistant in Chicago's popular costume store Beatnix that I needed to give her my purse before entering the store. When I pointed out that not one of the other customers had been asked for the same and that she ought to think of asking everyone for their bags, her response was, and I quote: "Are you calling me a racist? Listen, my nieces are African-American!?" You'll note: I never called her a racist or even mentioned that the others were white - but simply pointing out the unequal treatement I was getting was enough to make her flare up and insist that she was NOT racist. She, of course, did nothing to retract her *action* and kept insisting that I should give her the bag. Having proved that she not a racist with her personal history, she continued with her thoroughly racist action.

White liberal guilt and anger usually means that people are happy to claim the easier ways of identifying racism/non-racism, and those ways often have to do with a perception that their personal relationships - with their nieces or boyfriends - can prove that they could never be racist. And it allows them not to see or understand that the only people from whom they demand bags are POCS, and to NOT identify that act as racism. It allows them to think that putting out a brief few words about the Black community's homophobia with no more proof or substance than a cover of a magazine might be playing into some intensely racialised and racist rhetoric prevalent in the gay community.

As for calling you racist: No one has called you a racist. Use the "find" function to highlight the word racist, and you'll see what I mean. If anything, those who've come to defend you have used that word more often. But yes, some of us do think the post is racist. Or have pointed to the "racist positioning of black people" etc. Are you racist? I don't know, since I don't know you personally, but that's not what's up for debate.

Does your post buy into the classic racialised/racist positioning of Blacks as inherently homophobic? Does it take the easy side of a "debate" where no one of colour is allowed to call out gays for their racism but every Black person/POC is called to answer for their community's homophobia? Have you shown yourself to be, at the very least, unaware of the historical issues between the Black and gay communities - even the recent history of Prop 8 - and at worst willing to exploit the tensions between the Black and gay communities?

Yes. All of that is a set of complicated issues. Your personal narrative that you've offered here is worthy of note, but it does not give you a go free card.

As for taking this to the Black Voices blog - again, isn't that the easier place for you to be in? You can take an explicitly anti-homophobic stance in an arena where the issue of sexuality is more easily defined, and you can set yourself up as being the pro-gay person against homophobes. But answering to what is essentially a more difficult and thorny set of issues having to do with a classic and complicated case of (neo)liberal racism is the difficult matter at hand.

So please, engage with all this more substantively if you would. Understand that no one is going to ignore your personal history, but acknowledge that the evocation of personal histories is, in this context, a failed rhetorical strategy.