Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.
I’ve been silent. I’ve been sitting and watching and absorbing what has been transpiring around the nation subsequent to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other black lives. For fear of saying something incorrectly, I have not said much, if anything at all, but I have seen it and I acknowledge that in saying nothing, I am saying something louder than any noise I could possibly make. This is why, as a queer latino, I sit here with my privilege, safe in my own skin and in my own home, to be able to use my time to get these words out in solidarity for black lives, knowing that not everything I will say will be “the right thing”, but that I spoke up in what is the only way I often know how–through writing.
So why have I decided to mention this now–way too late to save perished lives? As writers, educators, information professionals, artists, and historians, our support for black lives plays a pivotal role in counteracting generations of institutional neglect, erasure, and invisibility. We need to educate, provide resources, and speak up while taking responsibility for contributing to a system that has deemed black lives subhuman. The continuous work of abolishing racism (not just hate) is a daily effort we all have to work on.
As a queer person of color, I am not an exception. QPOC forget that racism manifests in many forms. While racism revolves around hatred, it is not exclusive to hate and can exist in simply having privilege, having access, experiencing apathy, and ultimately–ignorance. Whether intentional or not, racism is real and the demonstrations we are currently seeing are representations of the systemic oppression that black folks encounter on a daily basis. To absolve myself as a queer light-skinned latino is not enough, because my plight, albeit difficult at times, cannot and will not compare to the black community’s. It is a dialogue that has surpassed the conversation about marginalization and has led to the embodiment of pain and anger. It is a deafening plea for the halt to police brutality and the enactment of legislation that holds law enforcement accountable for excessive force and murder.
For those who demonize protests and see them as synonymous with riots and looters, therein is a racist action that perpetuates a pre-existing notion. Looters are not the same as protestors and the media has heightened the sensation of looting to eclipse the fact that people are tired of injustice and are doing it peacefully. It has become a struggle of property over people, perhaps because we as a society have failed our youth and have not been able to educate them on how to heal or how to channel their anger and pain into creating change where it counts. We cannot assume that because we talked about racism or inequity once that we have solved a problem.
Now, as today is the kick-off to Pride Month, it is imperative to acknowledge that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is vital if there is ever to be change. The LGBTQ+ community stands on the shoulders of those who have fought and activated before us. Our celebrations of pride and life are because of people who protested, spoke up, were beaten, and remained steadfast in their mission to demand rights and respect for the LGBTQ+ people.
We should not forget that as part of the LGBTQ+ community (a complex community in itself) we have all in some way benefitted from the black community’s long history of oppression and upheld or celebrated white standards and/or anti-blackness within our own community.
Our marginalization is not an exemption from action or comment. Whether we are on the front lines at a protest, making a sign for others, donating, reaching out to our black brothers and sisters to provide support, educating ourselves before making assumptions, or simply listening, we must stand with black lives.
Pride month has been cancelled around the world due to COVID-19, but let’s remember the next time we are able to wear those rainbow colors, watch a drag queen perform to Beyoncé, drink with friends at a local queer space, parade down a boulevard on a float, or even read a piece like this in a queer publication, it is because of the continued efforts of protests and voices who are fed up with injustice and being treated less than human.
So as I close out my thoughts here, let’s remember this pride season that there can never be brown or queer liberation without black liberation.