I spent Saturday at the Black and White Reunion, Summit Against Racism. While I would not have thought of myself as a racist person, the ways racism is systemic and pervasive as white privilege as well as more explicit racism, is something that has come into my view a number of times recently. It is time for me to better understand what things I can do to combat racism. The Black and White Reunion has been happening for now, 15 years on the weekend after Martin Luther King Day. I first heard of it two years ago, when the Progressive Unconference was here, and people were trying to be at both events, and so when I saw this advertised, I knew I wanted to attend this year.

As a gay activist, it is difficult to see the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans community as racially diverse. At most any gathering of the community, it is very white, and mostly male. People talk about this, and express a desire for it to be different, but it doesn’t seem to change. Why is that, and what do we really do about it? We know that there are LGBTQ persons in every racial group, so there is no reason why this diversity should not be more easily visible.

While the Summit got off to a late start due to the weather, it got going nonetheless. That illustrates the commitment of the organizers who are racially mixed, to the importance of this event and efforts. That time was useful, to meet people. The crowd gathered ranged from very young to very old and everything in between with a great contingent of folks from the Occupy Pittsburgh camp at People’s Park. While “race” may not seem like the predominant issue for the Occupy movement, financial inequality fostered by corporate greed and the current corrupt system of wealth protection hits the African American community very hard.

One of the things that I’ve come to understand that many who have been doing racial justice work have known for some time, all of the “isms” share much. Underneath is the same systemic stuff. It is the way power is protected and passed from those who have it to only those they feel should have it. Yet, it is insufficient to say that all the isms are the same or to suggest that the ways they influence real people is exactly the same. So, a willingness to focus on racism at one time, and a focus on sexism or heterosexism, for example, at other times is essential. We just all need to work together as marginalized communities supporting one another. Together we can make progress.

Within the LGBTQ, we will only make progress once we start to recognize how white privilege acts within our community and our organizations. It isn’t merely a matter of trying to increase minority representation on boards of directors, but rather, seek out and make sure we are speaking for the needs of queer people of color. A step towards that must include a willingness to be participants in efforts for movements important to people of color, a space where the (mostly( male, white gay community is rarely found. My first inclination when others pointed out how I benefit from white privilege, was to be defensive. There is no time to waste on such emotions. The damage racism causes to real people and to our community (both inside the LGBTQ as well as outside of it) is real, and enough damage has been done. It is time to be self-reflective and accountable to people of color and be active participants in racial justice work, as it is a part of human rights work.

 

http://blackandwhitereunion.org/content/14th-summit-program-schedule

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