Recently, al.com’s Kyle Whitmire wrote a piece entitled, “In Alabama, queer is the new Black,” in which he compares and conflates discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community with the long history of systemic racism toward Black Americans.
Sorry, Mr. Whitmire, there is no “new” Black — being Black has always been about being Black.
Perhaps, the point that Whitmire attempted to make is that conservative lawmakers have recently chosen to target the LGBTQ+ community with heavy-handed and oppressive legislation that endangers their civil rights. However, without diminishing the cruelty and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community, any effort to equate their fight with the 400-year-plus struggle of Black Americans completely misses the point.
It is disingenuous and offensive.
It’s not the same as the pervasive struggles endured by generations of Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved. Nor, older Black Americans who can still remember having to save up to pay Alabama’s poll tax to be able to vote.
Likewise, that struggle is not the same as the Stonewall riots, the torture and horrific killing of Matthew Shepard, or the staggering rates of suicide for LGBTQ+ youth.
Generalizing oppression or making broad comparisons about one marginalized group of people over another unfairly dilutes their history and diminishes their legitimate struggle for justice and equality.
Although it may make for good headlines or “click bait”, it’s an oversimplification that ignores the real history. There are real differences and real distinctions that should be observed and respected.
Alabama House Democrats will continue to fight against the Republican CRT (Critical Race Theory) bill no matter how many times it’s brought to the floor because you cannot “whitewash” our history. The same is true regarding transgender affirming care and bathrooms. That’s because Alabama Democrats strongly believe that discrimination of any kind has no place in our state.
This is also why we strongly oppose Republican efforts to limit Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion frameworks from corporate entities doing business with the State of Alabama. We will always fight for the fair treatment and full participation of all people. Especially those groups who have historically been underrepresented or subject to discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, identity or disability.
Every marginalized, oppressed, or underrepresented group of people has a unique and important story to tell. Equating their very different struggles with a broad brush simply disrespects, diminishes, and trivializes their stories.
We agree with Whitmire in his observation of Republican political distraction when he said, “Like schoolyard bullies, they sought out someone smaller to pick on…” Sadly, Alabama has a long history of enacting discriminatory laws as a way to distract from legislative inaction or as a political ploy to rile up the radical, right-wing conservative base.
Being Black is still about being Black. Period. Being a Black parent still involves having to have “the talk” with your Black son, so he’ll understand what “Driving While Black” means. Being Black is still about combatting “redlining” or trying to understand why your job or college admission application was denied in spite of your credentials. Yes, being Black is still about being Black in America.
Let’s not diminish our stories by trying to make them into catchy headlines or bumper stickers. Diversity is about acknowledging and respecting our differences, because we are not all the same, even when we play on the same team.
No, queer is not the “new” Black, Mr. Whitmire. The discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community, indeed, has some similarities, but it’s certainly not the same. This is why fully understanding our individual and collective history is so vital. It’s how we learn to respect and cherish the differences in others and build strong communities based on the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.