Dear Religious Black People

Speaking as a black woman who was raised in the church (AME Zion, to be precise, but I have strong Baptist ancestry, too), speaking as a woman who is still deeply spiritual though no longer Christian, speaking as a woman who is queer, I have something to say: Knock it the fuck off.

I understand the tension between LGBT folks and Christianity, but what you need to understand is that this whole crap where you participate in bigotry, discrimination, and hate is not only un-Christian, it’s completely insane from people who not that long ago were considered a half step above gorillas by many people and are still considered such by a significant minority now.

I am well aware that we cannot compare the stuff that LGBT folks go through to what black folks and other ethnic minorities go through wholesale. There are some similarities, yes, and there are some major differences. This argument isn’t about that. It’s about the fact that you, as people who have and still suffer from the effects of hate, bigotry and oppression, do not seem to have any compassion or understanding for LGBT folks.

This is not true for all Christian black people, I know. If this isn’t true for you, then just know that I am not talking to you. I am most likely talking to the woman in the big hat behind you fanning herself. I am talking to the people who, despite the fact that we are in a serious crisis in this country that starts from the White House and trickles down on us all like urine, are still playing the You Have To Be Against Them To Be With Us game. It’s not cool.

Let me put it to you this way: Do you want a president who hates a whole group of people for an arbitrary reason? I know you may not think that sin is arbitrary, but I invite you to take a close look in the mirror before you start throwing stones (yes, that is me referencing the Bible). How many sins have you committed today, this week, this year? The whole point of protestant Christianity is that Jesus loves you and will forgive you if you repent. So, therefore, quit fucking worrying about what other people are doing. Or, if you can’t stop thinking about them, try projecting some love and compassion. You know, like Jesus would. But this whole prejudice thing? The whole not supporting a candidate because they won’t say “I hate those people”? That has got to stop.

No, I mean right now.


Moral vs. Pragmatic Arguments

Last week I finished reading an amazing SF novel, Alanya to Alanya, by the brilliant L. Timmel Duchamp. If you’re interested in feminist science fiction, dystopias, and thought experiments on social change, you should definitely pick it up.

In the afterword, the author wrote something that caught my attention:

“…I’m chilled and sobered by the reflection that just as it never occurs to Kay Zeldin to argue to Sedgewick, Torricelli, and Vale that their tactics are just plain morally wrong–for her arguments with them are always pragmatic, rather than ethical–so today, in the US, questions of morality seldom enter into discussions of social, economic, and political policies.”

It reminded me of something Nora and I talk about every now and then–that when exposing and debating about racism, we often find ourselves making pragmatic arguments instead of moral ones. While we both find this to be annoying, we recognize that this is often the only way to reach certain folks.

Still, it chafes. Because the bottom line is that racism, sexism, prejudice, whathaveyou, are just plain wrong. It’s morally wrong. Yet discussions inevitably turn to the pragmatic. I suppose that’s because morality is so fluid. While I believe that all people have morals, whether they are religious or not, not all morals are the same. So going with a pragmatic argument is like going for the objective instead of the subjective. But then even pragmatic arguments can be subjective.

So let’s start from the moral viewpoint, shall we? Racism, sexism, prejudice, are wrong. They’re bad. Supposedly, most people in our society agree that this is true. You be hard pressed to find anyone who will say the opposite in public. Yet even those who don’t secretly disagree don’t understand this fully, I think. Because when you talk to them, they’ll say lynching and separate lunch counters is definitely wrong, but only having one black person on a television show set in Southern California is just a matter of casting or lack of actors or or or… you see? The sense of wrong is explained away.

It’s all about identifying racism as racism (or sexism as, homophobia as, etc.) and not just an unfortunate way some people think or act. It’s about getting people out of the mindset of “It’s just a ______.” Because for non-privileged people, it’s never just anything, is it. It affects us. Sometimes harshly. Once you push aside that mindset, it’s another step toward getting to the moral core of it all.

But how do you get people entrenched in their privilege to take that step? Thus far, I’ve used pragmatic arguments. But while those are usually good and objective, they don’t go deep enough. Moral arguments, forcing people to be conscious of right and wrong, that is where the key lies, I think. How, though?

Things You Need To Understand #7

That which does not affect you, you often do not see or understand

In other words, if you are White, 99% of the time Racism doesn’t affect you. Therefore, you may not see nor understand Racism when it happens.

If you are a Man, 99% of the time Sexism doesn’t affect you. Therefore, you may not grok Sexist behavior when it occurs nor will you always see Sexism when it is plain to others.

This goes for any –ist or –ism or –phobia you can think of. This goes for you, even if you’re a minority, when it concerns people who are not like you.

What does not affect you personally often will not impact on your consciousness unless you’ve trained yourself to see and understand.

Therefore, the next time you feel yourself declaring something “not racist” or “not sexist” or “not offensive”, think about whether you feel that way because you’re not the one on the receiving end of racist, sexist, or offensive behavior/words/actions/images.