An open letter to the LGBTQ+ community about #BlackLivesMatter and Pride

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Image credit: Phil Roeder

An open letter to the LGBTQ+ community about #BlackLivesMatter and Pride

June 3, 2020

This is an open letter to the LGBTQ+ community, but more specifically to the white and non-Black People of Color within the community. As we move into Pride Month with everything else going on in the country, I have but one simple request: Do better.  

The nation has seen much unrest over the past few days as a result of the murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other Black people who have been killed by the police and other racists throughout America.

These murders are a part of the devastating cycle that is being Black in America. Some of their killers are not even being taken into custody and charged - it took ten days for charges to be filed against all four of the officers involved in George Floyd’s death and no arrests have been made for those involvement in Breonna Taylor’s death. Historically, the cops who have been arrested and charged have faced little to no jail time at all for killing an innocent Black person. These are only some of the continuing injustices Black people face from the police, and as a result, protests have broken out throughout the country. Completely outraged, Black people are protesting to be seen, Black people are protesting to be heard, Black people are protesting to live, and above all, Black people are protesting for justice for those lost well before their time.

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of shocking rhetoric coming from people within the LGBTQ+ community which is rather worrying to me. I’ve seen an alarming amount of anti-protest and anti-riot sentiment posted throughout various social media platforms. Some people have said things such as “If you think violence, vandalism, and looting is a correct way to get justice... you might as well unfollow and block me. I will not discuss” or “MLK would have wanted a peaceful protest” when Dr. King’s own children have stood in strong support of the protest and riots. Others push the “all lives matter'' narrative which actively works to undermine the current importance of the BlackLivesMatter movement. I’ve even seen a demonstration organizer in Los Angeles that threatened to “point [protesters] out to the police if [they] try it”, where ‘it’ referred to any riot activity. These kinds of statements are extremely harmful to the protest and the movement as a whole. Not only do they diminish the meaning of the movement and erase the value of the lives lost, but also help reinforce the oppressive systems in which the movement is protesting. 

And it is because of this that I’d like to ask: do those people know the history of Pride and LGBTQ movement?

Some of the first actions of the LGBTQ movement that eventually led to  Pride were violent protests and riots against police harassment and brutality. We’ve seen it with the Cooper Do-Nuts Riot, The Black Cat Tavern, Gene Compton’s Café Riot, and most famously the Stonewall Riots, all of which were pivotal moments in LGBTQ+ history.

And guess what? These riots worked.

They set up the foundations for the movement to grow stronger and stronger and ultimately lead to what we know today. The first Pride marches and parades were to remember the victory of the violent riot. Shortly after the Stonewall riot, groups such as Gay Activists’ Alliance, Gay Liberation Front, and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries were formed to push for LGBTQ liberation.

It is also critical to recognize that many Black trans people, historically and now, have experienced disproportionate levels of violence from both the police and regular citizens. Tony McDade, Nina Pop, and Iyanna Dior are three victims we’ve seen killed or brutalized in just the last few weeks. Despite this reality, trans leaders in the movement for LGBTQ liberation and Black Lives Matter continue to have to fight to keep Black trans peoples’ experiences from being erased from the larger movements. As their fight continues, so must their ability to protest, riot, and rebel against the forces that oppress them.

Rioting brought our community together to fight for our liberation as a united front, and now the BlackLivesMatter movement is doing the same. They need your support as allies and accomplices, not as critics or absentees.

Pride was, is, and will forever be, a protest and riot from police brutality. To celebrate Pride while looking down upon the BlackLivesMatter movement is nothing less than hypocritical.

Now that you know better, I once again ask you to do better.

Please show support wherever and whenever you can. I’m sure you’ve seen tons of resources floating around your social media in the last few days? Reshare those resources to your own network and speak up if you hear others spreading more harmful rhetoric!  With that being said, instead of spreading your own ideas on this issue, consider amplifying the voices of Black people as they are the ones most impacted by it. 

Below is a page that has compiled information on the BlackLivesMatter movement including a memorial for those who’ve lost their lives, ways you can get involved and donate, as well as additional resources about the movement.

Note that this is not an exhaustive list of ways to get involved. Please take active measures to find more ways to help and show your support. I urge you to take the time to read over everything and join into the fight for Black liberation.

Black lives matter.

Antonio Calbo-Jackson is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and rising senior at University of California, Santa Cruz. He works at UCSC's Disability Resource Center, as well as with the Environmental Protection Agency in the Section 504 Office where they are making the work of the EPA more accessible the general public. After completing his undergraduate studies, Antonio plans on going to law school before running for public office, where he can continue to serve his community.

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