At first, I wasn’t sure how to respond, as a mixture of randomized white guy guilt and distance from the subject at hand made it feel a little awkward. But the more I read the more I felt something needed to be said and a balance redressed.
First off: I’m not a black American woman; I’m a white guy from the north of England. I can’t speak about racism or sexism in the US, or anywhere else for that matter, as I have no personal experience of it. At no point in time will I attempt to play those issues down or belittle the struggle experienced by people to deal with those issues on a daily basis. That’s not my bag, and that’s not why I’m here.
In fact, I agree with Sierra on the material points of her rant: There’s a part of me that cringes slightly when I hear a 25-year-old white guy from Oxford add ‘gurl’ to every sentence as he flicks an non-existent weave out of his face. It annoys the hell out of me and I’m not here to defend his choices in such affectations. I’m here to remind Sierra that, however keenly you feel your struggle, your cause is in no way helped by belittling that of others.
Towards the end of her piece, Sierra says: ‘The difference is that the black women… cannot hide their blackness and womanhood to protect themselves the way that you can hide your homosexuality.’
That is simply untrue.
The idea that it’s not so bad for me because I can hide the fact that I’m gay is offensive. The point, on both counts, is that we shouldn’t have to: The Pride movements (both Black Pride and Gay Pride) exist because the idea isn’t to be like everyone else, it’s to be who we are, without fear of discrimination.
The gay struggle exists. Homophobia is still an issue in every country in the Western world (not to mention all those other countries where homosexuality is punishable by death or torture) and change is a slow process. Don’t get me wrong – sexism and racism are huge issues, too. Probably bigger issues than homophobia in most places, but, I can’t speak about that, as I honestly don’t know; I haven’t lived it.
This is not an attempt to start a game of ‘whose life sucks more?’ because that’s not helpful and there are no prizes awarded for having to wade through deeper shit than everyone else.
However keenly you feel your struggle, your cause is in no way helped by belittling that of others.
Instead of railing at one another, I’d suggest that the struggles faced by both gay men and black women could help to unite us in a spirit of mutual empathy and support. Maybe that’s just me being idealistic. Either way, I won’t tell you how to avoid discrimination as a black woman, and you don’t tell me how to avoid it as a gay man.
Check your privilege and your disadvantage. Work to strengthen the people around you.