No one said the world affairs and the people that surround us are remotely aware of differences that should not separate us, but unite us. I am not merely speaking of LGBT rights and the people who shed hatred from the right. That is to be expected and I think we are all aware of it.
But unfortunately, there is hatred among us too. Even if we try to ignore it, or give it another name, hatred rears its ugly face in business rivalry, in unethical tactics by other LGBT media and organizations, and even in the way we treat one another — differently, as we claim the right wingers do to us. This is hypocritical.
There is that struggle that we, LGBT folks, tend to think that everyone in the community holds and/or understands. It is the notion that we are all at the same molecular level, as all cells of our body are. But, we are not.
Race within the LGBT community; the Washington Blade
Recently, Think Progress ran a story titled The Consequences of Pitting Race Against Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity. The author discussed the gay v. race debate used by the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) anti-gay hatred-filled actions and compared those to the words of Washington Blade’s editor Kevin Naff in his “All Aboard the Trayvon Bandwagon” editorial. Think Progress ran another article in which the author denounced Naff’s editorial as ignoring the “reality of racial oppression.” I must concur, not only on the basis of mere knowledge, but based on my own experiences as a Hispanic lesbian of color.
Needs of LGBT mainstream and LGBT people of color are different
Naff’s editorial sounds utterly defensive when it pertains to race, ethnicity and the diverse LGBT community that he, as the Blade’s editor, should be fully representing and remembering. His words are damaging to such a community and to the rest of the people of color in the nation. To draw comparisons between LGBT mainstream communities and LGBT color communities is naïve. In his tirade, Naff arrogantly writes about others (members of the media, celebrities and well-known leaders of the communities of color) exercising “self-restraint” when it came to drawing conclusions about the Trayvon Martin case. Not fully understanding that self-restraint is something that is hard to attain when you are in a marginalized position is perhaps something that Naff’s assertions did not take into consideration. In his privileged position personally and professionally, Naff should exercise more restraint. Not doing so left the non-majority readers of his piece wondering the purpose of his column. Simply stated, he doesn’t get it. How can he? He can’t relate to the struggles of people of color, for he does not have the experience to speak about something that he has never lived. That is exactly why he should not have written about it the way he did.
The reality is that the world is not as White as it used to be. The Hispanic and African American populations continue to grow, although their misrepresentation in powerful positions continues to exist, just as it happens with women. These groups are underrepresented because they have less access to the privileges that their Caucasian counterparts do. If that is not true, then check the high school and college dropout rates of these two communities and therein lies the answer.
Trayvon Martin and the racial divide
I hope Naff’s position stems from fear of the unknown and a lack of exposure to what marginalized groups really go through in life. I believe there is bad reporting, as I believe that people make mistakes. Seeing the side of an unarmed African American teenager carrying a bag of Skittles who ended up dead is not only serious, but a grave situation that should not have happened. Had Trayvon Martin been a white unarmed kid, walking alone when a Black neighborhood watch patroller (who was specifically told by the 911 operator not to follow him) pulled the trigger that killed him; it would have created such mayhem in each corner of the U.S. The actions and reactions would have been very different too. Let’s just say that the Black patroller would have probably been in jail and would have been charged for the murder faster than Zimmerman was. It’s almost just as clear as FEMA’s response was when Katrina hit the Louisiana coast—in the eyes of the marginalized groups.
Naff “criticized 29 national LGBT groups for speaking out against Trayvon’s killing”
But, it does take more than a White man to understand this. Naff speaks from an egotistical position of power and utilizes his voice to minimize Martin’s tragic death and how it resonates with the marginalized and allied communities. Think Progress stated “Naff instead criticized 29 national LGBT groups for speaking out against Trayvon’s killing. From our perspective, Naff’s is a misplaced screed that, more than anything, highlights the tone-deaf nature with which some LGBT leaders approach and understand issues of race.” Again, I concur.
To understand race divide, unfairness, unworthiness, neglect, bigotry, and the constant struggle not to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, etc., someone has to be well informed, or has had to experience bigotry and racism him/herself or from a dear one. We have a Caucasian columnist, Rev. Jason Lydon, who consistently writes about white and male privilege and how damaging they are for everyone. I am in accord with him. Unfortunately, we need more Lydon’s out there and less Naff’s. Naff’s eyes are blind—blind to racial profiling, to ethnic discrimination, to unfair pay, treatment and lack of opportunities, and to the struggle of LGBT people of color here in the United States, amongst others.
Abruptly, Naff brings up Zimmerman’s (alleged) Hispanic ancestry. Is his quest to somehow ameliorate the effects of the tragedy he so poorly refers to in his column? It seems better for Naff to excuse the situation if he thinks of Zimmerman’s alleged Hispanic ancestry. Many people in this country, knowingly or not, have a Hispanic or mixed ancestry. Look at Mitt Romney, for instance, he has a Mexican ancestry. I have a Spanish European (more than half), Puerto Rican and minute French ancestry. Why is this important to bring up someone’s ancestry during such a horrible act? Those are insensitive words aimed at creating more damage than unification in such times of duress.
Reuters: “… Minorities being targeted due to the color of their skin.”
According to CBS, Deryl Dedmon, the Jackson, Miss. teen who purposely (admitted) ran his truck several times (graphic content, viewer discretion advised) over James Craig Anderson, a 49-year-old African American, was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences for a racially motivated hate crime. Out of hate, Dedmond was “searching for a black” victim to “mess with.” A few minutes after running over Anderson, Dedmond is quoted as saying “I ran that N%$$#& over.” This, Reuters reported, along with the Martin case in Florida, “has again put a national spotlight on the issue of minorities being targeted due to the color of their skin.”
White Supremacist group gives “point system” to this editorial, allows usage of racial expletives
Rest assured, the issue of minorities being targeted has never gone away. It only resurfaces when the media reports on it, as it is proven by the reaction to this piece. Suddenly, less than 48 hours ago, the storm hit TRT and my life. I had no idea that I would be the target of white supremacists. A well-known white supremacist wesbsite, Stormfront, via one of its anonymous users hiding behind a generic photo of a woman but who goes by the name of JamesMiller posted a self-distorted version of my words via Stormfront, owned by Don Black (former KKK leader). From it, other Stormfront members migrated to The Rainbow Times‘ website to share their hatred for anything other than their white hate-filled counterparts. Misrepresenting the editorial, JamesMiller (Friend of Stormfront and Sustaining Member) and his cohorts maliciously turn to race profiling and categorize me through a “victimization” point system devised by their hate-filled and contorted minds, ultimately changing the tone of this story and its true meaning.
In this unenlightened point system, they awarded me “THREE (3) victim points for doing nothing other than: being gay, being born hispanic, being born a woman.” This is exactly why we, the media (mainstream, and in this case especially LGBT) have a duty to keep reporting on racial discrimination, just as we do DADT, DOMA, and all of the other LGBT civil rights that we so desperately seek to attain. As LGBT members, we cannot expect or demand equality and ask others to join us in our fight for civil rights when we cannot understand the same principles that the communities of color go through, especially our own LGBT communities of color. That is why Naff’s editorial was the original topic of my column. The purpose of this article, is to call the attention of LGBT publishers in the U.S. to open up, understand and work to bridge the racial divide among ourselves–to be able to unite our front and fine-tune our common struggles to enhance our lives in the upcoming years.
Relating means understanding … or living it
As the Hispanic, lesbian publisher of The Rainbow Times (emphasis added), I belong to a very select and limited group of LGBT publishers of color. Like Anderson and Martin, I have seen, faced, struggled and feared for my life because of the status that this society “denies” me. I speak from an informed and experienced perspective, for I could be and have been close to being a statistic at the hands of the KKK in Alabama. Now, I am at a new level of hatred, for my photo is on this racially-divisive website, Stormfront. As such, discrimination and bigotry continue to follow me, for being born as perfect as I am (in my eyes, the eyes of my wife and those who love me from all racial and ethnic backgrounds). But, as I am certain that I understand discrimination and sick vitriol, I am almost certain that Naff, prior to writing his editorial, had never had to go to bed wondering if someone treated him fairly that day, if when the alarm went off at a store entrance people thought it was him who may have taken something from the establishment, if the U.S. border patrol questioned him more and singled him out, but not the other people in his car, if the KKK leaders from Cullman, AL, tried to take footage of his face to keep him from helping first-generation Mexican immigrants, if he has ever wondered if he did not get a job because he was not born with the right skin color, or if he got that job just because of the mere fact that a quota needed to be filled to show that there is diversity in “that” company. I tend to think that he has never experienced any of the above. That is why he should not have used the Blade’s platform to publish an insensitive rant regarding something that he apparently is totally ignorant about. Is it just because he is the privileged white gay editor of a well-known newspaper and can’t relate to the struggles of people of color? I hope so because in our positions we cannot take advantage of professional (and for Naff social) positions which may seem as not helping our fellow comrades, all of the LGBT people, including the non-white ones too.
*Gricel Martínez Ocasio has been in the journalism field for over 20 years. She holds an MBA from Marylhurst University and a journalism degree (Bachelor’s) from Temple University. She can be reached (in English or Spanish) at: [email protected].