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Do Gay Black Lives Matter?

Aug. 23, 2016
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A friend of mine, a young African American man, stopped by for a farewell visit before leaving Milwaukee for Tampa, Fla. He hopes his chances of getting somewhere will be better there. When he arrived, he sat down and immediately launched into a breathless barrage of oration. I managed to interrupt him long enough to say he should be a motivational speaker. He continued, his message becoming less motivational and more one of condemnation. In his ensuing cascade of commentary, he mentioned, among others, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and various rap artists. He critiqued the Black Lives Matter movement at length, concluding that black lives matter unless you’re gay. He quoted a currently circulating Tweet: “I am not interested in being half-liberated. A bullet to the chest is lethal whether it comes from a cop or a black homophobe.”

When Milwaukee protesters marched on behalf of Dontre Hamilton, there were, in fact, rainbow flags carried by some LGBT supporters. For my friend, this was misleading. True, some gays might support the principles of the Black Lives Matter movement. But, their affiliation as outsiders may not reflect the subtler realities of BLM itself—or at least those of the black community in general. Officially, BLM rebuts the idea of its inherent homophobia, stating that when they say “black lives matter,” they mean all black lives. For my friend and, presumably, for many out LGBT African Americans like him, that rebuttal may ring hollow.

Then came the events at Sherman Park. Social media lit up with some of the vilest racist commentary I have ever seen written by white LGBT people. Someone wrote a comment about “ghetto trash.” Others followed with responses like, “They are [in] all our neighborhoods,” and “They are moving into them all, that is right.”

Then, in an ironic coincidence, another friend of black and Hispanic heritage wrote, “Although I agree with the Black Lives Matter initial agenda, this same community has shunned me and my friends for being LGBTQ. I have seen some in the LGBTQ community shun those who were of a minority race. Talk about being a double-edge sword.”

Many of Milwaukee’s LGBT organizations focus on one particular letter of the acronym. For the most part, they have predominantly white membership and do not reflect the true demographics of our city. Instead, they reflect the racial segregation for which Cream City is well known. A glimmer of hope (or at least of awareness) of the roles our LGBT leaders should play, SSBL (Saturday Softball Beer League) commissioner Eric Peterson, recently spoke of new strategies he plans to implement to attain more diversity within SSBL. It’s a positive move (in this town any sensitivity to the issue is progress).

Athletics is certainly a good place to start, too. Rather than sullenly convene around a conference table and go through the awkward motions of addressing racism and other internal LGBT conflicts, participants can simply go out, play sports and get to know each other. Going out together for that beer after the game might not be a bad idea, either.

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