In the aftermath of Eric Garner’s death, it seems many in the LGBT community have gone silent.
By: Gabe Gonzalez
By: Gabe Gonzalez
Some of you were so loud when Facebook took away your chosen names, but deafeningly quiet when an NYPD officer took a black man’s life.
After a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict Daniel Pantaleo on December 3 for the murder of Eric Garner, I logged on to Twitter hoping to see a queer community ready to organize and lend support on behalf of black lives. It was just two short months ago that we rallied together under the hashtag #MyNameIs, after all. Instead, I saw someone tweet about seeing Kinky Boots for the nth time, some sharing a drag queen’s new music video, and others sending out party invitations.
The gay community’s rallying power has been noticeably subdued in the aftermath of Eric Garner’s murder. After seeing this community’s potential social media influence, this silence especially stings. The speed and intensity with which some gay men—many of whom were white drag performers who benefit from their appropriation of black music and culture—mobilized on behalf of self-determination and personhood is laughable when compared to those same men’s refusal to do it again on behalf of “someone else.”
When LGBT causes like #MyNameIs grab national headlines, we urge friends and allies of all backgrounds to join our voices in seeking justice. But now, when our black friends have spoken out; when the media has no choice but to repeat the names Michael, Trayvon, Eric, and Akai; when it matters most that we permanently etch these atrocities into our collective histories—we’re quiet. Those very same voices that flooded your feed with #MyNameIs or #LoveIsLove and never let you forget they were holding space for a cause until they saw a meaningful outcome can’t seem to find the 140 characters to articulate how or why #BlackLivesMatter.
Every time I see a gay man try to reason away their inaction with a line like, “I’m not political,” or “I don’t like talking about that because nothing changes,” I can’t help but be reminded how often we try to couch our racism in something passive or immutable: I’m not into black causes. Sorry, it’s just a preference.
I hear other gay men explain that they’re “fearful” of speaking out, afraid that they are unwelcome in showing solidarity with black communities or that they’ll be subjected to hate speech and violence at the hands of straight black men. These divisions are constructed from stereotypes: “thugs” and “fags” only exist in diametric opposition to each other on a scale of white supremacy’s invention.
These empty excuses aren’t cutting it anymore. When you only speak up to explain why you can’t or won’t do more, your silence becomes complicity.
Many of us are privileged enough to have spaces in New York in which we can live and love radically, but we need to hold ourselves accountable when the narratives of these supposedly collective spaces become whitewashed—when the person being killed isn’t “us”; when we can’t hear the gunshots over the Björk remix. There’s nothing radical about your queer lifestyle if it only supports and loves bodies like your own. So whether it’s posting a hashtag on social media, showing up to a protest, taking time to support a black friend, or dedicating time and money to organizations like the Audre Lorde Project or Black & Pink, we must constantly find time to remind ourselves and others of the violence people of color face at the hands of racist institutions.
If you can show up and speak out for Facebook profiles, MDMA-fueled dance parties, drag performances, sexual freedom, and marijuana reform, you can show up now. We have to dedicate physical, digital, and spiritual energy to Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and the countless others by disrupting the status quo. And we’ll have to keep doing that until the day reminding people that #BlackLivesMatter is no longer a disruption.