'There’s No Pride In Prejudice' by Dr Joe Bagley (he/him/his)
June marks Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender + (LGBT+) Pride Month 2020. This year marks 51 years since the Stonewall uprising in Manhattan- a series of marches & demonstrations by members of the LGBT+ community in 1969. Thousands of LGBT+ people took to the streets to protest against centuries of abuse- from government hostility to police brutality as well as employment and housing discrimination directly targeting the LGBT+ community. It was the tipping point for the liberation movement, the fight for LGBT+ rights. LGBT+ Pride is now celebrated every year internationally with a series of parades, concerts, festivals, exhibitions and educational events. It promotes and celebrates self-affirmation, dignity, equality, inclusion and visibility of LGBT+ people.
The LGBT+ movement and LGBT+ rights have progressed so much over the past 51 years. Whilst it is true that there is ‘still more to do’ and more we need to do, we (as queer people) benefit from such privilege. Privilege, which the people rioting 51 years ago could only dream of.
It is therefore pertinent that during Pride Month, especially considering recent events, that we use our privilege and the Pride platform to amplify other voices. Other voices that haven’t benefitted from such acceptance, progression or encouragement over the past 51 years. Those voices are black voices.
What many people often don’t remember or pay tribute to is the pivotal role Black LGBT+ people played in the stonewall uprising: Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Storme’ DeLarverie to name a few, there were many more. As queer people, do we recognise these names? If we don’t, why don’t we? Why don’t we know about the individuals that were so integral to the freedoms we benefit from today? Black people experience erasure not just from this event but many other milestones in history and still today.
In February for LGBT+ History Month, the Trust’s resource group were invited to see a showing of the multi-award-winning biopic ‘There’s Always A Black Issue, Dear’ at Winchester School of Art. It explored and celebrated the influence of 11 highly individual Black LGBT+ pioneers had whilst growing up in the 1970s and 1980s in Britain. The film showcased the influence black culture has had upon fashion, art, dance, music and language. It showcased black pioneers who shaped British culture; it gave visibility to and celebrated their contribution. It also highlighted the discrimination they experienced because of their skin colour. It acknowledged the importance of family- whether this was as parents or a group of like-minded friends. It focused on individuals joining together and forming a safe space where they could be themselves.
Some of the questions we may ask ourselves today could be:
- How do we amplify black culture?
- How do we remember black history?
- How can we be better allies to people of colour?
But I’m going to change the frame here. We need to look deeper. The above questions are the bare minimum we, as white people, as queer people can ask ourselves. The question we should all be asking ourselves is, and I mean really looking in the mirror and holding ourselves to account for is, about whiteness. About white supremacy. How and why have white people been able to historically (and still today) make decisions that actively discriminate against black people and people of colour? How have we as white people enabled ourselves to build such racial inequality into our everyday lives? How and why does a system that we helped to build actively discriminate in structure, policy and behaviours against black people? Why do we not do more to address the health, social and academic inequalities and struggles that black people experience?
Let’s stop. Pause and reflect, and curiously ask ourselves why we think the way we do? Why do we only know what we know? Is it from prejudice or unconscious bias? We must address our own racism and try to understand how we have benefitted ourselves from racism in our society. It is no longer enough to not be racist. We must be anti-racist. It’s time to do the work and educate ourselves.
It’s important to note, I’m not saying we (I or you) haven’t experienced prejudice or struggled. What I’m saying is, you haven’t struggled or your life hasn’t been made harder because of the colour of your skin. You don’t climb higher by pulling others down. Comparing your own struggle erases theirs. Start by listening.
What I have learnt is in fact, ‘there is always a black issue, dear’. We cannot be what we cannot see. Question yourself. Challenge your families, your colleagues and your friends. Be curious. What are we all doing to ensure everyone is seen? What are you doing to question whiteness?
There is no pride in our inherent prejudice. This is our problem. Help to make this a movement, not just a moment.
The LGBT+ & Allies Resource Group will continue to use their Pride Month platform to amplify black LGBT+ voices, culture and history, as well as question their own biases.
Details of further events can be found here