It’s pride season, and we are experiencing breakthroughs at the place where racial justice and LGBT rights meet. Last month, the NAACP formally took a position supporting marriage equality, which was quickly followed by a number of prominent black male celebrities doing the same. Yesterday, the New York Times reported on an emerging alliance between racial justice and LGBT organizations on a range of issues including stop and frisk, and also mentioning the relationship between Basic Rights Oregon and the statewide Latino organization CAUSA.
To add to the coverage, this week and next, ARC and Colorlines.com are releasing new case studies and leadership profiles to the celebrations, conversations and actions surrounding pride events nationwide.
As an organization, we have resisted false assumptions embedded in many debates about race and sexuality. We did not think that black and Latino voters made Prop 8 pass in 2010, nor do we think that communities of color are more homophobic than white communities in general. We know that pitting queer people against people of color is a crass and sadly effective attempt to drive a wedge between constituencies that would wield enormous power if they pursued change together. More than anything, we understood that drawing a line between people of color and queer people erases the presence of queer people of color. To see how other racial justice leaders thought about these questions, in 2010 we released the Better Together report on the relationship between racial justice and LGBT people, organizations and issues.
It isn’t enough, we found, to talk generally about protecting the rights of all people. Work on the ground has to be based on strategy, as well as morality. In Better Together, we identified key barriers and opportunities to greater engagement after surveying 81 organizations of color and interviewing 32 leaders of racial justice and LGBT organizations. We found that while there’s significant interest in LGBT rights among groups of color, the strategy for pursuing those rights in a racial justice context was vague for most organizers. Our primary recommendation in that report was that the field needs to invest in tools for strategic clarity by generating partnerships, research, and campaigns around the many issues that are particularly important for LGBT people of color, including employment discrimination, military policies and marriage laws.
There are groups that work at this project with great effect, and we could all learn a lot from them. This week, we present Better Together in Action: Organizations Working to Integrate Racial Justice and LGBT Issues, three stories of people who took on the challenge of connecting issues and constituencies. The case studies reveal how these organizations analyzed the issues, organized their communities and ran projects that advanced both racial justice and LGBT equality. These kinds of examples get little attention in the media circus surrounding queerness and race, so it’s really important that we get access to them in other ways. Their reflections help us to drill down into the actual activities and approaches that groups can take to realize their commitment to a multi-dimensional social justice movement. In Better Together in Action, you will read about:
The South Asian Network (SAN), which provides social services primarily to Pakistani, Indian, and Sri Lankan immigrants in Southern California. SAN has collaborated with Satrang, a South Asian LGBT organization to research the needs of and create a safe, welcoming space for queer and transgender-identified community members. We profile SAN organizer Joyti Chand, Satrang leader Salman Husainy, and SAN founder Hamid Khan.
FIERCE was founded by young LGBT activists in NYC who have fought gentrification, racial and sexual profiling, and helped to create the national network for affordable housing. In this case study, we hear from FIERCE cofounders Jesse Ehrensaft-Hawley and Krystal Portalain, as well as former executive director Rickke Mananzala.
Southerners on New Ground (SONG) advocates on sexual politics and gender liberation in the South, integrating the struggle for racial justice, which they see as inextricably linked to their mission. In this case study, we hear from movement luminary and SONG cofounder Mandy Carter, as well as co-director Paulina Helm-Hernandez, and organizer Sendolo Diamanah.
You can download ARC Better Together reports at arc.org/bettertogether.
Pride celebrations have changed American culture by making visible the hidden and by bringing together, for however brief a moment, all the different kinds of queer people that exist in the world. Those people need political as well as cultural power, and the groups in our reports help them develop that power so they can make all the other days of the year safer and freer. I hope that you will share widely to help inspire and support more such work everywhere. And next week, look out for the rest of our Pride package, which will include profiles of amazing LGBT leaders of color from parts of the country that tend to get little attention. Enjoy these prideful weeks, and use these tools to carry that feeling into action.