Black Lives Matter.
I stand in solidarity with those demonstrating for justice and dignity for Black Americans in the wake of the terrible murder of George Floyd.
As a white person, I want to acknowledge my inherent privilege in this moment. I have never been harassed by the police, nor have I been the target of racial violence or disrespect. My voice is not the important voice to be listening to right now — but white people need to be direct and unwavering in our declarations of support, and do what we can to direct attention to the issue at hand and to the powerful Black leaders and activists who are leading this movement.
The Black community in America has faced egregious and generational injustice over the past 400 years. It is good and righteous that people from all walks of life are standing up to show their support for fundamental changes to the broken system which has allowed this situation to persist for centuries. The system needs to be made more equitable and the lives of Black folx must be protected. These demonstrations are extremely important, and deserve our full attention.
This week also marks the first week of Pride Month. The Black Lives Matter protests, however, absolutely take precedence in my mind. This is not because I have any illusions that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is finished, but because the BLM movement feels more urgent, more current, and needs to maintain its present momentum to affect real change in our society.
The overlap of the current BLM demonstrations and Pride Month provides an opportunity to bring attention to the struggles faced by Black LGBTQ+ folx — like Tony McDade, a black trans man killed by Tallahassee police just two days after George Floyd’s murder. This intersection of Pride and a transformational moment in the Black Lives Matter campaign provides a perfect situation to highlight the disproportionate violence and disrespect faced by queer people of color.
However, in this moment, queer-specific issues should not be given more visibility than the fact that Black Americans are being disproportionately targeted by police brutality, and that the system is not constructed in such a way that such actions garner consequences. This is untenable, and must be changed.
The momentum behind this movement is extremely strong right now, and that momentum needs to be fed to bring about real change. The bulk of the changes demanded by the movement will result in an increase in police accountability and a reduction in the use of deadly force — both of which will also benefit queer people of color who are targeted by queerphobic violence.
The last thing the Queer Community should do now is take energy and focus away from the BLM movement. Instead, we should take all of the energy that we would usually funnel into Pride and stand with the Black Lives Matter movements. The Stonewall Riots, after all, were what sparked the Pride movement, and they were led by Black and Latina queer folx like Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major Griffin-Gacy, Stormé DeLarverie, and Sylvia Rivera. We must stand with our history and with our Black community members to fight for justice.
So take the excitement you had for Pride, and channel that into your anger, your sorrow, for the grave injustices against George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Aubrey, Tony McDade, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and countless others who have lost their lives to a system built on centuries of inequality. The queer community has an obligation to stand against this violence and hatred and do all we can to try and affect a change.
If you’re unable to physically protest, but still want to help, you can donate to relevant organizations such as the Black Visions Collective, Color of Change, Black Lives Matter, My Brother’s Keeper, or your local Bail Fund for those arrested while demonstrating. Also, be sure to keep an eye on how your elected officials behave during this time and go out and vote the next time you are able — and if a politician does not stand with the need for change, don’t give them your vote.
For those of us who are not Black, though, the most important thing that we can do right now is listen to Black folx. Listen to the Black demonstrators, and the powerful Black leaders in both activism and politics. Seek out their town halls, their passionate speeches, their demands, their plans. Many of them have been at this for a long time, and have a good idea what needs to change. Listen to them, hear what you can do to help, and do it. Don’t just listen to white people like me and take what we say at face value — seek out Black individuals and organizations (like the ones I linked above) and figure out what you can do to help. They know better than anyone.
Oh, and if you’re flying a rainbow pride flag right now, it had BETTER be one with black and brown stripes.
Stand in solidarity. Say their names. Advocate for justice, dignity, and respect. Black Lives Matter.