As a white lesbian and longtime reader of Bay Windows, I was dismayed by Sue O’Connell’s August 8 editorial, “Sharing our Experience.” Ms. O’Connell equates the struggle of the GLBT community with that of people of color. In a country where black people were enslaved for three hundred years, lynched, and oppressed under Jim Crow, and today are disproportionately poor, in ill health and incarcerated, this comparison is senseless. Ms. O’Connell suggests—despite her disclaimers to the contrary—that young black men should overcome racism by showing the dominant culture how “presentable” they can be. This is a losing proposition. No degree of “presentability” (read: assimilation to white norms) will keep a young man of color from being judged as less than equal in this society. The problem is not young black men, it is white America. Racism is a white problem and we are the ones who must change, not the victims of our personal and, more importantly, institutional biases.
The link above is a bit odd (baywindows.com/sharing-our-experience), so I’m not sure how long it will be valid. There is now a lively comment string under the online version of the article.
A much more sophisticated and educational response than mine, by Jason Lydon, can be seen here if you have Facebook. “As white people,” Jason writes, “we are taught that Black people are always at fault and if they changed then things would be better for them. This teaching is part of the agenda of white supremacy and it is our responsibility to unlearn this messaging and constantly challenge ourselves and each other.”