It is never easy to tell someone that his actions, his words or his general lack of support is hurtful. Such a conversation becomes even more difficult to have if an individual is oppressed by another oppressed community he belongs to.
In other words: black homophobia.
This university’s chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority hosted a panel titled, “Dispelling Social Stigmas in the Black Community: Black Homophobia,” Tuesday.
“Black homophobia is trying to separate the struggle–I’m internalizing my oppression and putting it on you,” Angel Jones, one of the panelists, said.
“Your black struggle is not like mine because you’re gay,” she said, to cite an example.
Those words rang in my head because they are familiar in tone and ignorance.
How many times have I found myself defending the actions of black women to white feminists?
How many times have I found myself frustrated with the approach to issues of being black in a country that was not built for my people and hear the words “all lives should matter?”
The answer is too many times.
Too often individuals grow uncomfortable and defensive of their stances. As a result, these same individuals lash out at the very same people who are already the minority.
“The black community needs to become an ally,” Shaneda Destine, an awarded American Sociological Association Minority predoctoral fellow from Howard University, said during the panel.
“It’s not fair to say black lives matter when you’re only talking about certain black lives,” she said.
Black transgender lives, for example, are targeted but many of their stories are not widely known. According to the Huffington Post, 19 transgender women have been killed this year and out of those 19 women, 17 were women of color.
“Something you see a lot is ‘black lives matter’ then you see people clap back with ‘all lives matter.’ That’s obviously wrong because black lives are included in all lives but it’s specifically important to talk about black lives,” Grant DeVaughn Johnson III, a senior GIS major and one of the moderators, said.
“But then you turn around and you see those same people advocating for black lives matter try to distance themselves from black gay rights. It’s the same exact thing,” he said.
The oppressed, and the black community, know what it feels like to see white privilege at work. It is then disheartening to hear similar the dynamic of straight privilege at work in my own community.
Conversations like this are important, and when they are held in a room full of more than 100 people, it seems that forms of sexuality discrimination are ending.
Acceptance is easier to come by, as Professor Scot Reese learned. He told his father he was moving in with his partner when he was 29-years-old.
“Oh I’ve got another son,” was his father’s response. The following week Reese’s father flew out to Boston to visit the couple, Reese said.
Reese realized that his father, a man who raised four children by himself, was not going to pass judgement onto his son’s choices and instead support him.
In fact, Reese said he was more uncomfortable than his dad and if he could do it over again, he would have talked more openly about his sexuality.
Other panelists, such as Keith Combs, were surprised by certain people who were very supportive of them.
Combs found support in his fraternity brother.
“They tend to project masculinity,” he said, in reference to black Greek fraternities. “You’re made to look like the ideal black man.”
Wherever the support is found, it can definitely start with a conversation and through events like this to create common understanding of other’s struggles. Then, progress can really begin.
Featured Photo Credit: Jin Kim, former Bloc Reporter.
Naomi Harris is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.