Friday, May 1, 2015

Intersectionality Through the Lens of a Queer Black Man

Over the last year, I have been in many settings that range from protests to politics. Some may ask why I would say intersectionality, well here is the thing, as a Black Queer Man I am in several zones of peril at the same time. Let me be clear, it is important for me to highlight both of those intersections… When I wake up and prepare myself for the day, I have to reconcile that I may not ever return home the way I left it. This is including, but not limited to death… Each day is a learning experience. When I walk out of my door and lock it, the first thing a neighbor is going to see is my skin tone, my color and when examined thoroughly, the sight of me, my skin tone evokes thoughts good and bad.

We are socially conditioned to see people only through the scope of racial identity and before we even get to know the person ethnically and morally. This conditioning is highly rooted in systemic and structural racism and has been passed down to ALL of us through various means of socialization. There are those of you who may disagree, but ask yourselves, when was the last time  you locked your car door at a traffic light when a White man may have been walking past, now ask yourself the same question but make that man Black. Why don’t you go to certain neighborhoods that happen to be identified as Black? Why are there food deserts in Black neighborhoods? Why are school closings only occurring in high poverty, low income Black areas?

Why are our property values exponentially lower than in neighborhoods that are predominantly White? I don’t see too many of you applying the underlying structural and systemic racism that is at play when you ask these types of questions, IF you ask these types of questions. On race alone I have so much stacked against me as a Black man, and I find myself witnessing and experiencing myself being the subject or person in the questions I just posed earlier. I use public transit and that means that I have to cross the street quite often, and from my experience I have seen people reach to lock doors, reach possibly for weapons, and etc.

Systemically and structurally, we ourselves are taught like the rest of American society to see Black skin as criminal, aggressive, uneducated, animalistic and savage. Because we have adopted this learned behavior, we subject ourselves to respectability politics in order to appear acceptable to our own skin cousins and to be non-threatening to Whites and others who do not look like us. So we are obliged to dress a certain way, it is inferred that we talk a certain way, walk a certain way and act accordingly to “the script.” We have to delicately balance how we play “the game” in order to not be attacked from all sides; that fine line of coming off as trying to be White and coming off as too ethnic. We get labeled as angry, bitter & out of control because we get stressed out from the politics of it all.

As a Black man I see the images that illustrate that there are two ways to live get educated or live a street life. We get beat down by those who look like us when we show signs of intelligence and are belittled for being educated. Then in many cases, we are seen as threatening by our White counterparts who in many cases have what they got from nepotism and favoritism. Now think on this for a second, I have not even gone into the depths of talking about my being Gay or Queer. We are taught that in order to be a strong Black man, we must be providers who are masculine, tough, lack emotional depth, produce children, believe in God, and find a wife in order to succeed.
I believe in taking on that personification that we buy into misogyny, patriarchy, machismo, homophobia, effemiphobia and hyper - masculinity.  We are forced fed to believe in God even if some of us know in our hearts that Christianity is not what we truly believe in. As Black men, regardless of sexual orientation we are forced to live in some type of closet where we have to hide mental illnesses, health issues, atheism and then we have to wear a smile and be conscious of our society that is steeped in White supremacy in order to not get killed by that crooked cop for coming off as too strong, too educated and dare I say it? Wealthy.

A lot of us come from those neighborhoods I asked about earlier where it is rumored to be dangerous and violent. I don’t know about you, but it seems that education, when the conditions are right can bring about wealth. We got educated in those neighborhoods and grew into productive citizens in those neighborhoods and now that some of us have gotten our piece of the pie, we now look to avoid THAT neighborhood. In New Orleans we had a phrase for the White people fleeing integration which was and is called “White Flight.” When they left property values dipped, schools that were considered top performers went to hell, all because they didn’t want to be around US. Now we have taken on the same mentality, instead of investing in development, increasing home ownership and bringing businesses like grocery stores into our neighborhoods, WE MOVE.

Then we get pissed when we hear about our “historic landmarks” and our familiar haunts being torn down or transformed into some gentrified paradise for folks who want to move back into the city and not necessarily experience the true ethnic diversity that once thrived before that Starbucks popped up. When we move, we in a sense allow those who could not afford in any way shape or form to leave with us to be priced out of their own homes by increasing rents and even higher property taxes. I am not trying to guilt trip anyone for making decisions that have contributed to the betterment of themselves. However, what I venture to say is that it would be nice if we looked back and gave back instead of down our noses and being selfish.

Honestly, the factors that I have just pointed out are a primer for the real discussion about being a “Black Queer Man.” Take all of those factors and apply which ever resonates to you individually now add to it being out and Gay. We still have to deal with those stigmas that our heterosexual counterparts have to deal with and then some. We are attacked by those who look like us for not cosigning what I described earlier as what it means to be a strong Black man, we are told that because of who we are that we do not exist. IN FACT, we do have the same issues and then we are treated as if we are no longer Black and are still niggers in the eyes of society on a systemic and structural level. Now, let me take that down to a micro level and deal with all that I previously mentioned and combine it with the issues that we experience as Queer Black Men of color. First, we still have to deal with racism from a group that we are supposedly part of and are “welcome” to, which is the mainstream LGBT community. In many ways we are shut out by mainstream White gays unless we bring something to the table that they just cannot function without, DIVERSITY.

We are only needed when it’s beneficial and then we have to live in our poverty that people think we don’t experience. We work in jobs that not only attack our race systemically and structurally, now we have the vector of homophobia in the work place to deal with. In fact, the structural and systematic homophobia that plague the LGBT community at large is much worse on people of color due to the same racial barriers to access as our heterosexual counterparts. We work in low paying jobs that range from fast food to hospitality and then we have to deal with being looked down upon by the ones that look like us and are gay like us who are making some good pay and etc. There is an overriding theme that we are being attacked from all sides, do you see it?

We are shut out when we are at critical points in our lives by all sides and experience barriers that are unheard of. When we express these issues, our truths are denied and we hide behind curtains that protect us from a great deal of the ridicule that we already experience. Could you imagine what it is like to be a Black Queer Atheist? I the eyes of some, Atheism is seen as worse than even being Queer! Now, if you walk that path like I do, then you know that you are now subject to attack from another front and from all sides, LITERALLY.  Now pick any of the so called descriptors and reconcile them with the current situation in the United States where we are finally seeing Black lives, not just men being taken by abusive police, hate crimes, disease, mental illness and suicide.

We are dying from various reasons that range from health to hate, and we are not getting the attention at we need, nor do we give said attention to ourselves. Just look at how we are being treated like cattle when it comes to HIV prevention and treatment. They don’t think we can comprehend HIV 101, so they think they are doing a good job by teaching us how to use a condom and are now pushing prep down our throats and hoping for the best. They probably think that more of us are HIV positive and are in seroconversion than previously known and they are trying to get us on meds ahead of time and watch the grant funding roll in from pharmaceutical companies and the HIV industrial complex.

To be continued…