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|Sniping over Black Gay Pride, other events highlights our community’s sad tendency to hold back our own|
|by Laura Douglas-Brown|
|September 02, 2011 00:00|
Crabs in a barrel.
In the frenzy to get out, each claws onto the one above, intending to pull itself up and closer to freedom. Instead, of course, it only succeeds in pulling the other crab back down, leaving all in the bottom of the barrel and destined for the bottom of a boiling pot of water.
The image is often invoked to illustrate how minority communities, including LGBT communities, have a tendency to hold their own back, rather than working communally to confront their real oppressor. While we claw at each other, those in power stand back and get ready for dinner.
I was reminded of this as the GA Voice began our coverage of Atlanta’s 2011 Black Gay Pride celebration, which is held over Labor Day Weekend. It only took minutes from the story being posted to our Facebook page for the negative feedback to begin.
I’ve been involved in writing or planning coverage of Black Gay Pride for all of my 14 years in LGBT media, so it’s not that I’m surprised by the comments.
They tend to fall into two broad categories: 1) those who question the need for a separate, allegedly “segregated” Black Pride, and 2) those who use the event to instead criticize Atlanta Pride, asking why it doesn’t get performers who are as famous as those appearing at nightlife events for Black Pride (hint: Atlanta Pride is free, and even In the Life Atlanta, the nonprofit organizer for Black Gay Pride, charges $100 for a Pride pass, with party promoters charging more).
I wrote extensively about the need for Black Gay Pride last year (See “Why we have ‘two Prides,’” Sep. 3, 2010). But the bottom line, as GA Voice staffer Bo Shell pointed out in a blog this week, is that critics don’t have to be persuaded about the need for the event.
There is a simpler solution if you don’t think Black Gay Pride is necessary: Don’t go. But also, don’t take to the Internet to tear down an event that is obviously meaningful for the thousands who participate.
Attacking each other
Chicken was on the menu, but crabs were also on my mind when I recently attended an event created to honor community leaders, one of several held each year. I was taken aback when someone commented to me that one of the winners wasn’t really worthy.
Leaving aside the potential for offense — for all the commenter knew, the person in question could have been my best friend — it made me sad. Praising one member of our community does not implicitly denigrate others. If you feel that some people don’t get enough credit for the work they do, perhaps a better tactic would be to work to honor them.
And then there is GlitterBomb Atl, which began posting on Facebook last month. The group, which doesn’t list its leaders or members, aims to follow the tactics of glitter bombers in other states, who have made headlines confronting notorious gay rights opponents.
Some find their tactics refreshing, others childish, but you can’t deny that they get attention. And in general, I think that any group that gets people actively engaged in advocating for their rights — whether through political theater or simply attending a fundraiser — is positive until specifically proven otherwise.
Nationally, glitter bombers have sprinkled their whimsical outrage on such deserving targets as former Congressman Newt Gingrich and Marcus Bachmann, husband of GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann and an advocate for “praying away” being gay.
But to read the Facebook announcement, you’d think GlitterBomb Atl plans to be some kind of glamorous internal militia, targeting those within our community whose tactics they don’t find queer or progressive or fabulous enough.
Never once do they suggest any gay rights opponents they might consider.
But they do write at length about how they “dismiss the assimilated ‘gay rights’ monster,” “oppose the god-awful HRC culture of gay ‘mainstream’ politics,” “disapprove of gay commercialization through corporate sponsors” (they “hate that shit”) and “demand Atlanta Pride step up to the plate ‘of historical integrity’ and be more radical, more progressive, more inclusive, and more fierce!”
Beyond the barrel
To be certain, constructive criticism, debate and engagement are important — in fact, crucial — parts of building a community.
But that doesn’t happen through backroom sniping, Internet comments and ambushing other well-intentioned groups with a gratuitous unsigned broadside on Facebook.
It starts by acknowledging that however we may disagree on tactics, we are on the same side, and our fight for equality (or liberation, as the GlitterBomb set prefers) needs a myriad of different approaches.
Because, you see, it’s actually possible for the crabs to escape from the barrel.
If each climbed on the next to reach the rim, essentially creating a ladder from bottom to top, the one on the bottom could then climb up to freedom — followed by the second lowest, and so on until finally all are free.
Crabs, of course, lack the brain power to figure that out.
Whether we have the will power, however, remains to be seen.
Top photo: Revelers from Black Gay Pride 2010 (by Dyana Bagby)
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