A friend of mine made a very good point. Thanks, Calvin Hipps!
Dan White murdered San Francisco mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk on November 27, 1978. Charged with two counts of first degree murder, he was eventually convicted on two counts of “voluntary manslaughter,” the lightest possible sentence given the evidence. It was later shown that the jury gave him that sentence because A) White had been a SF police officer, and thus jurors presumed that he was acting against evil-doers, and B) because Supervisor Milk was an openly gay man.
When the verdict was handed down on the afternoon of May 21, 1979, the gay community went ballistic. San Francisco’s gay community had long been a target of SFPD’s bigotry, and many saw this verdict as police literally getting away with murdering community members. What originally started as an angry but peaceful protest quickly changed when the police tried to stop the demonstration. Police were attacked, and damage was done to SF government buildings. After several hours, the rioting subsided.
Then the police staged a massive round of retaliatory raids in the Castro District. Cops in riot gear swarmed into gay bars and assaulted patrons, without even a pretext of claiming the mantle of law.
And you may be feeling helpless right now. You may have no idea what to do with your rage and sorrow and pain. If, like me, you’re white, you may not know what do to with the power invested in you by the color of your skin.
Hiba Krisht posted a series on Facebook asking us not to ignore the part Islamic teachings on homosexuality played in the horrific shooting at the Pulse. LGBTQIA Muslims and ex-Muslims all too often get erased, their struggles ignored, as we try to counter Islamophobic bigotry. It’s important that we recognize the dangers and challenges they face, even as we rightly point out that Muslims at large shouldn’t be attacked for the actions of a few.
This is not impossible. We manage not to target Christians for bigotry even as we argue against toxic ideas and teachings within Christianity. Finding the way to thread this needle starts with listening to the voices of LGBTQIA Muslims and ex-Muslims.
So when we yell #OscarsSoWhite, I stand here thinking, “So is the rest of the industry.” The inequality starts from the bottom and works its way to the top until it becomes fully institutionalized. And at that bottom level, where it begins, we don’t even have the insulation of money to help withstand the burden. We have to worry about that next paycheck to eat.
I couldn’t teach that white director that his concept of how black people respond to slurs ran counter to the truth of my life experience for fear of losing out on a job. When a white actor then used a slur with me onstage, I couldn’t walk away or demand his job for fear of losing a necessary paycheck and future income. And when a cop physically assaulted me to teach me how to play a part, I couldn’t exclaim my displeasure, as this was my big break.
I was voiceless.
This is why it’s not enough to have a token black guy, to have “diversity” in only one small aspect of a huge enterprise. This is why representation on all levels is hugely important. And we white folk need to be listening and have people’s backs when shit happens, as it inevitably will. Same goes for any majority interacting with minority folk. Men: have women’s backs. Straight people: back up the queer folk. Cis people: stand with the trans folk. And all of us must demand more minority folk be represented. Demand marginalized people be treated with respect, even when they’re not there to advocate for themselves.
We can change this shit, but we have to pull our weight, and listen, and believe people when they talk about their experiences.
You may not have thought much about it, because a child with a realistic-looking gun being shot by police in America may not have tripped your alarm circuits. You saw the uniform on his killer, and didn’t think thug or criminal. You didn’t think of all the times you played with toy guns as a child, and when you did, you weren’t worried that a cop would roll up and shoot you for it. Your games of cops and robbers were never interrupted by cops arriving, stepping out of their car, and shooting your friends dead. So you figure there must have been some reason for it. After all, the killer wore blue. Continue reading “American Police Still Allowed to Murder Black Children Without Consequences”→
On Tuesday night, I went to a boating party. It was full of liberal white folk, so of course the conversation turned to Black Lives Matter. One of the guys thought they shouldn’t build a movement around Mike Brown, cuz “he attacked a cop, and when you do that, you’re going to get shot.”
I was so flummoxed by that, I forgot to mention that Black Lives Matter actually started with Trayvon Martin, a kid with some tea and Skittles. (My friend wouldn’t have said anything like, “But if you try to keep some maniac with a gun and an outsized ego from assaulting you, you’re going to get shot,” and declare Trayvon disqualified as well. But I know there are people in this country – even some in white liberal circles – who would claim that, yep, Trayvon brought it on himself by not immediately prostrating himself before George Zimmerman and begging for his life to be spared. I hope they all come to understand just how deeply fucked up they are, and change accordingly.)
My friend is a Science Facts Guy. We’ll call him SFG. Evidence matters to him. And he just couldn’t get past the fact that Mike Brown had supposedly attacked Darren Wilson. I say “supposedly,” because in this white supremacist society of ours, one in which so many cops have claimed that they were attacked by that unarmed black dude, only to have evidence turn up that no, actually, they weren’t, that I remain skeptical of those results. But perhaps they scuffled. Let’s even concede all the worst facts we can find: that Mike smoked weed, that he shoplifted some cigarillos, that he was walking down the middle of the street, and mouthed off to an officer of the law, and attacked him. Let’s make it look really, really bad. Continue reading “But A White Guy Who Attacks Cops Would Get Shot, Too, Right?”→
Dear Bernie Sanders Fan Who is Outraged! Offended! by the Black Women Who Interrupted Him:
You’ve been all over my Facebook timeline with a wide variety of claims. As a fellow white person, I must beg you: please stop defending Bernie for a few minutes and listen to what people of color are saying. Look, I’ve even gone to the trouble of collecting a bunch of convenient links for you. And it’s important you listen up, because you know who’s going to make Bernie lose the Democratic nomination?
Okay, Bernie might fail to shut up and listen himself, and torpedo his own chances, but if all of you band together to make him understand he’d best be listening or else, we won’t have to worry about that. He’ll incorporate racial justice and excellent ideas on how to achieve it into his already awesome platform, he’ll make it a centerpoint of his campaign, and we’ll all be absolutely golden. (Look! He’s already started!)
But you’re the ones who will ensure he loses, if you keep trying to shush people whose lives depend on making this old white man understand what they need from him. You’re the ones who will sow division and disharmony in the ranks. I’ll tell you a secret about people of color I’ve learned by listening to them: They don’t need us, children. We have failed them time and time and time again. We need them to win. So I’ll appeal to that need to see another Democrat in office (a need I very much share), if I can’t appeal to your innate sense of justice and your progressive wish for the downtrodden to no longer be down and trodden: if you fail to listen to these voices that are telling you and your favorite candidate exactly what they need, you are the reason Bernie Sanders will lose.
It’s within your power to ensure we all become one big, happy progressive family.