How To Fight Racism in the LGBT Community
You would think that because gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people experience discrimination that racism would not exist within the community. Unfortunately, this is not so. Racism exists in the LGBT community just as it does in other parts of American and European culture. These tips will help you understand and fight racism in the LGBT community.
Time Required: A lifetime
Time Required: A lifetime
- Understand what Racism is. Webster's defines Racism as: A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Racism is also defined as the mistreatment of a group of people on the basis of race, color, national origin or ancestry. Racism can be intentional or unintentional.
- Think before you speak. Words can hurt, whether you mean them to or not. When describing a person, think if mentioning their race is important to the story. Everyone has an ethnicity, not just people of color. Don't call someone 'exotic'. It is demeaning.
- Use correct language. Do your refer to everyone from South or Central America as Mexican? If you don't know someone's country of origin, don't assume. Some people prefer Black, while others like African American. Some prefer Latino/a, others like Hispanic. If you're unsure which to use, ask.
- Don't Assume. Do you assume that Blacks or Latinas are more homophobic than White people? That all black lesbians like Hip-Hop or that Asians are good at math. Stereotypes hurt everyone. Examine what your prejudices are.
- Support Women of Color Space. Just like lesbians like time away from straight people, where we can dance and be ourselves without fear of harassment of homophobia, people of color need time away from white people where they can feel free to act like themselves, without fear of hearing an inadvertently racist comment. If you're white, try and understand it's not personal. If an event is advertised for "People of Color Only" only attend if your heritage is other than white.
- Interrupt racist jokes or assumptions. You can do so with out being rude. Don't let your silence speak for you. Simply say, "I don't find that funny," or "I don't appreciate jokes like that."
- Donate time or money to Women of Color organizations.Places like Zuna, The Audre Lorde Project or other non-profit organizations are working to eliminate racism and homophobia.
Join in an activity to commemorate Martin Luther King Day. Join in a March for Justice or Day of Community Service to honor the slain civil rights hero.
- Make a friend. From Pam Spauling of Pam's House Blend "One suggestion that I'd add to the About.com list of remedies and ways to combat racism is a difficult one for many people, and one I believe is the most effective way to bridge the gap -- get to know, as a close friend -- someone of a different race or culture. Not a work colleague or a neighbor you share casual conversations with, but to push past your comfort zone -- make friends you can be close enough to that you can ask and be asked those direct questions about race in an environment of trust."
- Learn about Queers of Color in history. Audre Lorde, Barbara Jordan, James Baldwin and Ma Rainey are a few. Do you know of others?
- Join or start an organization dealing with racism or human rights. Many groups are also fighting discrimination of any kind, including homophobia and sexism.
- Write a letter to the editor of a gay paper. Encourage them to cover more events and stories about people of color in your community or to give them praise if they have done a particularly good job.
- Reach out beyond your community. If you belong to a LGBT group, think about joining forces with other human rights groups in your community around issues such as police brutality, profiling, job discrimination, unequal education or any other human rights issue.
- Volunteer. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans youth and seniors are vulnerable members of our community. LGBT youth of color are especially at-risk of becoming homeless or dropping out of school. Find an organization in your town that works with this population and spend some time giving back.
- Organize. Plan a multi-cultural LGBT film festival, concert or community dialogue.
- Expose Yourself. Try to learn about a culture other than your own. Attend a concert, dance or film about another culture. Read a book about fighting racism or connections between racism, sexism and homophobia.
- Keep an open mind. You might learn something.
- Everyone is different. What I say here may not apply to every situation.
- Know that racism is part of our culture. Don't be ashamed if you mess up. Everyone makes mistakes. That's how we learn.