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5 comments | Monday, April 27, 2009

As long as you think of yourself as white, then I’m forced to think of myself as black.
– James Baldwin

One would want to believe that the gay community—compromised of every race, gender, ethnic, political, social and economic group—would be the last place where racism and exclusion would dwell. Recently, a blogger with a multiracial, multiethnic background posited that Black gay bloggers are responsible for perpetuating division in the gay community. One blogger he mentioned in his article was Darian Aaron, the creator of the incredibly informative, entertaining and crucial blog, Living Out Loud with Darian.

Anyone who reads Darian’s blog is fully aware that while his blog does focus on the issues that are closest to those in the Black community, he, by no means, excludes the points of view of those outside of the community. While there are a handful of gay bloggers, like Jasmyne Cannick, who are notoriously unfriendly to outsiders, by and large, this is not the case with most Black gay bloggers.

However, the Black gay point of view has long been excluded from countless gay blogs. Not a single person within the so-called mainstream gay community so much as lifted a finger or a voice to challenge—or to examine—that deeply curious practice. It was viewed as the status quo and as a non-issue. Blacks were in the background, if anywhere at all, and that seemed to be fine with everyone (which is why having a point of view like Cannick’s is somewhat sympathetic; as Chris Rock once said, “I’m not saying I’d do it, but I understand”). So I am forced to wonder why this subject is only problematic now that Black gay bloggers, in response to being excluded, have created their own spaces and have prospered. I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but when I hear this new criticism of Black gay bloggers, what immediately comes to mind is from the book of Luke, verse 6:41:

But why lookest thou on the mote which is in the eye of thy brother, but perceivest not the beam which is in thine own eye?

What the critics have conveniently ignored is the fact that the gay community—and now I mean the gay community as an organized, visible force wielding whatever social and political power they have to influence the course of things in the country—has presented itself as a largely White and largely (upper) middle-class machine that is interested in, almost exclusively, the issues most pressing to its largely White, largely (upper) middle-class constituency. It has, heretofore, disregarded or dismissed as “fringe” the concerns of those outside of this narrow group.

This is not hyperbole. The gay community has not been a joyous, welcoming place for Black gays. Even the language seeks to exclude. Euphemisms are used to separate and distort (“closeted” means the exact same thing as “down-low,” but “down-low” is invested with all sorts of negative stereotypes and images that should—but do not—apply to “closeted”). Black gays have been excluded from gay places of business. The gay community has even gone as far as to mock Blacks in blatantly racist terms and defend the racism as something other than what it is.

So in the midst of this hostility and invisibility, Black gays have felt it necessary to form their own communities, to create centers of friendship, love and healing meant to undo the damage done in the larger gay culture, as well as address the issues that larger culture refuses to even place on the table for discussion.

The critics of this movement charge that Black gay bloggers are, in effect, guilty of the same exclusionary crimes of which the larger gay community is guilty; that the actions of Black gay bloggers only exacerbates the overall problems of racism, classism and segregation in the gay community. I find the critics to be operating on very childlike terms, with very simplistic tools. They ignore what even the blind can see: When one is turned away from shelter, one must find shelter where one can. Certainly, one could be persistent. One could continue knocking at the door and beg for one’s place at the table, but where is the dignity in that—especially when one has the skills to create one’s own table?

Furthermore, critics claim that these Black gay blogs render White gay blogs invisible; remove them from the discourse. What I would like to know is how that is possible—not just as a matter of common sense or philosophy, but as a matter of physics: How can hundreds of Black gay blogs render thousands upon thousands of White gay blogs invisible (particularly when many of the White gay bloggers have a stranglehold on media and resources)?

I do not believe that Whites are not being permitted a voice in the discourse; they are not being rendered invisible or being excluded. Here is what I believe to be the source of the hysteria: All people with power panic when their formerly powerless denizens prove themselves resourceful and embark on a quest of self-determination. It does not matter to the people with power that they have created both the cause and the effect of the revolution. Their goal is simply to quell it by any means necessary because they fear that they might lose something. Privilege—and in this instance I am speaking of White privilege—is an affliction that robs its hosts of both objectivity and a sense of fairness, attributes which are crucial to this discussion.

To tackle the charges themselves, two things strike me as problematic about the grievances being leveled against Black gay bloggers:

First is the idea that there is something inherently wrong, in the sea of blogs that cater specifically and exclusively to the White gay point of view, with having blogs that cater specifically to the Black gay point of view. At the expense of being accused of exaggeration, I must say that the NAACP was created precisely because there was Jim Crow and the KKK. Eliminate Jim Crow and the KKK (and the mindset that imagines such monstrous institutions) and you eliminate the need for an NAACP. The logic does not work the other way around.

Second is the way in which the White gay community chooses, when it deigns, to “include” Blacks. It is not as intellectuals, not as equals, not as brothers and sisters in the struggle. It is as objects meant to satiate curiosity and desire; often, the Black man himself is rendered invisible while his private parts are magnified.

It is not that Black gays are unwilling to be a part of the larger community. It is that the price, as it stands, is way too high for membership. Black gays cannot and will not be a part of the larger community if the cost is the loss of dignity, humanity, and visibility.

And the truth of the matter is that we did not erect this partition. It was the White gay movement that constructed it and refused our calls for entry and unity; that relegated Black gays and Black gay concerns to the most remote edges of the territory. That Blacks have built castles on those edges is only sensible. And if the desire is, now, for Black gays to tear down those castles and join in rebuilding something that everyone, Black and White, can live in, I believe Blacks are generally a forgiving people and would be agreeable to that end. But justice demands that the walls and castles Whites have built should already be torn down and laid to waste (and I do not believe that they are).

Nothing can be built jointly a moment sooner than that.

Robert Jones, Jr. is a writer and creator of the blog, Son of Baldwin. He is currently working on his first novel, The Book of Samuel. He resides with his partner in Brooklyn, NY.


<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

No shade, Mr. Jones really drug the ignorant girls through the mud with that one. WOW! Furthermore, I have never seen an "anti-White gay" post on any of the Living out Loud with Darians, Clay Canes, Rod 2.0s, Adam Irbys, Doing The Damn Things, Son of Baldwins, etc, so what are they talking about? This reminds me of the time white gay bloggers created an uproar over the lack of white characters in the Noah's Arc film. It is as if they always want to be included, but have no problem excluding us (Queer as Folk, much?); as if we shouldn't have our own stories that depict our struggles and joys.

That is why I tell the Black gays to get TOGETHER and stop the infighting, because even though I would LOVE all of the gay sisters and brothers(regardless of race) to come together as one and face the problems that affect us as a whole, I just don't see it happening and I am starting to understand why. The whole "exclusionary on the premise of race" mindset is VERY 17th century-early 18th century.

April 27, 2009 1:19 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Wow. Deep.

With all due respect however, I have to point out that this smacks of exactly what Chaz just said about the Black Gay community's unity, or lack thereof. An ability to get along, to look beyond past slights and onto a future of co-existance and mutual respect.

Our Orgs sometimes fail because of this basic inability. We've been kept down and slapped around so long we refuse, absolutely REFUSE to compromise a scintilla of our ground for the common good -- even with our own black gay brothers.

So, is there any wonder we'll give even less ground to our white brethren, some of whom are our staunch advocates and understand [as much as they can] the angst of black LGBT?

You, my friend, like Ms. Cannick (who I love and respect dearly), come from a defensive position -- the angry black man chip on your shoulder shouts louder than you do -- and from a place of zero compromise, no pre-conditions (to borrow a campaign term).

Ka-os Theory stepped in it big time with that post. If he'd asked my opinion in advance, I would have suggested some revisions, or, to just approach the matter differently. But that's me, the peacemaker. Its in my nature.

But this post and some of the other comments that arose from the issue make his point all the more clear. All throughout it you keep saying "the whites", as if someone saying "the blacks" wouldn't be offensive as all hell.

And this part ...

"... Second is the way in which the White gay community chooses, when it deigns, to “include” Blacks. It is not as intellectuals, not as equals, not as brothers and sisters in the struggle. It is as objects meant to satiate curiosity and desire; often, the Black man himself is rendered invisible while his private parts are magnified."... with its own air of superiority smacks of personal 'issues' that might be clouding the matter. Its almost as if some white person used you or treated you like a piece of meat, and now they all must suffer.

Even though we've got legit gripes with the overall gay community, an eye for an eye tactic isn't the answer. All this does is make white allies "less concerned" with our issues rather than more.

Ka-os is the last person we should throw under the bus of white privilege. Even if he is unconsciously guilty of it, he's coming from a place of full inclusion for all, and we should respond in kind.

Any less is just ripping apart the rainbow, and just plain foolish.

April 27, 2009 4:24 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Taylor - I really should have talked to you first. In hindsight, I regret that I didn't. I hope my new piece


is along the lines of what you would have counselled.

"Ka-os Theory stepped in it big time with that post. If he'd asked my opinion in advance, I would have suggested some revisions, or, to just approach the matter differently."Ain't that the truth.

Truth, like the rest of your analysis of Jone's piece. As a white/mixed boi my opinion counts for shit amongst certain people - but they can't use your skin colour/background against you.

April 28, 2009 12:42 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Ka-os Theory came into your "house" (this blog) all wrong regarding the post where you listed a number of black gay bloggers you admired. He even went to the blog of one of the black gay bloggers who thanked you for putting him on your list and attacked you (and him for thanking you) over there.

Ka-os' indicated on his blog that he is a white/Asian, Irish Catholic who rejects "angry, bitter" African-Americans who "play the race card" because, we [blacks] "aren't the only ones who have suffered". What kind of bullshit statement is that? What this guy doesn't realize (or maybe he does) is that by virtue of being 'white/Asian' he is an "honorary white person" in America (whether he accepts that status or not).

darian, there is absolutely nothing racist about the post in question. Ka-os says he didn't call you a racist but, if that's the case, what was the point of his attack?

Keep on doing what you do, darian, and know that you are appreciated.

April 28, 2009 3:36 AM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

First off I love this blog.

Son Of Baldwin broke it down in a really real way. The truth in his words can be hard to hear and deal with.

As a gay man who has a white mother and a black father, who was raised around all white people I feel I have a unique perspective on this matter. And that perspective is this: It amazes that certain white folks, gay and straight as illistrated in some of these posts and comments can not understand why black folks, at times, get defensive about being marginalized, discriminated against and disrespected. The reason why we can at times be a bit sensitive about this is because historicially in this country black folks were marginalized, discriminated against and disrespected. It was sorta the thing to do. being a black man in the gay subculture is not really that different from being a black man in general society.

I'm not saying all gay white folks treat us this way either conciously or subconciously, I'm saying these attitudes were the norm for hundreds of years. These racial attitudes were protected and promoted for hundreds of years. If every time you walk by a dog and try to pet it and it bites you, after a while you don't try and pet the dog anymore. Is it really that hard to understand?

April 28, 2009 11:21 AM


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