I’m not usually the type to go into detail on something like this, because for me it hits close to home, & to be misinterpreted could prove to be not only frustrating but emotionally damaging, so please bear with me: I’m up late on Tumblr & I come across a post challenging the general community of Black folk to self-reflect on the ways in which shallow imitations of Black stereotypes, such as Blackface, are met with almost violent resistance, while imitations of flamboyant/effeminate queer stereotypes are - for the most part - legitimized in mainstream Black culture & particularly in the sphere of social media such as Vine.
Immediately, I’m intrigued, because as a queer Black woman I make an effort to surround myself with positive and empowering media influences that foster my creativity and show me reflections of myself & my interests. Having checked out of many mainstream social sites I never realized that the hostility surrounding this comparison is still such an issue. I think what I fail to realize so often is that many people in the Black community, including some Black queer folks, fail to realize that the picture of a queer community that has suffered little in comparison to Black folks is a testament to just how pervasive & internalized prejudices can be.
So often we discuss intellectually the methods by which queer people of color are silenced and forced into representation of their queer identities by white gay male counterparts. So effortlessly, so-called conscious queer Blacks in intellectual spheres and so-called safe spaces acknowledge that Black queer activism and Black woman feminism have been rendered invisible to the eyes of the nation & the world by white privilege. If we can recognize that much of the queer Black struggle has been either grouped in with or eclipsed by the white queer struggle, why can we not recognize the possibility that some of that history we never had the privilege to learn was equally painful, targeting, violent, and humiliating?
Just as the history of Blackface in America and all over the world as a harmful & demeaning means of entertainment for whites was known for decades only by those negatively affected, we must consider that much of the discrimination & bigotry in which imitations of queerness are rooted has yet to be documented because no one is listening to or worried about those most negatively affected by it. Not only do white gay men continue to monopolize the spaces for representation to the larger population, but queer and non-queer Black people alike continue to erase the importance of self-determined representation in media & in public. The argument that skin pigment is permanent & therefore more offensive to imitate suggests that ones personality, outward performance of gender & sexuality, & mannerisms are not permanent or determined by nature rather than chosen. A trans Black womyn may choose to walk out in heels, but her desire to perform as a womyn is not a choice. Imitating her behaviors, voice, and/or appearance is a choice. Doing it for laughs at her expense is also a choice; a poor one, but a choice nonetheless.
I guess my point in all of this is to point out that drawing comparisons between painful encounters with everyday discrimination is something intended to restore the relationship between the stereotypically queerphobic Black community as a whole & it’s arguably most ostracized & misunderstood intersectional subgroup. In no way is the comparison meant to suggest that Blackface & queer imitation the same thing, because they clearly aren’t. The point is to challenge those who are quick to defend one and condemn the other as less important to realize that two things can be radically different and equally impactful on those who identify with the characteristic or group being harassed or aped.
You don’t have to choose between being anti-racist & anti-queerphobic; you need to be anti-racist, anti-queerphobic, anti-Islamophobic, anti-misogynist, anti-colorist, anti-classist, and anti-ageist - amongst other things - to truly free all of your people.