Eye See You: Allyship within the QPoC Community 💗
Something we don’t talk about enough is how we show allyship within the queer community of colour and better support each other. The truth is that I’ve seen and heard racism within our community, I’ve heard stereotypes being used and fetishisation taking place. It saddens me and weakens us collectively 😢.
Let's get into this; and I start with myself. I’m Indian and South Asians are known for displaying anti-blackness (Sharan Dhaliwal wrote about this here). Growing up, my extended family made comments that othered black people, likening them to tavas – a flat circular pan used to cook chapattis which is typically black in colour. It definitely wasn’t a compliment and felt more aggressive than the word used to describe white people (‘goreh’).
And let's not forget Muslims – my family’s fractured past with them was borne out of Partition in India (affecting Punjab and newly formed Pakistan). My grandparents remembered this painful history which in practice meant they were wary and suspicious of Muslims. Modus operandi was 'do not trust them' - without trust, no healthy relationships can truly form. And this way of thinking was passed onto their children and so on.
I was too young to understand that this was inherently wrong and internalised some of these beliefs, having little contact with other black and Muslim people (the exception being our neighbours who were Black Caribbean who we had a great relationship with). It was only at High School that I made friends who were Muslim and black and like any teenagers, realised we had more in common than we thought (talking shit 💩, bunking off school and gassing on our parents’ mobile phones using their free minutes in the evening).
Even still, it wasn’t until my mid twenties that I realised I’d never even looked at or dated a Muslim or black man and that my bias lived on. I didn’t even have any that were close friends. The harsh truth was when it came to true affairs of the heart or my close circle, I had excluded certain people.
At some point a light bulb went off 💡. I can’t pin it to a decisive moment, but as I became comfortable with my queerness (and understood how it felt to be othered), I could feel myself expand and experiment which in turn meant being in new spaces and meeting different types of people. I'd also discovered a passion for travelling solo, and my reading became ever more diverse. The net result was that I started the process of unlearning certain assumptions and beliefs, which could only be a good thing.
I also know I can’t be the only person within our community who has felt like this or acted out in this way. But I do know it’s toxic – and we don’t have time to turn on each other. To this day, I still remember a group conversation I was a part of between queer people of colour (QPoC). Person A basically said they only wanted a white partner* because people of colour had more hang-ups and that by being with someone white would make life easier. The whiteness of their partner was seen as a sign of success and symbolised a passage to mainstream acceptance. What annoyed me was that their world view was based on whiteness and its perceived (higher) value to other skin colours. The second, it was just another form of sexual racism as people of colour were being deliberately excluded for consideration as romantic partners solely based on skin colour.
*this is not a diss to those with white partners; it’s only a diss if you do the above
However, it's not all doom and gloom 🤩. There are some amazing spaces that bring us all together – UK Black Pride 🔥🔥🔥 is an example. And when we do come together to celebrate, the vibe is just magical. But like any form of diversity, it doesn’t mean it’s always comfortable even if we are united by our queerness. Our experiences ARE different and being sensitive to them is what will strengthen our connections and be a collective force for good.
I'm still woke-in-progress, but I can share what I've learnt so far and how I approach my place within our vibrant community:
Be real with yourself. We all have biases; being aware of them means you can take steps to unpick them. For me, that is expanding my ‘world’ view – talking to people different to me, reading books written by authors who don’t reflect me, following people on social media who educate me. As a result, my perspective continues to grow by challenging my assumptions and feeding my curiosity. And we have to do the same work we ask white people to do.
People of colour are not a monolith. As an example, countless sources of data tell us that Black people are often more marginalised than other ethnic groups be that by the police, in the workplace or dating. It’s not a competition, but acknowledgement of this truth means I (hopefully) keep it real when checking my privilege and relating to others.
Islamophobia is a reality in the QPoC community. Another group that is often attacked from multiple angles are Muslims and the associations made with Islam to further one's own arguments (e.g. Muslims are a threat to LGBTQ people because their religion is oppressive). It's rife across the UK so it’s not that surprising we see/hear it amongst us too. The recent protests in Birmingham have given space for some in our wider community to show their own inner bigotry (read here). I don't need to explain that this interplay between religion and race is a double whammy, so be aware of it, challenge it and catch yourself if you stray into it.
Be deliberately diverse. I keep an eye on the mix of individuals I profile for colourfull, always striving to showcase different faces, stories, identities and backgrounds. Those in our community that have even bigger platforms can make a huge difference to the visibility of certain sections of our community. I see more and more of this in the events and spaces being created, but it’s to say let’s keep being deliberate in the way we create QPoC visibility and ensure we represent the full spectrum.
We have more in common than we think. Despite our differences, in the wonderful conversations I’ve had with people for colourfull, there are golden threads that are consistent across their collective experiences – the effects of religion, strong cultural norms surrounding family, community and gender and the concept of collective shame through to the wonderful things such as a deep love of food and eating together, strong musical influences that passed between generations and a resilience from overcoming struggles that they or their families faced as immigrants.
To more love, more action and more change – achieved together!