LZ Granderson: Gay is Not the New Black

This piece just ran on CNN.com by Black gay journalist LZ Granderson. I am totally shocked CNN ran it. Granderson’s central point is illustrated here:

Despite the catchiness of the slogan, gay is not the new black.

Black is still black.

And if any group should know this, it’s the gay community.

Bars such as The Prop House, or Bulldogs in Atlanta, Georgia, exist because a large number of gay blacks — particularly those who date other blacks, and live in the black community — do not feel a part of the larger gay movement. There are Gay Pride celebrations, and then there are Black Gay Prides.

There’s a popular bar in the heart of the nation’s capital that might as well rename itself Antebellum, because all of the white patrons tend to stay upstairs and the black patrons are on the first floor. Last year at the annual Human Rights Campaign national fundraiser in Washington, D.C. — an event that lasted more than three hours — the only black person to make it on stage was the entertainment.

When Proposition 8 passed in California, white gays were quick to blame the black community despite blacks making up less than 10 percent of total voters and whites being close to 60 percent. At protest rallies that followed, some gay blacks reported they were even hit with racial epithets by angry white participants. Not to split hairs, but for most blacks, the n-word trumps the f-word.

I like that this piece continues to do, as myself, Jasmyne Cannick and others have been doing for the last several years, to continue to raise the issue of racism within the gay community. And I am happy that more of us are able to access  mass media to break intervene in the hegemony of gay politics. But, I think there are two places where I depart from Granderson. One, Granderson suggests that there Black LGBT folks are not unhappy with Obama. I think there are Black LGBT folks who have critiques of Obama, but are very different critiques from what are raised by the mainstream LGBT Movement. I think that there is a way in which Obama, and everything his restoration of Black masculinity and Black family values he represents, implicitly supports and encourages heterosexism & homophobia in the Black community. For me, this is as critical as an end to DOMA or the HIV travel ban.

Also Granderson goes onto say that

The 40th anniversary of Stonewall dominated Gay Pride celebrations around the country, and while that is certainly a significant moment that should be recognized, 40 years is nothing compared with the 400 blood-soaked years black people have been through in this country. There are stories some blacks lived through, stories others were told by their parents and stories that never had a chance to be told…While those who were at Stonewall talk about the fear of being arrested by police, 40 years ago, blacks talked about the fear of dying at the hands of police and not having their bodies found or murder investigated.

I think rather than using Stonewall as a moment separate and apart from historical structural Black oppression, I think Granderson misreads the racial and sexual/gendered dynamics of police oppression of queers that led to the Stonewall Riots, and factually misses who was present, or that police don’t or did not, actually kill queers, and that the spectre of that kind of violence wasn’t also especially targeted at Black queers–we still see that to this day, as last year black transgender woman Duanna Johnson was beaten by Memphis police officers while handcuffed in the precinct, and was later shot to death after filing for a lawsuit against the Memphis Police Department. Granderson could have actually talked about the way this history has been re-cast as white and bourgeois, and as a natural pre-cursor to same-sex marriage and military inclusion fights, rather than actually being in direct opposition to the current LGBT movement projects. In fact, it was widely rumored after Stonewall that the Black Panthers and/or Students for a Democratic Society had been behind the riots. While proven untrue, it was clear that the powers that saw Stonewall as part of the radical black power, anti-imperialist and feminist movements, rather than assimilationist.

So while we have to continue to push and challenge racism in mainstream LGBT politics, we also need to be critical of the Obama Administration, and not allow for racist and revisionist history to obscure and de-value radical politics of Stonewall.