Colour Blind: Flags, Racism, PoC, and LGBTI Pride

28 Jun

[Published 28 June, 2017]

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[Source: ZARI TARAZONA / BILLY PENN]

For those not aware, ‘PoC’ is an abbreviation of the phrase People of Colour.

It’s a term that is commonly used as an all-encompassing catchall phrase – mainly in the United States – to describe people of all cultures and ethnicities, who are non-White.

Whilst it’s still a label indicative of difference – and some may find it too politically correct or even contentious – its usage makes for a good start in the process of moving away from – and the divisions and inequalities of – and connotations associated with racial profiling.

Moreover, its use has been adopted as an attempt to partly cast off notions of race and racism – and, in some way – seeks to unite people [of colour] in a common cause against systemic and social injustices.

In 2017, as part of the official ceremony and opening celebrations for the Philadelphia annual Pride event, the organising committee unveiled a redesigned Pride flag, to include two new (black and brown) stripes, thus seeking to give greater recognition to People of Colour (PoC).

The addition of these two stripes was intended to make QPoC somehow feel more included – and to acknowledge the existence racism from within the community – as a result of the publication of a report of racial profiling in LGBTI bars and clubs in Philadelphia’s Gaybourhood.

Despite this key point, some within our LGBTI communities, were dismissive about the addition of the stripes… on ‘aesthetic grounds’ – yes, you read that right – as if the pretty colours are apparently more important than rights and inclusion! Then we have those expressing complete outrage and indignation at the ‘desecration of such an iconic symbol’, because it the flag already represents PoC. Others have blamed PoC and accused them of being divisive. Yes, this is mainly White people saying all these things.

And people say there is no racism with in the community? I mean, we only need to consider how many non-PoC still perpetuate racial stereotypes of Black men as ‘lions and beasts’, South East Asian men and and women in their smaller physiques, willingness to please, and perceived submissive manner, and Black women as ‘hard work’ or ‘difficult to handle.’

These statements are all stereotypes made and acted out by both Heterosexuals and members of the LGBTI communities, who them use to define PoC.

My partner, of 11 years – who is a White male – told me of an encounter whilst he was on the metro system, with a colleague when he lived in KL some years ago. On hearing two young women speak in Malay, his colleague heard them commenting on ‘how White men are supposed to have big cocks.’ As he was getting off the metro, my partner’s (White, male) colleague, who speaks or spoke fluent Malay, said: “Yes, it’s true! Wanna try?”

The fact is, many White men do travel to live, work, and holiday in South East Asia, purely to have sex with South East Asian men and women. For example, ‘Rice queens’ – as some LGBTI-ers are called, within the community – are mainly White men who prefer South East Asian men.

I know that many of my South East Asian friends, are now increasingly fed up with this narrative and insist on being dominant with White men. Similarly, many African-American and Black-British men, have refused to have any sexual and/ or social relations with White males, because of perceived racism. To give further weight to this view, many White males will put ‘no Black or Asians’ on their profiles on dating websites and apps.

Clearly, without wish to sexualise this any further, many PoC are still viewed as – exotic objects and ‘Other’; to be conquered, dominated, and to be subservient – which maintains and continues to prop up the tired, repetitious position that PoC are lower beings and should know their place.

At this years’ Pride event in Ohio, a group of PoC LGBTI-ers conducted a small protest by stopping the parade. They were asking onlookers to give several minutes silence, in remembrance of the murders of more than 14 Trans PoC in the United States in the first part 2017. It follows similar campaigns on social media, like ‘Black Lives Matters’ and ‘Say Her Name.’

However, before being moved on by police, with some of the protesters actually being arrested, the onlookers apparently booed and jeered at the protesters, claiming that the protesters were obstructing the parade and disrespecting their fellow LGBTI-ers and the celebrations.

The point is, that many PoC within the community still experience exclusion, injustice, and forms of racism both from within the community itself and externally in their lives outside the community – and are still disadvantaged because of how society views us, simply because of the colour of their skin. PoC still rightly believe that they continue to be marginalised; that their voices are not heard or being listened to, and that nothing has moved on for them since the Stonewall riots. This is particularly acute in the United States and in countries like France.

As I noted earlier, whilst some may argue that this change is unnecessary or even diminutive – what this step actually does – is give PoC within the community, greater visibility and enables non-PoC to reflect on their own personal views of PoC and racism from within. Clearly, it’s another step towards greater inclusivity for PoC who have been made to feel excluded and subjected to different forms of prejudice and discrimination by White LGBTI-ers.

The view that the flag has always colour blind and inclusive of all cultures and ethnicities, does not wash with anyone, except non-PoC. One might describe this ‘colour blind’ perspective of the flag, as a form of ‘exceptionalism’ and ‘cognitive dissonance.’ So if the addition of these two new stripes encourages and creates more debate, then this has done its job and is a positive and necessary step in realising what needs to change within the LGBTI community to address some of the above issues.

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As I explained to an old friend and colleague who runs a national organisation for PoC in the arts in the UK:

“Look at these additions [of the two [black and brown] stripes to the flag] as a mirror into which the largely White, privileged hegemony of [the LGBTI] community can [take a long, hard] look at itself, introspectively, and to reflect, on its own role, in perpetuating racial exclusion, and cultural stereotypes.”

We might also then take the time to look further at our views of people who are transgender and the participation and acceptance of members of the Jewish diaspora within our community without the politics of ‘us’ and ‘them.’

If you are a White person reading this blog article, may I suggest that you click on some the linked articles, reflect, and start a conversation with others. Hey, if you don’t socialise with PoC, perhaps even make the effort to.

Author: Jason Schumann

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