Statement on Racial Justicepublished on Jun 2, 2020
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Dear OUTWORDS Family,
Yesterday was the first day of what is traditionally called Pride Month. But here at OUTWORDS, we spent the day grappling with how to respond as LGBTQ+ people of conscience to the latest manifestations of our nation’s systemic violence against Black lives. And here in my own heart, I am grappling with how to respond from a place of accountability—to acknowledge publicly and unequivocally that as a white American, I am complicit in and have benefitted from the systemic oppression of Black Americans that I now claim to dislike and reject.
I will never know the agony and rage of being a Black person in this country. In the words of OUTWORDS interviewee Kylar Broadus, “We sometimes think that because I’m oppressed in one way, then I understand every form of oppression. But how can I understand your struggle as a gay white man, when I’m not? And what makes you think you can understand my struggle as a trans Black man, if you’re not?”
It’s precisely because my privilege protects me from that experience that I must act. I must use my queerness to activate my activism. Otherwise, I’m just one of those people who “got theirs,” and who now sit comfortably on the sidelines, shaking their heads and sighing, posting expressions of shock and horror on Facebook, then returning to safer, easier distractions.
These are a few of my thoughts this morning. I also asked OUTWORDS board member Andrea Pino-Silva to share some thoughts from the perspective of a queer woman of color and survivor of sexual violence.
In my life, Pride has never just been about celebration. As a Cuban woman, my identity in this country has always been volatile. I am a daughter of refugees, a girl born and raised by working class parents, but for whom whiteness is not only a possibility and passing identity, but almost certainly a guarantee. As a queer woman, I have never been able to divorce my latinidad from my queerness, and for me Pride has always meant resistance: a refusal of institutions, of what colonialism has deemed ‘normal.’
At its core, my queerness has always been a refusal of whiteness. Queerness has been a catalyst for me: for my healing, for my growth, and for my desire to fight back. For me, queerness is a struggle, a commitment to learn and unlearn the white supremacy and colonialism I was taught and live within, and a commitment to be led by Black elders and youth. Queerness is an unwavering investment and nurturing of Black lives, today, and every day.
As an OUTWORDS board member, I say to my queer community, Let’s never stop refusing whiteness, and never stop showing up.
This June, let us join arms and hearts to ensure that this month and forever after, we remember that Pride began, not as an expression of self-acceptance, but as a demand for justice. Let us seek to reclaim those roots. And for those of us who are white, let us jointly acknowledge that if we want justice for all Americans, we must lay down our privilege in a hundred ways, large and small, each and every day.
With respect and appreciation,
Executive Director, OUTWORDS