Viktor Kerney

Can We Talk About Race in the LGBT Community?

Filed By Viktor Kerney | August 16, 2013 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Ellen Sturtz, GetEQUAL, heckling, privilege, race, racism, racism in the gay community, racism in the LGBT community, white privilege

white_privilege.jpgWhen it comes to having a real conversation about race in the LGBT community, you might have better luck looking for the end of the rainbow.

This tricky topic seems to be something that's usually pushed under the surface, but a discussion is greatly needed in our community. I was vividly reminded of this a few months ago when First Lady Michelle Obama was heckled by GetEQUAL activist Ellen Sturtz at a DNC fundraiser.

Within days of that occurrence, there was a huge backlash towards Sturtz and GetEQUAL, predominantly from communities of color. Many people blogged about the incident and identified white privilege and racism in Ellen's responses. But when these issues were raised, several white LGBT activists were either very defensive or truly unaware of how Sturtz's heckling could be an issue of race and privilege.

It was then that I realized these issues were still prevalent within our community.

I expect non-activists to be somewhat unaware, but for our activists to be so defensive and heedless in their responses was very disheartening. To me, social justice is a part of Activism 101. We call ourselves fighters for justice and fairness, right? Well, if that's the case, we should be better at it. If certain activists can't have meaningful discussions about race or privilege with each other, then how can they really fight for equality for all?

LGBT activists cannot avoid discussions about race and privilege, and these discussions can't be met with resistance and defensive language. If someone says your approach reeks of privilege or racism, don't get haughty about it. Instead, be open to the conversation and listen. It's interesting that we demand others to listen to our concerns, but when the shoe is on the other foot, the situation is different. Every time LGBT activists push back against conversations about race or privilege, it heightens the chances of alienating our allies.

Those particular actions send a very strong message to communities of color, and it's not a good one. Seriously, think about it: why would any community of color join us or even trust us when we can't deliberate the very issues that could bring us closer together?

I urge for some of the white LGBT activists to always check themselves in heated discussions about race and privilege. In order to build strong alliances, we have to understand where we are coming from. We must step away from staunch roles as activists, listen to what is being said, and find the commonalities, and we definitely need to meet each other halfway.

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