As I often do, I was recently listening to African American talk radio and the host was reflecting on the death Eric Garner. It was approaching the anniversary of his murder and the family settling with the state of New York for 5.9 million dollars. This settlement and sober anniversary came on the heels of the Supreme Court having ruled in favor of Marriage Equality in previous weeks.
A caller (whom I could tell was an older gentleman) called in to voice his anger over the Garner’s family settlement and the actions of the police. In the process of voicing his dismay, out of the blue he stated (paraphrasing) “the Supreme Court has let these sissies get married and black people getting killed in the streets.” He made a couple of more “sissy” references before the host disconnected. I could tell something was going on with the host in the studio but would discover after the next caller what was transpiring behind the scenes.
The very next caller made an excellent point about how not all black people’s struggles are the same. In essence; depending on your circumstances and environment your struggles will be different. He made this point to say that we still have common struggles that impact people of color and those should be the ones we unit against. This very simple point in addition to the older caller, struck-a-chord with me.
After the break the host apologized for the caller’s “sissy” remarks. He stated he was attempting to censor out the offending remarks and apologized if he failed to catch them. This is something that he hasn’t had to do before and was slow on the technicalities of achieving it while on air. By this time, I had already called the show and was on hold awaiting my turn to speak. From previous shows I knew the host to be tolerant or accepting of LGBT peoples and marriage equality.
When it was my turn to speak, I thanked the host for taking my call and begin to give him a brief background on myself before moving on to my points.
I was in my late 30’s, almost debt free, gainfully employed, pay my taxes and own my home. The host then interrupted stating, “you sound like a responsible brother and got you stuff together.” I continued by saying even though I don’t fully embraced the term “gay” but for conversation and to put a label on it, I’m gay and have been with my partner going on seven years. He is a Gulf War vet who suffers from PTSD and other military related ailments. He is a former Maryland police officer, has owned his own business and has done some contracting work in conjunction as it relates to national security.
I then told him about how I’ve lived in the south my whole life from Virginia to North and South Carolina while currently living in Georgia. I gave my respects on air to Eric Garner’s family and told him how in 2001 my female cousin was killed by the police in Hampton, VA after a police chase that begin when an unmarked and unidentifiable police car started aggressively following her.
Dash cam video showed when boxed in, she drove her car forward and reversed into the two patrol vehicles (a capital crime in Virginia). Viewed as aggressive and fearing for their life, the officers shot into the driver seat, hitting her four times in the chest. A grand jury did not indicted the officers and cleared them of all wrong doing. Citizens were outraged and Jessie Jackson appeared at rallies while her family hired the Johnny Cochran’s law firm to sue the city for millions. Due to little evidence of civil rights violations, the case was dropped.
My question to the host; “Living in the south I have experienced racism from White people. All the anti-homosexual sentiments or homophobia I have experienced has been from Black people. If I’m shot down by the police, will my black gay life matter? Or will black men just say “oh well, he was a sissy so who cares?” Will black women say “oh well, he was a waste of a black man anyway.”
The host gave an impassioned response, which I really appreciated, but I already knew he would. I called in not to hear his response but to pose my question over the airwaves to the listening audience.
As the caller before me suggested, my struggles were different then my female cousin who was killed by police. While she struggled with drugs, raising a daughter, her daughter’s father and previous encounters with the legal system; I can trace many of my struggles (up into my 20’s) directly to my homosexuality. At the time, anti-homosexual attitudes permeated throughout the black church and community. Yes it has lessened but it’s still very much present.
By default my homosexuality made me an abomination, effeminate, weak, not a real man, wanting to be woman, a pedophile, a weirdo, and a queer, whose faggot soul was to burn in hell. None of these things were true but this is what I heard throughout my surrounding environments from 3 years of age up into my 20’s.
Even though I have occasionally suffered some bulling, I was never out-right bashed. Regardless of my masculine leaning presence, I couldn’t shield my eyes and ears from the anti-gay messages and stance the world around me put into the atmosphere.
At the intersection of racism and homophobia exist many African American LGBT peoples who look to and seek comfort in the African American community. There may be progressive political correctness support in public but from many in pulpits, around dinner tables and in barber shops, black homosexuality is one of many cancers that helps to keep the community weak and un-unified. I wonder if some blacks who are anti-gay but supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement are aware that many Black Lives Matter activists are also LGBT activists and in some cases LGBT themselves. I wonder do anti-gay blacks know LGBT peoples of color face the same racist discriminations and oppressions they do but for some, it’s intensified because they are outwardly or visibly lesbian, gay or transgender.
If a video recording was released showing the police brutalizing me and its known that I’m a homosexual man, will it be shown across popular white gay media and websites, condemned with outrage the same as when white LGBT peoples are harassed and gay bashed by homophobes? If the police kill me and my sexuality is known, will #blacktwitter react in anger and spread the call for multi-city protests via social media with #ockywilliams? Will Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton stand at the podium with other black clergy decrying my death at the hands of police with my sobbing mother and my spouse as a back drop?
I really want to believe my black gay life will matter but have to wonder will it be marginalized due to my sexuality just as with Bayard Rustin during the Civil Rights movement.