You don't have to hate police to agree with BLM: Paradkar
Group's Pride protest last year made clear to some of us straight folks looking from the outside in that anti-Black racism exists everywhere, and that the rainbow could cover up streaks of racism within.
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They came. They saw. They disrupted.
Black Lives Matter, whose inspired protest against police in uniform last year brought Toronto Pride to a crashing halt and anti-Black racism among police to the forefront, found their message amplified across North America this year.
Other chapters of the Black Lives Matter group protested Pride in various cities: in New York City — where about 100 of Toronto’s finest had made their way in a huff; in Seattle, where they staged a 30-minute protest — one minute for every year in the life of Charleena Lyles, recently killed by police; in Minneapolis, where they protested the death of Philando Castile, chanting “no justice no pride”; in Vancouver, where they staged a separate march altogether to honour queer-trans people of colour.
Here, protesters also staged a die-in, in which five people lay down on the hot pavement and others drew chalk figures around them.
In Toronto, where Pride comes during an inquest into the death of Andrew Loku, the mentally ill Black man killed by a police officer in 2015, the young activists showed up on Sunday after the parade had passed, not to put themselves front and centre, but to remind people they are still challenging anti-Black racism within Pride, within queer-trans communities.
“Pride is actually ours. Queer and trans people of colour actually started this,” said BLM co-founder Rodney Diverlus. “We don’t need to register for a deadline, we don’t need to tell you we’re coming, we don’t need to pay money for a float. We’re just going to take up space.”
Perhaps Diverlus should have said “reclaiming our space,” the space created by queer and trans people of colour, who played a major role in the Stonewall Riots 40 years ago this week. The series of riots, named after Stonewall Inn, a New York bar patronized by queer and trans people that was frequently and violently raided by police, were seen as the first major protests against police on behalf of homosexuals.
Key among protesters were transgender community organizers such as the Latina Sylvia Rivera and Black transwomen Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, but those roles have been erased over time as the movement has been whitewashed.
No doubt, Toronto is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. No doubt, Toronto police are heroes to many people, including gay people of colour. No doubt, BLM doesn’t speak for all Black people — no group ever speaks for all.
Yet, liberation of some is not liberation of all. That’s not so difficult to grasp, is it? There are disparities in how we experience the police.
You don’t have to hate the police to agree with BLM — it’s not a zero-sum game. However, there’s a reluctance to understand the unique cruelty of anti-blackness.
Black Lives Matter was reviled as a hate group last year for protesting that lack of equal treatment, and making demands for more inclusivity. That demand already made an impact; Anu Radha Verma, a curator of brOWN/out, a Pride event focused on the South Asian gay community, publicly thanked BLM on CBC for making her Saturday event possible.
Do you know who is a hate group? The KKK, about a dozen members of which turned up in full regalia to crash an LGBTQ parade in Florence, Ala., earlier this month.
Which would you call hateful? Protesting against those who are the instruments of your oppression? Or stomping on the oppressed, when they rise to resist?
What that resistance has made clear to some of us straight folks looking from the outside in, and perceiving the LGBTQ communities as a unified force of good, is that anti-Black racism exists everywhere, and the rainbow just covered up the streaks of racism within. Disagreeing with BLM does not make you racist, but being able to place how Black people experience police in your blind spot makes you privileged.
For some gay people, their history or experience of discrimination doesn’t seem to have exempted them from discriminating against others.
There was Darryl DePiano, the owner of iCandy, the Philadelphia gay bar whose audio recording calling Black queer men “ni-ni-ni-ni-n-word” was broadcast on loud speakers in April. There was the other gay bar in N.Y.C. where multiple complaints surfaced about people of colour being discriminated against and not being allowed in. (Rebar, the bar in question has denied that.) These are not isolated incidents.
Pride is not about race, say those who have never been excluded — or targeted — on the basis of their skin colour. It’s about celebrating gay successes, they say. Except that acceptance and protection have not been extended to all people.
How equal is equality, when it’s only for a few?
Shree Paradkar tackles issues of race and gender. You can follow her @ShreeParadkar