Black Pride, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The idea of Pride has been around since the beginning of time. It is a feeling that can be felt in abundance by anyone who identifies as being black, gay, or straight. Black people have had to deal with too many trials and tribulations to count here, but it all boils down to one thing-the fact that we deserve some pride.
Pride is not only used to acknowledge the accomplishments of all black people, but it can also serve as a reminder for us to remain steadfast in the face of racism and bigotry. The idea of Pride may seem easy enough, but if you believe living your life with Pride is an easy thing to do, then you're wrong.
The idea of Pride can be a difficult thing to get your head wrapped around, especially for black people everywhere. In an ideal world where racism didn't exist, all black people would walk with their shoulders back and heads high. It is because the idea of Pride has been ingrained in us from day one. It's not easy to do, but everyone can achieve it if they set out to accomplish it.
The next time you feel down about yourself or your life, try walking around with Pride for a day. You may have to fake it at first, but the more often you practice this simple act, the easier it will be for you to do it in public. When I say walk with Pride, I don't mean wearing a suit and tie or fancy clothing, and it could be as simple as wearing a black pride t-shirt.
Idols like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were known for wearing suits and ties, but that is not their pride. For those who think that being proud of your race is a bad thing, I ask you this: Who else do you have to be proud of? Just because racism exists in America does not mean we can't be happy with the people around us. When someone asks me why I am always so delighted or how I maintain my joyous demeanor day after day, I tell them-I'm black, and it's nothing short of an honor to walk these streets while knowing my ancestors paved the way for me. Being black is worth celebrating, especially when people like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin cannot enjoy that luxury. Black people deserve to feel good about themselves, and the only way to do that is with pride.
Many black people don't realize this idea of reparations started way before slavery ended. Just because slavery ended doesn't mean racism disappeared either. It proves our ancestors had to deal with much more than we have had to deal with, so the least we can do is stand up for ourselves and know that Pride isn't something you wear- it's something you feel inside. Pride clothes are not like ordinary clothes. They are symbols and statements to show the world that you will no longer tolerate discrimination.
Now I'm not saying being proud of who you are will stop all forms of hatred towards black people, but it sure as hell makes dealing with bigotry a lot easier. I could sit here all day long telling you why being proud is essential, but nothing will happen until you start doing it yourself. Start small if you have to; lift your head when walking past white people, walk around with your shoulders back and smile at yourself now and then.
Try to remember a time when you felt prideful about yourself, but if that's too difficult, try to think back on all the times you were proud you didn't do something stupid. If feeling this way were easy, they wouldn't have had to come up with so many names for it. Over the years, being proud of who you are has been called everything from cocky to arrogant, but those people ignore the fact they are projecting their feelings on everyone around them.
It is a bit tongue n cheek, but it gets the point across. The idea of Black Pride can help make racial justice movements more inclusive and diverse in thought and action - because we need all members of these movements to feel like they belong and that their contributions are valued. Those who oppose such thoughts and actions may question why Pride is necessary when there still exists racism in the world: Why not just work against racism without any added ideas or notions? Well, for one thing, if you're working only against racism, then chances are high you're working with people who think similarly, share similar backgrounds, etc. This means power-sharing becomes an issue (i.e., U.S. President Barack Obama, for example). If you want to be inclusive and welcome all members to join your movement or ideas, then Pride may be one way to do this.
The rainbow flag is known widely as the symbol of LGBTQ pride. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Pride or LGBT pride is the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) people to promote their self-affirmation, dignity, equal rights, gaining public respect, and creating a culture of safety and acceptance for all gender identities. Pride has been called a virtue by religious leaders from every faith that accepts homosexuality. Celebrating Pride during June commemorates the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969, which are widely credited with sparking the modern LGBTQ social movements worldwide. The 1969 Stonewall riots were a series of demonstrations by members of the gay community against some straight people who had been inside the Stonewall Inn. This mafia-owned bar illegally sold alcohol to gays. Police raids on gay bars were routine in New York City, but on June 28, 1969, patrons reacted to a police raid at Stonewall Inn by resisting arrest and fighting with officers.
Pride Month is celebrated worldwide each June in recognition of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. It commemorates significant events and annual traditions of parades for Pride, diversity, town pride, unity, freedom of speech, love, remembrance of victims of homophobic hate crimes, Pride, self-affirmation, and civil rights demonstrations. It is also celebrated at other times such as in February (in remembrance of Matt Shepard, who died on October 12, 1998), April (on the anniversary of the Kent State Shootings, which occurred on May 4, 1970), and September (to recognize Bisexual Visibility during Bisexual Awareness Week).
The first marches were spontaneous and public: San Francisco City Hall records indicate that the first Gay Pride Parade took place spontaneously to commemorate the Stonewall Riots. The event had no formal organization; participants remember only a basic understanding that they would meet at a particular place and time and share their shared experiences. Gay Pride events are now held yearly throughout the world. Other common symbols of Pride include pink triangles, rainbow flags, and the kite-shaped bi pride flag designed by Michael Page in 1998. All these symbols are found on pride t-shirts and pride clothing.
The labrys was adopted in 1975 as a symbol for lesbian feminist culture by the ancient Greek Amazons, who worshiped goddesses and nature in their culture. Several gay organizations have adopted this symbol, including the National Organization for Women's Minnesota chapter in 1974 after their bill legalizing women's rights to inherit property from their deceased spouses. Another lesser-known cultural use is within Camp Trans, used unofficially to support Michigan Womyn's Music Festival o “Michfest”. The festival’s campground has been designated 'women-born-women' only since their establishment to create a safe space where biological women are the majority.
Nazi concentration camps initially used the black triangle to label prisoners deemed “nasocial”. Several organizations now use it as a symbol of gay pride, including Pride at Work AFL–CIO, an organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO, and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. It represents those who are oppressed by homophobia, non-binary inclusion within broader LGBTQIA+ communities, or not given much attention when issues of sexuality come up (e.g., bisexual erasure). It is also used as a symbol of empowerment by individuals who feel discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.
When used together on the bisexual pride flag, the labrys and black triangle represent parts of “the whole.” For some, it shows how lesbians and bisexual women need acceptance from both straight and gay society; that same acceptance is not demanded from or for those within the gay community. They stand in solidarity with gay men and straight women. Other interpretations include: one aspect of self is feminine (lesbian), the other masculine (bisexual); coming out as a lesbian after already having established relationships with men can be viewed as similar to entering prison (lesbians being perceived as "asocial"), and being bisexual then breaking out of that perceived prison can be considered to be in similar to being released from jail (bisexuals being seen as "normal"); viewing the black triangle as a double entendre representing a female-to-male transsexual, who is transitioning to a straight woman.
The pink triangle during World War II by the Nazi regime in Germany to identify homosexuals. It has been revived by gay rights activists and AIDS activist organizations such as ACT UP. In November 1987, an Australian group called Community Action Against Homophobia displayed a vast pink triangle on Sydney Harbour Bridge to raise awareness about homophobia and HIV transmission. It is a ubiquitous symbol noticeable in many pride clothing and t-shirts. According to Gwenda David and Lisa Power, editors of the book Sex Worker Reader, sex workers also reclaimed this symbol.
Michael Page designed the bisexual pride flag in 1998 to give the community its symbol comparable to the gay rainbow flag of the larger LGB community (itself added to the American flag in 2016.) He hoped it would become a symbol of solidarity, cooperation, and celebration of diversity among both sexual orientations.
Considering the history of Black people in America, it is necessary to unpack some history surrounding LGBTQ+ identity. As is often mistaken, “LGBTQ+” does not solely refer to queer men or women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer/questioning are all identities within the umbrella term. In addition, I will focus on blackness and queerness because historically, blackness has been criminalized by white supremacy while being stigmatized for sexual orientations deemed “unnatural”. While sexuality and race are distinct entities that intersect in our society - both play a role in shaping oppression against persons who identify under the LGBTQ+ label.
Let's continue by looking at homophobia in the black community. Although I mentioned that "LGBTQ+" is an umbrella term, some identities within it have been deemed more acceptable than others due to the intersectionality of other aspects such as race and gender identity. While white queers have been protected from abuse by heteronormative assimilation, black queer people have been targets of physical assault. In a study titled " Black Families and Anti-Gay Sentiment," participants discussed how they viewed their sexual preferences as a choice that could be changed because homosexuality was deemed unnatural.
To this day and age, a portion of humanity still believes that you can pray the gay away. This attitude towards queerness is why there is such a high number of black women who identify as bisexual rather than lesbian. When we think about sexual orientation, we can view it as a scale with heterosexuality and homosexuality on the other; however, I like to think about it as a spectrum. Although many people assume that identifying under the LGBTQ+ umbrella means you're homosexual, in actuality, individuals fall anywhere along this spectrum from being completely heterosexual to being completely homosexual. So someone who identifies as queer falls somewhere along this continuum.
Due to heteronormativity - homophobia will always exist. Still, because white supremacy enforced compulsory heterosexuality among all races, this has been internalized by some black people, which causes us to perpetuate the idea that queerness is something to be ashamed of. This problem is often portrayed in black media; the hyper-masculine black man, the sassy black woman, and the gay best friend are all tropes that have shown up on screen multiple times - tropes like these enforce stereotypes that dehumanize queer people of color.
Next, I want to talk about white supremacy's influence over sexuality. Historically white people imposed heteronormativity upon people of color by marking same-sex attraction as deviant behavior. As a result, some LGBTQ+ folks of color experience double alienation from their culture due to homophobia within communities of color and society due to racism against queer individuals. Furthermore, many black women face misogynoir, which makes them assume they're undesirable because beauty standards are based on whiteness.
Let's talk about the intersectionality of race and sexuality, though. On a Tumblr post, I found, a woman who talks about her experiences as a black lesbian - she discusses how her identity leads to her being fetishized by men while also experiencing misogynoir from women who view it as an abnormality. Another blog from Peculiar Pretzel discusses their experience being a black queer person who is financially secure; this made them feel isolated from other members of the LGBTQ+ community who were more likely to be targets of discrimination due to harsh economic climates.
In addition to discussing the intersections within race and sexual orientation, there are some intersections between gender identity and sexual orientation, which can be problematic. For example, in a study titled "Doing Desire: Queer Women and Racialized Sexualities," the researcher discusses how black women feel they have to choose between being desired by men or by other queer women - all based on their sexuality.
Overall it's important to bring attention to these intersections because often when we see discussions about sexuality and race, we assume they're single-axis analyses and neglect the others that impact various experiences of individuals from marginalized groups. In discussing this issue, I've been using terms specific for this identity group even though some use different language, such as transracial. Still, the fact remains that any person can be discriminated against due to their sexual orientation regardless of what word you assign them.
And on a final note, I want to say that everyone's sexuality is valid. While under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, some use different terms to describe their sexual orientation, at the end of the day, a person is a person and deserves respect from those around them. Therefore, we must continue these critical discussions about the intersectionality between race and sexual orientation. As long as marginalized groups experience oppression based on multiple intersections, our movements will always be incomplete if we don't address them all.
Black History Month is coming up quickly, which means there will be celebrations all across the country to commemorate the struggles the black community has had to endure. However, what is often forgotten, especially within marginalized communities, is that this celebration consists not only of flags and black lives matter t-shirts; there are many ongoing national efforts to remind us that we still have a long way to go in terms of equity, diversity, and inclusion.