In a recent opinion piece titled “All aboard the Trayvon bandwagon,” Washington Blade editor and co-owner Kevin Naff accuses 28 national LGBT groups of hype-riding because they issued an open letter opposing racial profiling and expressing solidarity with Trayvon Martin’s family and friends.
In Naff’s view, the Trayvon Martin atrocity is simply a consequence of lax gun laws. Race only enters the picture because “ambulance-chasing zealots like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson” have intervened. “Racial tension” over the case is purely the result of “typically lazy and even deliberately inaccurate reporting by the mainstream media” and celebrity tweets. And LGBT organizations should have nothing to say about the systemic and pervasive practice of criminalizing black men and boys because race is just a “distraction that pumps up cable ratings and generates lots of heat, but no light.”
I’m going to borrow that last phrase—“generates lots of heat but no light”—and apply it to Naff’s criminally narrow lens. To accuse organizations including the National Center for Transgender Equality, UNID@S, Immigration Equality and the National Black Justice Coalition of “bandwagon posturing” is to assume that the people who make up these organizations have no stake or interest in dismantling systemic racism. Essentially what Naff has done is cast the struggle for LGBT human rights and equality as window dressing for his own demands for white male privilege.
Of course we know that to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender non-conforming person of color is to be—drum roll—a person of color. We know this because prisons and morgues are full of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming people of color, their loved ones and their neighbors. They have no choice or desire to atomize their struggles. Naff shouldn’t either.
And even if Naff can’t personally identify with the intersection between race and sexuality, even if he can’t fathom, say, a Bayard Rustin, he can certainly use his journalistic skills (aka, Google) to uncover evidence that LGBT struggles are inextricably tied to racial justice struggles. For data, he can check out major reports like Injustice at Every Turn or ARC’s own Better Together. Or he can just read the damn screenshot of the National Organization for Marriage’s master plan to drive a wedge between gays, blacks and Latinos.
I don’t know Kevin Naff so I’m not going to accuse him of pandering to angry white males. But I know this much is true: LGBT organizations belong in the conversation about racial profiling. No amount of his seething white male privilege masquerading as gun control advocacy can change that fact.
For more information on the intersection of the LGBT and racial justice movements, read Better Together, a report by Colorlines.com’s publisher, the Applied Research Center. In the report, people and organizations working in both fields talk about the challenges and the opportunities of inclusive work.