I’ve never been a huge fan of the term “black community.” I like “black communities” more. It’s more specific. The black community in East New York, Brooklyn is quite different than the one that vacations at the beach in Sag Harbor, Long Island. Sure, there is a shared history. Millions of black Americans were slaves, and most of us are their descendants.
But black people in the United States enjoy at least some freedom of expression. That is, my black grandmother, steeped in a black Baptist church in central Florida, has a different set of experiences than me, a black woman from New York City who attended an elite private school and college and identifies as a secular Jew. Are all of our opinions the same? Absolutely not. But we have conversations in which our different views are articulated differently. Because we can.
Probably the same way my friend who is white has different opinions about marriage equality than her grandmother. But we don’t consider my friend’s grandmother part of a homophobic “white community.”
Because white people can be individuals.
In a piece for Mother Jones, writer Brandon Ellington Patterson says he has seen “a lot of pushback from black people” regarding recent advancements in the rights and visibility of LGBT people. Citing Twitter and YouTube users, he writes that “some parts of the black community” are dismissive of marriage equality and “reject transgender people.”
Patterson writes that it is “problematic for black people to reject the LGBT rights struggle.”
But isn’t it just as problematic to let a few random Twitter users speak for “black people” as a group? And to underestimate the contributions that black LGBT people and their allies have made to both the gay-rights movement and the #BlackLivesMatter movement?
In my reporting, I cover issues related to class, race, and sexuality. Just two weeks ago I interviewed a black trans man who was integral to the organization of Charleston, South Carolina’s Black Lives Matter March.
And as Patterson noted in his piece, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—three queer black women —started the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and campaign. Their mission statement cites queer and trans lives three times.
Is there work needed to change the hearts and minds of some black Americans? Why, yes. Yes, there is.
But some white Americans need catching up, too. Let’s start with three of the four Supreme Court justices who dissented on marriage equality.
When I type in “burn in hell gay protest” into Google, the only faces I see are white.
Where is the article linking their racial identity to their homophobia?