In case you are a gay white person in need of a model of how to stand for Black people, look no further than Charlotte Pride’s Annual Stonewall Resolution: Black Lives Matter statement:
Charlotte Pride believes Black Lives Matter. We also believe that the fight for Black and Brown Lives is inextricably bound together with our fight for LGBTQ liberation. We exist to commemorate, celebrate, and continue the modern LGBTQ Liberation Movement, whose catalyst was the Stonewall Riots & Uprising in June 1969 — a rebellion against violent police brutality. The Charlotte Pride Board of Directors has unanimously adopted an annual resolution commemorating Stonewall. It also outlines four action steps our organization is adopting, in line with our full support of and solidarity with Black and Brown lives. 1. Charlotte Pride will no longer allow the participation of any local, state, or federal law enforcement agency as vendors or marching contingents in our annual festival and parade until there is surmounting evidence and community confidence that law enforcement is committed to the meaning of Black Lives Matter and treats Black and Brown people with dignity and respect. 2. Charlotte Pride will request that the City of Charlotte make less visible the number of uniformed and armed law enforcement officers we are required to have as public security at the annual festival and parade. 3. Charlotte Pride encourages local, state, and federal elected officials to adopt new policies and laws banning the use of tear gas and other chemical agents by law enforcement agencies. 4. Charlotte Pride encourages the City of Charlotte to identify ways to redirect police funding into investments in community-based and community-accountable public safety, public health, affordable housing, and other initiatives that will uplift Black and Brown people, low-income people, and other marginalized communities. Read the full text of the resolution passed on June 10, 2020, online at charlottepride.org/12793/ #BlackLivesMatter #BlackQueerLivesMatter #BlackTransLivesMatter
A post shared by Charlotte Pride (@cltpride) on Jun 11, 2020 at 8:23am PDT
The statement reminds us that Prides “exist to commemorate, celebrate, and continue the modern LGBTQ Liberation Movement, whose catalyst was the Stonewall Riots & Uprisings in June 1969—a rebellion against violent police brutality.”
Some may think it goes too far. I don’t think it goes far enough.
However, it is an important first step and template for the white LGBTQ community, who often find themselves paralyzed when it’s time to stand for Black people, which ultimately means doing more than marching. It also means taking an intentional and difficult look at your organization internally and, more personally, a look at your beliefs and attitude about anti-Black racism.
As a queer Black woman, I don’t want to spend my time correcting white people’s behavior. I’d rather be taking a nap in my backyard, or sipping on gin and juice on my porch. But after a call with a North Carolina Pride Planning Committee, I needed to write this, to say to gay white folks that your racist slip is showing…again.
To the white people who may be reading this, your gayness does not exempt you from unpacking your white privilege and the ways you may be complacent in anti-Black racism.
For a year now, I have lived in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Joining a Pride planning call in the area was an effort to build community and engage in local activism. I learned that the local white LGBTQ community is figuring out ways to support the Black LGBTQ community and the Movement for Black Lives, but that white complacency often interferes with the best of intentions. White committee members on the call reported on their participation in BLM protests and proudly recited their belief: they don’t host a Black Pride because their Pride is “inclusive”. I wondered if they talked to Black folx before making that decision.
Black Prides blossomed out of a desire to center the Black LGBTQ community which often felt unwelcome at mainstream Pride events. The Center for Black Equity reports that in 1991, 800 people gathered in Washington, D.C. to attend the first event naming itself ‘Black Pride’. Black Prides are culturally relevant and provide safe spaces for Black people to celebrate their Blackness and their queerness.
Black Pride gatherings are an act of radical love and resistance, especially against the deep misogynoir Black queer women and femmes face, and the violence that Black trans people experience. According to the Human Rights Campaign, in 2019 “at least 27 deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people in the U.S. [were] due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women.” This year alone we have lost Monika Diamond, Nina Pop, Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells. Their lives matter.
Black Prides were created as a space where Black LGBTQ folx could be whole, seen and affirmed. Although the white Pride planning committee may have thought it was being inclusive, inclusivity without also being actively anti-racist does not prevent feelings of exclusion by Black queer folk; instead, it fuels them.
No one on the call said a Black Pride would be “divisive.” They didn’t need to. Commenting that mainstream Pride was inclusive served—intentionally or not— to stop conversations around the possibility of the city hosting a Black Pride. I’m a brand nubian to the area, so I’m unsure of prior discussions around Black Pride, but if that call was an indicator of how conversations have gone, then perhaps Black Prides are not occurring because the Pride Committee acts as a gatekeeper.
But suppose you’re a white ally who supports Black Pride. Do you also believe in restricting the presence of police at Pride events?
Across the nation, Prides have banned uniformed police from marching in Pride parades and from setting up booths; they have also limited uniformed police presence at their events. The history of homophobic and racist violence against Black queer people at the hands of the police (i.e., the Stonewall Uprisings) cannot be left out of conversations for Pride events. Not wanting the police at Pride is not an outrageous ask, nor is it a time to rally around your support for law enforcement—who often are the perpetrators of violent crime against Black people. Some may believe that the police are necessary— they aren’t. White LGBTQ support of the police and not having Black Prides do not buttress claims of inclusivity; instead it further amplifies the ways in which white LGBTQ communities stay silent about the brute state-sanctioned treatment against Black people.
Remaining mum on the racism embedded in mainstream LGBTQ+ spaces is not revolutionary and will not dismantle homophobia. Marching in BLM protests while refusing to hold the police accountable is not a winning strategy and liberates no one.
Audre Lorde, a Black woman, lesbian and warrior-poet who did her work, instructs us that “it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.” On that call with the Pride planning committee, I observed that deafening silence around anti-Black racism, complacency and lack of equity; it tongue-tied many of the members.
Charlotte’s Pride statement laid out four action steps that any non-Black Pride organization can follow if they are not yet on a path to dismantling white supremacy and all forms of oppression. Read it, study it and discuss the 515 words put forth. And then do your work.
Charmaine Lang is a North Carolina based writer and researcher, her work focuses on the intersections of race, gender, and wellness. As a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee she uses ethnographic methods to examine the social and economic determinants of self-care practices among Black women activists. She is also a proud member of Echoing Ida, a community of Black women and non-binary writers disrupting oppressive narratives and seeding a world where we can thrive.