Don't Whitewash Pulse

Don't Whitewash Pulse

How white queer folk erase the racial elements of the Orlando Pulse shooting.
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It’s been over two week since the Orlando shooting and my spirit is still reeling. That night 49 people were killed and 50 had been injured. Hearing the news that day sent me into an emotional tail spin. What was even more disheartening, was to witness the rhetoric that followed. Many in both mainstream and social media failed to contextualize the shooting as an attack on queer people of color (which it absolutely was) and only spoke generally about hate crimes against the gay community.

That night at Pulse, those in attendance were QTPOC particularly queer and trans black and Latinx folks, most of whom were Puerto Rican. Current media outlets fail to mention the racial description of the victims entirely while others mention it very briefly. This failure to acknowledge their race allows for this tragedy to be co-opted by white queer folk and be whitewashed as an attack on the entire LGBT+ community. We’ve seen this happen before.

Consider the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Police raids on gay bar were frequent during this time period. It reach a boiling point when patrons at the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village, grew furious at the constant harassment by police and a riot broke out in response. This is considered to be the first pro-gay rights demonstrations and the beginning of the gay rights movement. At the forefront of this riot were Marsha R. Johnson, a black trans woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a Latina trans woman. But, over time the gay rights movement became centered on white cisgender men. People can name Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard easily but Marsha and Sylvia's names have been forgotten and their legacy erased. In fact a movie called Stonewall was released last year that depicts exactly this. A white cis gay man being the lead in the riots started by trans woman of color. White people became the face of the LGBT+ movement almost exclusively and POC were treated as additive bonuses.

I see this happening with Pulse. Overlooking the racial aspect of this shooting echoes what happened with the Stonewall riots. White queer folk are attaching themselves to this shooting because it is convenient for them. This shooting occurred during Pride month, it was easy to establish this as an example of how gay people are still treated as second class citizen as long as we don’t focus on the black and brown bodies that were killed. Where were these white queer folks when black folks were protesting police brutality? Where were they when Latinx folk were fight for immigration reform? When queer people of color organize and create spaces for ourselves we are met with criticism of being divisive. Many white people are operating under the idea that we living in a post-racial society that is that we are beyond the racism and are all on the same level. White queer folk are no exception. They believe that all queer folk all face the same experiences. However data shows that 80 percent of anti-gay hate crime are against people of color. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence programs reported that 72 percent of hate crimes against LGBTQ people were against trans women, 90 percent of whom were transgender women of color. Organizations like HRC and queer celebrities like Lady Gaga, said nothing when queer people of color were fighting the injustices we face yet now that the Pulse shooting is being whitewashed, it's easy to latch on too.

The Pulse shooting is lamentable to anyone who hears about it, but those who lead conversations and organize in activist/political spaces should be queer people color. We cannot allow this tragedy to be seen as a race neutral homophobic attack. The racial identity of the victims must be acknowledged and respected just as their sexual and gender identities are.

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Cover Image Credit: Miami Herald

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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