I come from a place of privilege. not financially or a place of affluence, but from a social privilege. I am a white cis gendered presenting gay male. If you pass me on the street you only see a large built white male and that affords me easier navigation throughout society. I can walk into almost any place in this country and have a modicum of safety. If I am pulled over by the police, I do not have to actively worry about getting beaten or shot, because I appear to be white. I am not constantly assaulted by glances of white women clutching their purses and walking hastily away from me out of some perceived fear of me hurting them. I can go into a job interview fully believing I will be judged on what my resume says I can do. I can run down the road at night, go into a park and watch birds, or just sit and listen to music without having to worry that someone will call the cops on me for a perceived threat and worry if this may be the last breath I draw. All of this is simply because, on the outside, I look like every other white guy. The life I live was given to me at the cost of blood and bodies of countless POC.
As a white gay man, I am fully aware that the freedoms I have today come from the pioneering efforts of POC who have fought to be treated as equal human beings. Our ability to marry, have parades to celebrate pride, and to live our lives in a more open status was built on the backs of people like Bayard Rustin, Storme DeLarverie, James Baldwin, Audre Lourde, Ernestine Eckstein, Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Lori Lightfoot, and many, many more. Each of these people fought for their rights, and ours, to not be persecuted. Many of these same people stood by the LGBTQ community during our protests because it was the right thing to do. Should we do any less?
Bayard Rustin, Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and James Baldwin have been on the front lines of civil and LGBTQ rights starting in the 1960s. They stood up for our rights as LGBTQ people, they fought the battles needed to provide freedom and equality for ALL minorities. It seems we have forgotten their struggles and have only chosen to live on the privilege they afforded us, while POC still struggle. We have moved forward in many of the struggles that still keep them oppressed. Why are we not turning around to offer them the support they once afforded us?
What is even larger slap in the face is that our community carries over the same prejudice from our straight counterparts. You can log into any of the dating/hookup apps and see tags from white cis gendered gay men who say no blacks. Our community is white male driven and that cannot be denied. Look at any gay movie that has come out and the majority of the characters are white gay men. How can we consider those that started the fight for us less than we are? Sure, you can say that it is just a dating preference, but does that make it any less harmful? You can choose not to date a person for the character of who they are, their likes/dislikes, or political standings, but to simply rule out someone based on their skin color makes us no better than those that seek to strip away our right to marry or live as our true selves.
We sit in our homes and judge how the looting and burning seems out of context for the struggle, but do you feel the same way about Stonewall? After all, it was a movement that was not peaceful. The very act created property damage through burning and breaking of property. To shame this type of demonstration only shows how far removed we are from the suffering and fear that POC go through on a daily basis. Every time there has been a peaceful protest for the death of a black man it is met with disgust from the white community. We watched as football players protested on bended knee and we called them un-American and threatened to remove them from their jobs. Our Constitution gives us the right to protest, what they did could not be any more American. We teach and reinforce that peaceful protest does not work. There is only so much dehumanizing behavior that anyone can take before they lash out. The fault lies not with the person lashing out, but to the ones that enacted the behaviors onto them.
It is time that we recognize that we owe what we enjoy today, in our freedoms, to the POC pioneers that have come before us. We have to stand beside them, hand in hand, demanding that they finally get the rights they have fought so long for. Standing as a unified front against the tyranny that currently wraps this country is the only way forward. Revolution is about change and it rarely comes peacefully. My words may not be eloquent, but it is due to the horror I feel watching fellow citizens being gassed, beaten, shot, and murdered for something so trivial as the color of their skin. I am left feeling ashamed and mortified for the behavior of people who have no idea what it is like to be targeted for those differences. We can no longer sit by and allow this to happen.