No more White noise
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When I think of Pride Month, the first thing that comes to mind is colour 🌈 And lots of it. I also think of celebration and joy - and boy do we need it given the fuckery that is COVID-19. But I’m conflicted: one part of my identity recognises the importance of this month for queer rights and the hard work that has been done by those before us to secure the freedoms we have today. But the other part of my identity feels heavy and is struggling given everything that is happening in relation to #BlackLivesMatter as someone who is a person of colour (POC).
First things first, I’m not Black and cannot speak to the experience of Black people. I speak from my experience as a Brown (Indian) person. I too have experienced racism, but the world is so fucked that being Brown is seen to be more valuable than being Black, so the way I’ve experienced it is nothing in comparison to Black folks.
On a level, it’s been interesting to see how my White/White LGBTQ friends have reacted to all of this. Some have been silent when I’ve raised what’s been happening, others have become defensive about it and there have been plenty of comments about ‘how awful’ it is but it feels a bit hollow? And I’m not even Black, so I can only imagine how it would feel if I was. Based on some of the responses, to say I’d be disappointed is a fucking understatement.
*In fairness, there have also been some who have responded with humility and curiosity.
The words ‘white noise’ keep coming to mind. One of the everyday definitions of white noise is ‘sounds that mask other sounds that might occur naturally in an environment’. This feels on point because as is often the case with racism the sound, reactions and experiences of White people on the subject of racism tend to mask out the sound of the very people who have experienced racism.
White privilege exists in the queer community ✨
I know this is not new news. I’ve been told by those with no experience of racism that the UK is better than the US (how do you know as you’ve not been a recipient of racism?), I’ve had ignorant comments from exs about my ‘weird’ culture (is it weird because it’s not your norm?) and been told I’m attractive for an Indian (fuck you very much).
Just a reminder, if you can use a hookup/dating app without having a message of ‘no Asians, no Blacks’ directed to you, that’s White privilege. Seeing your race consistently represented well in queer media - that’s also White privilege my friend. And to not have experienced racism is the epitome of White privilege. The list could go on, but my point is that being White means you are centred as the norm and the rest of us as ‘other’. Given that race is a social construct, it was created as a deliberate attempt to lessen the value of Black people and POC. Given that it was man-made (I use that term literally), it means we can break it down, but we need White people to pitch in and do some of the heavy lifting too.
Do I want you to feel guilty? No. That would be wasted energy. I would love for you to acknowledge your privilege and be a force for change. To recognise that being White and cisgender in our community means you have more social power and to put it to good use. There are so many great things you can do, starting by educating yourself to specifically calling out racism within the community. And keep an eye out for institutional racism, particularly spaces that are unwelcoming for Black and POC people, have little diversity behind the scenes, working the bar or even on stage as talent.
Show up for Black/POC in the queer community 🙋🏼🙋🏼♂️
This can be the smallest of acts like checking in with your friends, especially those who are Black as well as POC. Race may be a construct, but its effects are real and something they have to contend with everyday (albeit in different ways) so check in, see how they are doing and let them know you are there if they need you. Surprise them with an act of kindness!
This is obviously dependent on whether you even have Black/POC queer friends? If the answer is no, that’s a place to start in and of itself. Given how quickly we lap up Black culture (Drag Race anyone) this is the time to reflect and give back. For those who do have Black/POC friends, I’m talking about the type of friends who exist in your closest circle as equals. Not your ‘funny’, ‘sassy’ Black friend that you only see for drinks in Soho - we are more than a stereotype.
Reflect on the reach of your platform and voice. Be explicit about your commitment to Black lives and uplifting the queer community of colour. My mantra is leave no room for doubt, and when we are that explicit, it will provoke more conversations. In fact, think about three people who would benefit from understanding the impact of white privilege in your circles. These conversations can be rich, uncomfortable but ultimately worthwhile if you’re willing to look at the world with a different lens.
Finally think about where you choose to spend your hard earned money. It’s Pride Month, and despite being in lockdown there will be stuff happening in the digital world. Think about how you can spend your £££ to support diverse artists, performers and spaces. If you’re organising events, think about how racially diverse and inclusive they are - and engage the abundant Black and POC talent that exists and pay them fairly.
There is no easy fix. Just plenty of small things we can all do to ensure that within our community and beyond, we tackle racism and celebrate our diversity.
Educate yourself 📚
Google is your friend, however a little help never hurt anyone. There are some amazing resources for White people on racism that examine the impact of race and the role we play in upholding a racial hierarchy. To speak with a degree of confidence requires education, so I’d encourage you to check these out if you are real about solidarity and allyship.
For the non-Black POC in the house, we can’t deny that anti-Blackness exists in our communities too. We don’t have White privilege, but we have a level of privilege that Black people are not afforded. So here’s something for us to chew on too. We must be just as accountable in demonstrating our explicit intolerance for racism and having challenging conversations within our communities. And no, just because it’s a colonial by-product enforced by White people doesn’t mean we get to shirk the work.
If you remember only one thing, then let it be to understand the difference between being non-racist and an anti-racist. The first focuses on what we should not be doing (not displaying bias, discrimination, etc.) and falsely implies we’ve done what we need to. Wrong! Sitting at home in disgust watching the news is not enough. Being anti-racist is explicitly proactive, being vocal, communicating your stance and actively challenging yourself and others.
Happy Pride! 🏳️🌈
‘None of us are free until all of us are free’
Just as we know that homophobia isn’t checked at the door when you enter any non-queer space, the same principle applies for racism within the queer community. It’s a smaller scale reflection of society at large, which is why I urge us to look inward - we all have to do the hard work.
So yes celebrate Pride and be proud, but in the same breath challenge racism. Our rainbow is bleeding, and its colour is Black.
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