We Are Foreigners and Strangers Among Ourselves

Racism chokes the spiritual and political life out of a people and a movement.

The toil it takes on our movement and communities is evident each June by the paucity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of color visible at Pride parades. While the exclusion of people of color is evident each June, it is the continued and consistent apathy by the larger LGBT community to correct the problem that is both troubling and inexcusable.

As a result, African-American Pride events have sprung up across the country in large urban cities like New York, D.C., Los Angeles and Boston in the last decade.

“It’s for people of color, by people of color,” Joshua Gambrell, an organizer of Boston’s Unity Pride.

In a society full of racial strife — where the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v Board of Education (May 17, 1954) ruled that racial segregation with its separate but equal ordinances was unconstitutional — it is tragic to see how segregation today still finds a way to rear its ugly head.

However, when separatism happens within marginal groups, like our LGBT communities, we see how far down the road we have not traveled.

When LBGT people of color are not invited to the discussion and decision tables about an important event like Pride, they are forced to go their own way and create a Pride event that is inclusive and reflective of their struggles, legacy and lives.

As for the white LGBT community, the LGBT African-American community here in Boston and across the country wants to send a message to them that their racism and politics of exclusion only weaken the larger movement toward sexual equality and thwart any efforts for coalition-building.

“We are not seeing ourselves culturally represented at Pride. We want to show not only ourselves, but also the larger LGBT community that we are out here and taking control of our lives. Unity Pride speaks to who we are, and it represents the substance that pertains to our lives,” teacher and community activist Philip Robinson told me.

We must remember that as LGBT people, our queerness is a prophetic call for justice not just here at home, but also throughout the world. This prophetic call calls us out at this specific time and place in history to unveil the parochial understanding of human sexuality.

The call is not self-appointed, but God-given!

The racial divide that is always evident at Pride shows us something troubling and broken about ourselves as we strive to be an LGBT community and movement. It shows us that the spiritual and political life of our movement cannot afford to be fraught or stymied by bigotry, but instead it demands inclusion and constant growth.

Both our movement and communities call for the varied expressions of the lives of LGBT people. This moral and political imperative also shows us that united we can stand as a prophetic movement or divided we can fall as a petty people.

We must understand that we all carry multiple identities into the world. Racism in our community continues to separates us in a Herculean struggle against heterosexism that cannot afford to underutilize any of its people.

The fighting among us must stop!

The distrust among us must stop!

The competitiveness among us must stop!

We must cure ourselves of our indifference to each other’s suffering.

The belief acted out among some of us that one oppression — sexual oppression — is greater than another person’s oppression only sets up a hierarchy of oppressions. This not only keeps us broken from one another, but it also keeps us fighting with one another, which in turn chokes the spiritual life out of a people and a movement.

The racial divide between white and LGBT people of color reminds me of Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:14-15 & 19-22) in which the two largest and warring ethnic groups in the city were Jews and gentiles.

Paul tore down the wall of hostility that existed in the church between the Jews and gentiles, because the racial bigotry made them foreigners and strangers to one another. His letter to the Ephesians emphasizes the needed diversity within the church by inviting the varied expressions of the life of God’s people to be in it.

With Paul removing the racial divide between the Jews and gentiles, he not only sets up an example for us, but he also extends that act to us as LGBT Christian people of color and whites by inviting us to serve in community with one another.

And, in so doing, we then as an LBGT community will not be foreigners and strangers among one another any longer.

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