"Calling it the new black
Tell me where they do that
They hung us like tree ornaments, where were you at?
They burned us for entertainment, you go through that?
Mom's raped in front of they kids, while they shoot dad
Ever been murdered just for trying to learn how to read bro?"
First, let me say that it bothers me when people outright dismiss the comparisons between black and gay struggles. No, they are not exactly the same. But, in a society where the only civil rights story some people know is about black people, I think the comparisons are going to happen, and I think the similarities are sometimes undeniable. I also don't like the, "well, this didn't happen to gay people so their oppression is not real" or "Well, you can hide that you're gay; people can't hide when they're black." The point is, people should not HAVE to hide being gay and how do we say that black people cannot hide but explain the phenomenon of passing or suing to have birth records changed and such.
Many, including Bizzle, have it confused. The comparison to the struggle for civil rights for blacks isn't a measuring stick or ploy, to deem the struggle of gay americans equal or greater. But, that struggle is part of shared history. The black struggle is a historical reference point. It's a reminder that we as a country, have oppressed a group of people before in similar and some exact same ways. I also believe that logic like Bizzle’s is dangerous: if we believe that there is only one “true” model of how people are oppressed, that all experiences have to be exactly the same or they don’t count, we run the risk of dismissing and validating the marginalization of people.
Bizzle’s lyrics also works to disappear the existence of queer black people. Were none of the black people that were hung, burned, sexually assaulted, and murdered queer? Did black queer people not suffer the same injustices and violence as non-queer-identified back people? When he asks, “where were you at,” I feel compelled to reply that black queer people were right there, too~
Personally, I have to be honest and say that any black person who is against equal rights for ALL AMERICAN CITIZENS does in fact, bother me. I personally feel that considering our past and how we were denied basic human rights, we have a stronger responsibility to be more open to accepting gay as well as all people as full citizens. As black civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer said, “Nobody’s free til everybody’s free.” The rights of any marginalized group have a perilous status as long as we live in a society that still habitually denies rights to parts of its populace based on prejudice, hierarchy, and an allegiance to the status quo. Particularly on the issue of marriage, have we forgotten the "jumping broom" era which derived from African Americans not being able to legally marry?
On the flip side, I want you to read this: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/07/09/gay-is-not-the-new-black-the-supreme-court-and-the-politics-of-misrecognition/. It's a queer woman of color writing persuasively about why overstating the comparisons can work to the disadvantage of black people and make it seem that our civil rights struggles are all in the past. We need to acknowledge and grapple with thoughtful arguments like hers.
What about black queer people, who experience oppression based on race and sexual orientation? A one-or-the-other approach totally dismisses their experiences. For example, I can't separate myself and be "Claudia, the black person, Claudia, the lesbian, and Claudia, the woman." What I experience everyday, the perceptions and how I am treated, my understanding of the world, my definition of who I am, etc, are shaped by all those factors, operating together. To say that black experiences and queer experiences are "totally different" erases people like me who are having black, queer experiences.
On to my favorite:
"It angers you, if I compare you to a pedophile
Cuz' he sick, right?
And you're better how?
(Man, I ain't choose this.)
You think he chose that?
(But, I was born this.)
Well, prove he wasn't born that
But, you were never a girl
He was once nine
So at one time in his life, it was just fine"
When I came out at the age of 14, one of my close family members made this same comparison, likening me to a pedophile. At the time I was young and struggling with accepting myself for who I was. It was voiced that I shouldn't be able to keep my niece at the time because I may rape her. I was truly devastated and even disgusted that I could even be mentioned in the same sentence as a pedophile, but then my God-given sense kicked in. When I was straight, why didn't this family member fear me raping any of my seven nephews? All of a sudden, because I was gay I was potentially a pedophile? Of course, because a relationship between two consenting adults or between two consenting individuals with little to no age difference is the same as the ILLEGAL sexual activity of an adult and a child. "Blank Stare." Sorry Bizzle, but a pedophile is an Adult who has a physical attraction to children with an age difference of at least five years. You say when he was nine it was ok for him to be sexually attracted to four-year-olds? NO, that's not what you meant? Hmm, ok!
"Like we don't have people from the LGBT community out here
Running up in churches, disrupting services
Kissing on the pulpit
Out here attacking old ladies
Throwing crosses down and stomping em'
Violently assaulting people
So don't take my most aggressive lines that you know are to that group
And try to apply it to the friendliest
Lovingest gay person because that's not the case"
I won't deny that just as in past civil right struggles, some individuals in the gay community have grown heavily frustrated and resorted to more radical or violent approaches. Because of the modern black civil rights movement, we tend to think of nonviolence as the only acceptable way. But, just as some of the activists of the 1950s and 1960s argued, there is a place and a time for more militant resistance. Even some of the activities that we think of as nonviolent had a more militant side--sit-ins and marches, for example, disrupted the daily pattern of events and services, much like the gay rights activists who march into churches to protest. We need to learn to not only understand our fight but the fight of our neighbors as well.
Is my struggle for full citizenship as a gay woman the exact same as the struggle of my black ancestors for their citizenship rights? No, but I can’t help seeing the similarities. Sakia Gunn, a 15-year-old was stabbed to death at a bus stop after telling the male that approached her she wasn't interested because she was a lesbian. Ronnie Paris, a three-year-old, died from severe brain damage resulting from his father's beatings. The father was concerned that his son was gay. A lesbian couple was also murdered by a man that said he "has no compassion for bi- or homosexual people.” Gay people have in fact been murdered, assaulted, taunted, bullied, oppressed, ridiculed, and targeted just because of their sexual orientation. We live in a society that values our lives less—and shows that daily—because we are gay.
Perhaps pointing out the similarities I see is fruitless or counter-productive since so many people shut down when that is brought up. I understand not wanting to have the black experience co-opted or lessened. I understand that these battles are not exactly the same. I understand that we, as black people, rightfully worry that comparisons can work against us and can be used to undermine the reality of our past and ongoing struggles…