Everyone prepared me for racism as a child. I learned how to deal with racism like I learned how to walk. My mother, father, grandfather, aunts, uncles, neighbors, teaches, cousins—anyone I came in contact with let me know this is a racist country. My grandfather was raised in the Jim Crow South and would tell me horrific stories that I am hoping he embellished because they were just too terrifying for a human to live through.
It was always enforced that I am not inferior because of my color, no matter how many times I was called a nigger. Get your education, more experiences, and realize your life will not be defined by the ignorance of others. I was taught to be a proud black man. Therefore, I never felt insecure about my blackness.
No one prepared me for homophobia. No one told me how to combat it, why it's there, or showed me documentaries. There wasn't a Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X for me to admire when the road got heavy…when I had been damned to hell too many times…when I heard gay men are destined to die of AIDS…when I was told it was unnatural…when I was told I could change if I really wanted to…when my family rejected me…when my family finally stopped rejecting me but I still can't mention "it" in their presence. On the daily, I am more affected by homophobia.
I don't feel “oppressed” as a black man. Yes, I experience racism, but I don't feel oppressed. Yes, there are imbalances, but I don't feel that my rights are being taken away -- maybe it's because I live in New York? I simply won’t stand for someone oppressing me based on complexion. I have felt more oppressed being poor, gay, but not black. Racism is a known sin.
I know what to say when someone is racist. When I was in college and we would have discussions about race, I could get 90% of the class on my side. Let the discussion be about homophobia, all you can hear is a huff, puff, and ignoramus mumblings.
Two of my gay male friends have been in a relationship for over five years. I don't have any straight friends who are currently partnered for five years. They can't get married, they live together, travel together, but their union cannot be legally protected. It shakes me up that they can't even give each other a kiss goodbye at the airport with at least a moment of thinking, "This might not be a good idea."
I am not saying racism doesn't exist in my life, surely it does. Jena 6
, Sean Bell
—clearly racist and a whole country of black folks rallied behind them. Steven Parrish
, Terrance Aeriel, Iofemi Hightower, and Dashon Harvey
—names you probably never heard of. No one is rallying for them and their family doesn't even want to discuss the sexuality of the victims, regardless if their murder was based on the possibility of them being gay. For black gays, you are more at risk of being attacked for being gay than black.
I cannot remember ever hearing in my childhood that it's wrong to hate someone because of their sexual orientation. Therefore, I cannot remember ever hearing in my childhood that I should not hate myself because of my sexual orientation. I had to learn it on my own and so do you.
Labels: Race, Sexuality