I watched the documentary, even knowing that this might be giving credence to all of what I like to call “ignorant conscious folks.” You know the type well: these are the men and some women, who believe that everything, including their own mistakes, helplessness, insecurities and misgivings in life, are the fault of white men and their evil and manipulative black women cohorts. These are the folks that will in one hand hold black women up as queens of the earth but are also quick to sloganeer some misogynist, and occasionally violent language and action for those who fail to live up to their expectation of what a queen is suppose to be.
Through very real examples of black history and achievements were included, these scholars and historians also manage to weave a web of conspiracy, which makes black women into pathological figures who seek to harm the black man through their choices to obtain a degree and good jobs and homes. Throughout the film, Nasheed and some of the other historians non-historically asserted that black men are being emasculated by feminism, which teaches women to talk back freely and demand rights they don’t even need, and say that homosexuality only seeks to take black men out of their pants and put them into dresses. No, seriously, they really said that. Likewise, the “feminization” of the public education, which has not produced enough challenging “man work,” is the direct cause behind why women are obtaining higher degrees in education at greater rates than men, and why men have greater drop-out rates than women. Yup, that was in there too. So was the idea that the men are helpless in fending off all this sexual energy from these oversexed, European-minded black women, who are keeping black men away from their righteous paths.
After watching the first Hidden Colors documentary, I realized two things: First, my male friend who suggested this film to me is a freakin’ idiot, and now I suspect him to be a closet misogynist. And secondly, we must be in a real desperate state in our community for both knowledge and overall historical respect, if we are willing to promote these regressive gender roles and hyper-masculine ideas for the sake of black pride and power, even as these ideas tends to contribute to reasons why violence and abuse, among women in particular, are so pervasive and not taken seriously in the community.
And this is exactly why I refuse to watch the second Hidden Colors documentary, no matter how much praise it receives from those within the “conscious community.” I refuse to watch any nonsense, which trivializes the very real racial subjugation of black folks in order to promote a belief that the best way to uplift the community is through the continued degradation of black women. Despite what the documentary wants us to believe, our sexism and homophobia is not a triumph; instead, it is the continued recipe for how we as a community, stay losing.
White gay cis men have cultural access to the bodies of black women and black femmes, cultural access that black women and black femmes do not have in relation to white gay cis male bodies. This cultural access allows white gay cis men to caricature black femininities, through mannerisms and voice intonations, as rambunctiously depraved and outlandish. It is a form of ontological mockery that reinforces dehumanizing narratives and racist tropes about black femininities. Perez Hilton, who personifies a homonormative politic, has systematically tapped into the cultural access to which I refer at various points in his career. Indeed, the sassy lexicon he, and so many other upper middle class non-disabled white gay cis men like him, employs rests on the commodification and appropriation of black femme identities. Hilton interjecting himself in a social media dispute between two black women, Azealia Banks and Angel Haze, precipitated the Hilton/Banks altercation, which is emblematic of his (problematic) cultural access.
Because our society subscribes to an insidiously misogynistic sociocultural paradigm, to insult someone, notwithstanding gender, is to invoke the feminine. So what better way for Banks to cut Hilton down to size than to call his masculinity into question? The Banks/Hilton feud had absolutely nothing to do with sexual identity (read: homophobia), but rather, gender power dynamics (read: femmephobia). Azealia calling Perez a “messy faggot” suggests an attempt to assert her status as a no-nonsense, hard ass femcee in a largely masculine of center dominated hip-hop industry. Masculine of center queer men, notwithstanding race, appropriate the word bitch. Very often, they use it pejoratively, and with impunity. They’re seldom called out on the ubiquity of their misguided misogyny. Yet, when it comes to Azealia’s use of the word faggot, she’s quickly characterized as homophobic, reinforcing the dominant narrative that people of color are somehow inherently homophobic, to echo Janet Mock’s recent sentiments. Although Azealia Banks is queer, she is not part of a population that would have this slur used against her. That being said, there are other words that are deeply entrenched manifestations of oppression that go unchecked each and every day. Ironically, many gay men who are up in arms over Azealia’s use of the word faggot are the same men who render femme-identified men invisible and undesirable.
Azealia Banks’ career allegedly hangs in the balance and Perez Hilton’s remains firmly intact. She’s now regarded as the ratchet, violently homophobic black woman. By virtue of his white gay cis male privilege, Hilton did not have to contend with the implications of calling will.i.am a faggot several months ago. This isn’t two wrongs make a right, but rather, one wrong is minimized, and the other, pathologized.
As a trans woman, there’s rarely a time when I’ve been able to applaud the portrayal or someone’s commentary on a woman like myself in mainstream media. As a fan of many shows, entertainers and writers who’ve belittled “my people,” I have a bittersweet relationship with what I consume. If I wrote off every famous person or show that offended me, I would have nothing to watch. And for some this is an effortless protest. For me, it is not. That’s why I’m a critical fan.
There are many things that I choose not to offer my commentary on because I just want it to go away and I don’t want to be bombarded by the stans who will surely say that I am “too sensitive,” that it was “just a joke,” that “tranny” is not a slur because “my friend’s cousin is a transgender and she uses it all the time.”
Being a critical fan means that you love a famous human being, knowing fully well they are flawed and can make mistakes due to their privilege-blindness or outright ignorance (whether knowingly or unknowingly practicing misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, racism, etc.). When they f*ck up, it is your duty as a critical fan to make them better, call them out and educate them. Your job is not to create excuses and adamantly defend their mistakes because they are so fierce in your eyes.
I know Banks will not be the last famous person to say something foul and Hilton will not be the last person to receive it. What I know for sure though is that we will not heal until we learn to love ourselves, embrace each other’s differences and push one another to be better, especially when we –- the famous ones and the ones covering and following the famous ones — make mistakes.
Anthony Heilbut has been a leading producer, reviewer and historian of black gospel music for nearly a half-century. During that time, he came to know many performers who were gay or bisexual, and he treated their private lives as private. Mr. Heilbut’s authoritative book “The Gospel Sound,” published in 1971 and updated several times since then, contained just one sentence about homosexuality.
Anthony Heilbut’s new book intends to expose what he calls the hypocrisy of the black church’s opposition to gay marriage.
Now, amid the volatile national debate about same-sex marriage, Mr. Heilbut has thrown the doors open to what he calls the “secret closet” of gays in gospel. In a lengthy chapter of his forthcoming book, “The Fan Who Knew Too Much,” he not only pays homage to the artistic role of gays and bisexuals, but also accuses black Christians, clergy and laity alike, of hypocrisy in opposing same-sex marriage while relying on gay people for much of the sacred music of the black church.
The timing of Mr. Heilbut’s book, and the intensity of his argument, has thrust it from the dusty corners of arts criticism into the heat and light of the political arena in a presidential election year. Same-sex marriage, more than any other issue, has forced the black church as an institution to try to reconcile its dueling strains of ideological liberalism and theological conservatism. At the congregational level, it has meant the awkward coexistence of gay musicians and antigay preaching and casual ridicule.
“The family secret has become public knowledge,” Mr. Heilbut writes in his book, “and the black church, once the very model of civil rights, has acquired a new image, as the citadel of intolerance.” Left unchecked, he continues, the trend “would introduce an ugly but not uninformed term, ‘black redneck.’ ”
While Mr. Heilbut’s book is only beginning to be widely distributed and read, his contentions have provoked vigorous dispute from some black clergy members. Their complaint, interestingly, is far less with Mr. Heilbut’s assertions about the significance of gay performers in gospel music than with that fact’s relevance to same-sex marriage.
“Ludicrous, outrageous and nonsensical,” said the Rev. Emmett C. Burns Jr., the pastor of Rising Sun First Baptist Church near Baltimore, who is a prominent opponent of Maryland’s new law permitting same-sex marriage. “The black church respects the talents of musicians who have gay and lesbian tendencies. But the church never gives up its beliefs that such persuasions are anathema to individuals within the church and in direct conflict with the Bible.”
Days after the president’s statement, one of the most influential young pastors in America, the Rev. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, spoke from his pulpit in defense of gay rights, including the right to marry.
His reasons for breaking his silence are partly practical. Many of the musicians he identifies as gay or bisexual — James Cleveland, Alex Bradford, Clara Ward, Sister Rosetta Tharpe — are now dead, and in Mr. Cleveland’s case, dead from AIDS.
In the book, Mr. Heilbut recounts a conversation with another gay musician, Charles Campbell, shortly before his death. When Mr. Heilbut asked if he could “tell his story and quote him,” Mr. Campbell replied: “Sure, baby, I think it needs to be told. It all needs to be told.”
Who Will Revere Us? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls)
From April 23, 2012 through April 26, 2012, The Feminist Wire published Aishah Shahidah Simmons’ four part series titled “Who Will Revere Us? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls).” Through a comparison of selected cases, Simmons interrogates why Black/African-American/African descendant communities have tremendous difficulty addressing various forms of violence perpetuated against LGTBQ people, straight women, and girls. Following is the introduction to the series.
The title of this four part article is a metaphorical nod to the legendary jazz singer, songwriter, actor, and activist Abbey Lincoln (also known as Aminata Moseka) whose essay, “Who Will Revere The Black Woman?” is featured in the ground-breaking anthology The Black Woman. Edited by Black feminist author, screenwriter, and visionary activist Toni Cade Bambara, this all-Black woman anthology focused on the issues most pertinent to Black women and our communities. Originally published in 1970 and reissued in 2005 with a forward by Dr. Eleanor W. Traylor, The Black Woman was the literary wo/manifestation of the impact of the intersection of the Civil Rights/Black Power movements and the second wave of the Women’s Rights movement on Black women’s lives. In short, Ms. Lincoln’s ageless essay is a demand for justice and protection for Black women. In her concluding paragraph she writes,[…]Who will revere the Black woman? Who will keep our neighborhoods safe for Black innocent womanhood? Black womanhood is outraged and humiliated. Black womanhood cries for dignity and restitution and salvation. Black womanhood wants and needs protections, and keeping and holding. Who will assuage her indignation? Who will keep her precious and pure? Who will glorify and proclaim her beautiful image? To whom will she cry rape?I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the front upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.
I am struggling to find the right time to discuss inter and intra-racial gender-based violence in the midst of the justified outrage about the rampant and virulent racialized violence perpetrated against straight Black boys and men. Even with this being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, now doesn’t feel like the best time to write about the gender-based and state-sanctioned violence perpetuated against Black straight women, girls, and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) people both inside of and outside of our racial/cultural communities. I fear that sharing what’s on my heart and mind, might be construed as my taking away from the “real” issue at hand in most Black communities, which seems to be solely white supremacist and/or state-sanctioned racist violence against straight Black men and boys. Audre Lorde’s writings remind me, however, that discussions on oppression within Black communities should never be taken up within an either/or frame. The diverse herstories/histories and contemporary realities of Black straight women, girls, and LGBTQ people have consistently revealed that the issues that directly impact us often take a back seat, if they even make it into the metaphorical car on the freedom and liberation highway. There is a collective understanding among many in multi-racial, radical progressive movements, that the white supremacist, patriarchal, heterosexist, imperial, and capitalist power structure is the root of all oppressions in the United States. While I believe that to be true, even in the company of other oppressed people, Black straight women and LGBTQ people are still under attack. Too often we are caught at the intersections of race, gender, and if we identify as LGBTQ, sexuality. In spite of our shared his/herstories of oppression, struggle, and perseverance against the odds, not enough Black people view sexism, patriarchy, misogyny, heterosexism and transphobia with the same kind of activist passion that we view racism, white supremacy, and state-sanctioned violence perpetuated against straight Black men and boys. The reality is this: when Black straight men and boys are beaten, brutalized, and/or murdered as a result of state-sanctioned and/or white supremacist violence, it becomes (as well it should be) a national issue in the Black community and in a few, definitely not all, instances, the outrage moves beyond the Black community. Yet, when Black straight women, girls, and LGBTQ people are raped, sexually assaulted, beaten, brutalized, and/or murdered as a result of misogynist, patriarchal, state-sanctioned, and/or white supremacist violence, it is too often the victim’s individual issue.
There are so many egregious, known and unknown, cases of racial and gender-based violence perpetuated against all Black people, regardless of their gender, gender identity, and sexuality, that it is literally impossible to write about all of them. I want to highlight a selected few of the far too many, however, to ask Black/African-American/African descended people to consider our responses when any of us have been railroaded into the prison industrial complex, sexually or otherwise assaulted, or murdered. I want us, Black/African-American/African descended people, to consider our responses to issues that affect many as opposed to those issues affecting someof us based on our gender, gender identity, and/or sexuality.
Part 1, which was published on April 23, 2012, can be read in its entirety here. On April 24, 2012, Ebony.com aggregated part one. You can read it here.
A story by Alternet’s Bruce Wilson revealed that the group’s co-founder, Jason Russell, gave a speech last November at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University likening his organization to the school’s evangelical Christian students (emphasis his):
A lot of people fear Christians, they fear Liberty University, they fear Invisible Children – because they feel like we have an agenda. They see us and they go, “You want me to sign up for something, you want my money. You want, you want me to believe in your God.” And it freaks them out.
Some of the people who appear in the group’s “Stop Kony” video campaign against Kony also share evangelical ties. Among the celebrity allies listed are NFL quarterback and anti-abortion spokesman Tim Tebow as well as megachurch pastor Rick Warren.
Inhofe, who has gained the most notoriety for his attempts to refute scientific evidence of global warming, has also proposed the United States use the Bible as the framework for policy involving Israel; he has also blamed the 9/11 attacks on a lack of support for Israel.
For his part, Brownback has has introduced legislation requiring companies to disclose their use of conflict materials taken from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has also been praised as a “Champion of Darfur”by the Genocide Intervention Network for his efforts to resolve tensions in that region.
However, Brownback’s record when it comes to certain U.S. citizens have been decidedly less generous: he has actively opposed abortion rights and LGBT rights while supporting the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.
Brownback and Inhofe are also allegedly members of an evangelical group credited with fueling anti-gay legislation in Uganda. According to a book by journalist Jeff Sharlet, the two men are part of The Family, which has been linked with support for a proposed Ugandan bill making homosexuality punishable by death. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, who has previously said gay relationships were against God’s will, is reportedly considering the implications of passing the law.
David Bagati, a member of the Ugandan Parliament, told The New York Times that conversations with members of The Family, also known as The Fellowship, provided the impetus for him to submit the bill…
—Arturo García sums up how deep the Stop Kony campaign is in the pockets of the Religious (and Political) Right on the R today.
I have always recoiled from the idea that certain conversations by marginalized people can only be held behind closed doors (The old “Don’t air our dirty laundry” thing.). But now I’m wondering if some things simply cannot be discussed effectively within a mainstream context without “othering” the group in question.
It was the latest article in The Washington Post’s series on black women that got me thinking. Lonnae O’Neal Parker is a good writer. Her effort was measured and thoughtful. She is a black female writer in a space where the voices of black women are not the majority. The Washington Post has accompanied its coverage with online discussions and the actual voices of black women—something that doesn’t often happen. Now, I complain all the time about the absence of black women in mainstream media. I hate that they so often ignore us. But here The Washington Post is paying attention to black women and I find I’d rather they didn’t. Because despite all the panels and surveys and a black woman writer and the presence of black female voices, it still reads as exotification and demonization because of the context and because of who is observing the conversation.
I recall feeling the same way last year, when I took part in a CNN online article about the phenomenon of black women with natural hair enduring unwanted touching. Several black women honestly shared our lived experiences with a black writer, who had navigated similar waters. But a brief web article cannot hold the nuance and history related to African American hair and beauty standards and power dynamics. And, based on the nasty attacks several of us endured as a result of the article, in the end, it served more to inflame than educate. (More here.)
Last week I found myself working on an article about an element of black culture for a mainstream feminist publication. My criticism of the Post series and the aftermath of the CNN article began haunting me. Because here I was explaining a black issue for consumption by a mostly non-black audience and perhaps opening the door to the same “othering” that I hate.
So, I wondered: How do other folks who are members of historically marginalized groups, and who write about race and gender and sexuality, wrestle with this? Do they? Should we? Are there topics writers will not or should not discuss outside of a “safe space”? Are there story ideas writers reserve for “of color” or GLBT spaces?