Why Talking About Racism Matters

Discerning Daddy

We live in a world that wants to divide us. We have a government that tells us who we love and fuck, our faith, our race, our masculinity or femininity, our gender, are all wrong. They tell us everything about us is wrong.

Recently, I was out with some friends, and this guy Robert was trying to explain why not being “attracted to black guys” didn’t make him a racist.

“You can’t make yourself be attracted to something you aren’t attracted to. That’s not how it works.” He insisted.

I’m not a doctor or a scientist or a psychologist so I have no idea if what Robert is saying is factually true, but in my experience our tastes and preferences can change and grow through being open and by exposure. And I’m pretty sure that includes sexual attraction.

Maybe Robert isn’t a racist. But maybe his parents were. Or the society that raised him was. And those factors influenced what he finds attractive.

“What if you met that perfect guy,” I asked Robert. “He has everything you’ve ever wanted in a guy. This guy is the guy you could love for ever. Only one thing: he’s black?”

“Then we’d make great friends,” Robert laughed. “I just can’t see myself with a black guy. And to be honest, as terrible as this sounds, I don’t think I could bring a black boyfriend home to meet my family.”

“Why can’t we have one night to ourselves? A night for masculine men without all these twinks and drag queens and fem-boys walking around here with their purses and perfume ruining the vibe for guys like us. Whatever happened to men acting and smelling like men?” I heard another guy saying recently. It was at a leather bar in New York City.

His friends all began complaining about the “assault on masculinity” in the gay community.

Another recent story I heard is about a trans guy being denied entry to a popular monthly party in LA that celebrates masculinity and “Daddies” because their ID still said “Female”.

We’ve all heard stories like these, or joined in these kinds of conversations, and we all have opinions: opinions that are valid. I think having these conversations is essential. The more we talk about race and gender, the more we discuss our faith and our ideas about masculinity and femininity, the more open we are with each other than the more tolerant we will become.

But first, we have to start getting honest about the fact that there is a discrepancy in how we are treated in our community. That I, as a white cis-man am treated very differently than those who don’t share my privilege. And maybe that means that I have an obligation to allow those who have spent years being discriminated against, beaten down, and denied the same opportunities that I take for granted, a voice that is a little louder than mine. That maybe I need to start listening to their experience instead of denying it or fighting against it, or justifying my own.

Maybe it’s time for those of us who have benefited from racism and intolerance to be allies to who have not shared our privilege, instead of trying to maintain some kind of hold on the status-quo.

A friend of mine was recently trying to explain why he felt racism isn’t such a big issue anymore.

“I just don’t see it. I think if we work hard we all have the same opportunities. I don’t see racism the way it used to be. I think it’s more about class. Specially in the gay community. I mean, all of us are minorities, right? Okay, sure, Trump is a racist, and that’s embarrassing, but Obama was also president. We’ve made some really amazing progress.”

My friend, like me, is a white cis-male. Of course he doesn’t see racism, or transphobia, or intolerance toward Muslims or Latinos, because it isn’t happening to him.

But it is happening all around us. And we are all participating in it. Sometimes by just being silent, or by making jokes that minimalize it, or by lamenting the “old days” which, in all honesty, were only glorious for some of us.

As queer people we’ve never had to play by hetero-normative rules. We’ve gotten to define who we are and what we believe, often in reaction to intolerance, and in many ways this has made us stronger, more tolerant, and more willing to change and grow.

We, as a community, are confronting an incredibly hostile and fascist regime, not just in the States, but around the world. A right-wing movement has been growing, and the only true way for us to fight back is to become unified, to stand together, and to stand tallest for those of us on the fringes of our community, for those of us who do not have the numbers or the privilege to be heard.

None of this means we can’t party the way we want to or fuck the way we want to, or even define the limits of our attraction, but it’s the way we talk about these things, the way we express them. If we begin to categorize each other based on race or our body type or our gender, then we begin to lose sight of who we really are.

And I think the Queer Community, in all its shapes and sizes and genders and manifestations is amazing. We survived the AIDS crisis, we have survived discrimination and violence and intolerance, and instead of allowing those things to destroy us they have just made us stronger.

So maybe it’s time we started to challenge ourselves. To look closely at the words we use, at how we express ourselves, at our privilege, and at the things we take for granted. At how race and gender and sexual preference should no longer be tools used to limit ourselves or each other but instead empowering aspects of who each of us are, things to be celebrated and explored.

I think it’s time the Queer Community, my Community, started using our differences: our diversity, as our strengths, and not our weakness.

Because that is how we will overcome those who wish to hold us down and tell us who we are and how we love is somehow less than, not deserving, or wrong.

Our survival will depend on our unity, and in celebrating all the diverse ways we shine: our survival will depend on all of us standing as one against anyone who will try to deny Us.

2 thoughts on “Why Talking About Racism Matters

  1. Abolish Whiteness Become A Red

    As a person of colour, I tend to cringe when white people talk about race and this article is no different.

    At the beginning of the article, the reader is introduced to a conversation with Robert who doesn’t like black men. The author pushes back with a question that is utterly inappropriate in so far as it does nothing to challenge the way in which white supremacy informs notions of somatic beauty:

    ‘“What if you met that perfect guy,” I asked Robert. “He has everything you’ve ever wanted in a guy. This guy is the guy you could love for ever. Only one thing: he’s black?”’

    If Robert responded otherwise or adjusted his tastes would it matter?

    Liking people of colour and ruling out at an entire race as unattractive and unsuitable are both learned forms of prejudice based on fetishising and stereotyping an entire group of people.

    Furthermore, these exception questions are rather troubling because they use the person’s unjustified stereotypes as a legitimate basis of comparison instead of challenging the stereotypes they have of said groups. I remember asking white men in boarding school who wrote off African American women as unattractive if they would date, sleep with, or marry Halle Berry and 99% of them said yes. When asked why, they said that Halle Berry isn’t like other black women.

    Even if the takeaway of such questions points to the dangers of stereotypical thinking, the possibility of Robert finding everything is he wants in a black guy is as rare as the possibility of white men in my boarding school dating, sleeping with or marrying Halle Berry. In other words, these are black swan events so people aren’t going to change their thinking for them.

    These questions are some of the most useless ways to jump start a conversation about the decolonization of hearts and minds.

    There are other problems I have with this article — such as associating racism/white supremacy with privilege. It sounds like white people were rewarded with a playstation for good grades in school and black people were not. Racism/White supremacy is not a form of privilege, but a form of domination and violent extraction from the bodies and souls from non-whites. For example, would we think that a bank robber who stole billions of dollars and murdered people in his wake as privileged? Why think of Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and your middle class white guy living in California as privileged?

    This is why I find discussions with white people about racism and white supremacy tiresome and absurd. It’s also no wonder many people of colour feel that way too (See Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race).

    Where’s John Brown when you need him?

    I also found this part of the article disturbing:

    ‘We, as a community, are confronting an incredibly hostile and fascist regime, not just in the States, but around the world.’

    People of colour in this country have always confronted an incredibly hostile and fascist regime in the United States and around the world (from Jim Crow in the United States, to France’s colonization of Algeria, to Belgium’s slaughter in the Congo, to the Opium Wars in China, to the United States international terror regimes installed in Latin/South America and trained by actual Nazis, to Britain’s holocaust in India (at the same time Hitler was killing 6 million Jews, Winston Churchill was starving 4 million people in India. Churchill’s hatred of the people of India was so extreme that the United States politicians, at the height of Jim Crow, found such hatred offensive), to the death of 1 million Iraqis, to Obama’s drone assassinations of Muslim-Americans including a 17 year old child (Obama routinely assassinated Muslim children with his illegal drone strikes, but the most infamous case was his assassination of 17 year old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and the callous response by his administration that Abdulrahman should have a better father), to . . . I think you get the point.

    We also have to be rather careful of equating the hard right with fascism. There are certainly fascistic elements in modern Western politics, but fascism is a specific response to the failures of capitalism that involves the response to a strong working class (of which we do not have in the United States or elsewhere in the world).

    I’ve spoken about this at length in my review of Mark Bray’s Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook

    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2231382409?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

    I do want to end on this note.

    I’m not writing to clash or punch up at some semi-famous personality in the bear community.

    I’m responding to this article because its limits reflect the fact that the colonization of hearts and minds is so pervasive as to co-opt the thinking and actions of well-intentioned people who hope for a more just society.

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    1. Thanks for all this. The whole point of this piece was just to say we all need to be in on this conversation. Regardless of our race, our privilege, or our sexuality. We live in a society that is divided and the only way I can see out of it is by talking to each other even if we don’t know the correct way to begin or if, like you pointed out in my piece: we make huge mistakes in how we have the conversation: I still think we need to be having it. All of us. I don’t like labels like Bear or Otter or any of the other ways the LGBTQ community divides itself up into, either. I think we, all of us, are stronger together than broken and divided. I knew my piece on race was flawed and that it was sloppy and probably incorrect, but it was, for me, an important step, a way to bring out the conversation. Whether or not anyone else joined in. So I’m glad you did. I loved the articles you posted as well. I’m continuing to learn . Thanks for allowing that.

      Like

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