Sunday, November 16, 2008

confessions of a homophobic black man

i've had a little while to sit with my last post and the responses i've had to it and conversations i've had since then. i believe that in the passing of proposition 8, not only has a deep wound been exposed, but a deep wound has also been deepened, and i want this wounding to end. in my last blog i focused on the pain and frustration of feeling the blame for proposition 8 being directed towards my people (not that all people aren't my people, but i'm speaking here of the people who share my racial identity). but as i'm sitting with this pain, i am also reminded of some of the feelings of my glbtq loved ones, who correctly point out that while the blame rests on no ONE, some of the accusations are in fact true. so i sat through church today, amongst gay couples wrestling with the fear that their marriages might at some point be anulled (please correct my terminology if it's wrong, i'm a minister not a lawyer) and i felt a conviction to speak to the place where the wounding has occured.

i cannot speak to all black communities, but in mine, gender and sexuality violence, both verbal and physical, was normalized. i suffered from it, and i perpetuated it. i repressed my own queerness, so as to be seen acceptable, and to distance myself from the "real" queers. i treated women and effeminite men (i really hate that word, if someone has a better please offer it) as less than, so to prove myself more worthy of the term masculine, even when i saw the faults in the ways that masculinity was being defined. i preached a gospel of homosexual condemnation, even when i did not believe that queer folk were less-than in the truth of my heart. i've laughed at homophobic remarks and jokes, and though i can't remember a time when i did, i'm sure i've made them myself. i've distanced myself from men, both straight and queer, so as not to seem queer myself. and worst of all, i have remained silent as my queer family was being brutalized in all sections of society.

my homophobic reactions need to be acknowledged, and taken responsibility for, but there also needs to be an acknowledgment that it did not begin with me, my family, my race, or any other race or religion. they begin with the believing of the lie that there is in fact an "other." one reason i love jesus so much is that he spent so much of his ministry trying to correct this misperception. when we react out of the fear of the other, we see why he focused so much energy there. i have believed the lies that i am in fact other and less than, and thus have not spoken out against homophobia because of this belief. i have believed that because of my other status, i had to create "lesser others" in order to be "more" human, even when i believed i could not be "fully human." others have told me that a black man's voice will be silenced, mentally or physically, before it can be heard. others have told me that even when i speak with my voice, it doesn't matter, because i'm just "different" and "real" black men aren't like me. others have told me that if i want to be worthy of human respect, i need to "walk like a man." others have told me that "real men just don't behave like that, just don't show vulnerability, just don't need the help of anyone else." and i've believed them. there is no group that my belief in these lies has not affected. please forgive me for all the lies that i've believed, and all the lies i have spread. in peace,

tai amri

Saturday, November 15, 2008

blacks hate gays

i wish they would just say it already. i was thinking about this blog as i walked to work and saw the front cover of the sf chronicle. the headline read "Prop 8 Support In S.F." the picture under the caption was of a black barbershop. it doesn't take a genius to see the linking of the passing of prop 8 to the black community. even jon stewart (not like he's some enlightened soul) exclaimed the other day on the daily show that the oppressed has become the oppressor. seriously? black people are now the oppressors of gay people? and this is funny how? i don't want to direct all my anger towards jon stewart, the daily show is one of my main sources of information after all. and besides, placing blame on black people did not begin, and will not end in the far left. i just think it's ironic that i, as a black man, am feeling betrayed by the liberal/progressive community that is feeling betrayed by the black community. it's as if there are no black allies to the struggle, let alone black people within the glbtq community! but there are a few trends that i am identifying in this struggle (with the help of sisters, brothers and everyone outside and in between our rigid gender assignments) that i think need to be addressed for us to move on:

1) assuming that black people (straight and otherwise) are allies to gay rights: to me being an ally implies a reciprocal relationship, both sides advocating for one another. i believe that in order to be an ally you need more than a compassionate heart for "the other" you need in fact to see the interconnectedness of different group's experiences. i feel somewhat unique as a "questioning" black man to have so many friends within the glbtq community. i've had multiple experiences when they have stood up for my dignity as a human being. not all black people have had this experience. for example, this summer i spent much of my time educating groups and individuals of the inherent racism of propositions like 6 and 9 which serve ultimately to expand the prison industrial complex at the expense of blacks and latinos. (i admit that assumed in a place like california prop 8 would never pass.) however, when the election came i heard little about prop 6 and 9, and much about prop 8. when prop 9 passed along with prop 8 i heard no outcry about it. i did hear an outcry about black people's support of prop 9 and the combination of these two events i believe are incredibly divisive. i believe that if black and glbtq community are really going to be allies, their needs to be work on BOTH sides in securing their human rights. i also don't want to assume that there isn't work being done on both sides, but more needs to be done to address the way the media is framing prop 8 and blaming it on black peoples.

2) assuming that black people (straight and otherwise) are NOT allies to gay rights: a steady week of blaming the black people for prop 8 is exhausting to the mind and the soul, especially for someone who considers himself an ally. if you don't already know this, the numbers show that there aren't enough black people in the state of california to have changed the fate of this proposition. but besides that, there is no such thing as a unified black vote. all black people don't vote the same way on ANYTHING, and to state otherwise is nothing but racist. i know plenty of black straight christians (including myself) who spoke and voted against prop 8. as stated before, often these are black people who have come to see the glbtq community as a part of OUR community. it is an interesting experience to have on one side the conservative media portray your people as violent and worthless and in the liberal media as bigots and traitors to civil rights. i need my allies to be speaking up for me, but i also need to be reminded that black people aren't evil since the messages all seem to be pointing that way (and we though a black president would end all that). that's why i heavily encourage watching the docmentary A Blinding Flash of the Obvious: How Cincinatti's Anti-Gay Charter Was Overturned. it's a wonderful portrayal of how we need to change the ways we have linked racism and homophobia in order to win this battle.

3) equating the "gay" identity with the black identity: i have to say as a black man this infuriates me as few things can. without question, gay marriage is a civil rights issue and the glbtq community experiences heavy discrimination. but until black people cease to experience discrimination, and until the entire glbtq community experiences the same socio-economic status as black people, and are confined to the poorest continent in the world, these equations cannot and should not be made. this is not a case of who has it worst, it is a case of highjacking an oppressed people's identity. i'm not making an analogy when i say this, but rather explaining that the only comprable emotional experience for me is when those who would deny the jewish holocaust turn around and call abortion the american holocaust. black people cannot be called the new oppressors and the silmultaneously be equated with the new most oppressed people.

i could keep writing on this topic forever, because it gets me lit. but i think it's time for the allies to speak. both the allies of those who are against prop 8 even if they may never be affected pesonally by its passing, and those who are against racism even if they aren't suffering from its affects. and then we need to start talking to each other, because until then, ain't nothing going to change. peace.

in the beginning...

i'm open to the possibility of writing the soul, though skeptical. life, it seems, rarely goes the way i plan it, i'm seeking those people w/ the ability to experience life otherwise. how long have i had this blog, and how rarely do i use it? even now, there rests on my altar, an upside down goblet, filled with water that has collected the negativity in my household. and so much negativity there is. this is my feeble attempt at reaching out, in my melancholy. somehow though, i seem to surround myself with individuals who don't seem to be chased by their demons. it's a refreshing change of pace. it's said, faith like a mustard seed is all that's needed for the impossible, the r/evolutionary, the miracle. i have faith in but one thing, that one day, babylon will fall, hallelujah. say it with me. babylon will fall.