The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Too Black? Too Tranny?

I’ve been called a lot of things, believe me. But “too black” has never been one of them, by any stretch of the imagination. So, I was initially amused when I read that The Bilerico Project — where I’m a regular contributor — has been accused of being “too black” and “too transgender.”

Monica Roberts has an interesting post on Transgriot about white flight that directly mentions TBP and some of the things people have been saying about us.

I’m also seeing and hearing the same whispers on other GLBT oriented lists that I peruse that Bilerico is ‘too Black’ or ‘too transgender’. Is that your code word or whatever the frack excuse you’re using for not only not wanting to read the posts of people that don’t look like you, but don’t want to engage in the frank discussions we have on various issues on the Project?

If that’s your opinion, you’re entitled to it. But basing those comments on a small portion of the generated comment of the Project being authored by African-American GLBT people is bigoted and asinine.

That just begs today’s open thread question… What kind of blog do you think Bilerico Project is? When you think of us, what’s the first word that pops in your head? Poll after the jump so you can vote on whether we are too [insert group here].

When the controversy around Rev. Wright’s comments broke out, I talked about it with a co-worker of mine and we both came to the same conclusion: What got Wright into trouble wasn’t that he said anything that wasn’t true. It was that he said things that you can’t say to most white folks, and in a way that you can’t say it to them.

No one likes to be reminded of their privilege — whether it’s white privilege, heterosexual privilege, male privilege, or class privilege — because acknowledging that privilege commutes responsibility for that privilege, and the day-by-day, moment-to-moment decision to perpetuate that privilege or know — while knowing the consequences it imposes on others.

Whether we asked for our privilege or not — acknowledging it, if we don’t want to be responsible for perpetuating it and the injustice it perpetuates, means changing how we are in the world, day-by-day and moment-to-moment.

That is difficult and never-ending work, to be honest. It’s easier not to acknowledge it. It’s even easier to pretend it doesn’t exist. In fact, the first essential rule of perpetuating privilege is to pretend it doesn’t exist. That becomes difficult when the voices of those who can confirm the existence of that privilege, because they (a) do not possess it and (b) live with the consequence of its existence every day, become unavoidable.

And, the truth is that even though almost all of us enjoy one or more of the privileges above (especially if you consider class or economic privilege on a global scale), we also live with the consequences of not having one or more of the privileges above. The lack of one privilege can mask the existence of the other. (i.e. “What do mean I’m privileged? I’m barely making ends meet, just got laid off, and don’t have health insurance because my spouse and I aren’t married and he/she can’t carry me on hers, etc.”) That privilege doesn’t go away, but it becomes something taken for granted, as natural as breathing out and breathing in, so that we don’t take it as privilege anymore.

That makes it particularly irritating to be reminded of the privileges you do enjoy — but don’t necessarily see as such — while simultaneously feeling the very real consequences of the privileges you don’t have. It can be downright infuriating to be reminded of our privilege in that context, actually.

But it doesn’t make those privileges any less real. And it doesn’t change the reality that — to borrow from the feminist theory I learned in college — that those privileges and the “isms” that underpin them are all related. I don’t mean to be cheeky by quoting the Queers of Color Manifesto (okay, maybe just a little), but it pretty well sums it up.

But at the same time, we also recognize the importance of linking oppressions. From our perspective, we see, on a day to day basis, the intersections of racism and homophobia, as well as their connections with sexism, classism, and other forms of discrimination. We also recognize the importance of collective action and struggle, and are committed to such strategies in combating and destroying institutionalized racism and heterosexism, as well as other forms of oppression.

Maybe it just appeals to the Buddhist in me, that idea that we’re all interconnected and interdependent; that what happens to you happens to me.

Buddhist principles stem from keen observations of the world as it is. This affinity for an accurate awareness of the natural world has its roots in the ancient Sanskrit concept of rta, meaning “natural order” or that “every event has a cause.” Consequently, causation plays a central role in Buddhist thought. Because every event has a cause, the Universe is seen as interdependent and interconnected, and all things that arise relate to all other things, a concept known as dependent origination. This concept of dependent origination and its place in Buddhist thought is one of the major reasons for the mutual interest between Buddhism and modern science, especially psychology and neuroscience.

Given that all things emerge from a kind of cosmic continuity, Buddhism is well known for its emphasis on non-dualism. Instead of viewing the world in terms of “good” versus “evil,” “liberal” versus “conservative,” “us” versus “them,” Buddhism recognizes that the orientations and views humans take stem from particular perspectives that each yield their own conclusions (perspective relativism). Though this is a kind of relativism, Buddhist morality avoids moral relativism by acknowledging the Universal reality of interconnection and interdependence. A Buddhist cannot act in any way he or she pleases, in a selfish manner, because hurting others does not acknowledge this basic reality of interconnection and interdependence. The acknowledgement of perspective relativism is useful for its practical applications in everyday life, and to avoid the pitfalls of extremism that arise when one forgets he or she can only view the world from his or her unique but limited perspective. The Buddhist Path, a “Middle Path,” rejects extremism.

Perpetuating privilege requires that pretending that it doesn’t exist. Hearing the voices of those who do not have the privileges we enjoy makes it impossible to do that, at the same time that it reminds us of our responsibility for either perpetuating it or changing it.

That’s infuriating, if we believe that we’re more burdened than privileged. But it doesn’t change that we are both burdened and privileged (and perhaps burdened by privilege) and that former is unlikely to change unless we change the latter, by doing the hard and never-ending work of changing how we are in the world.

2 Comments

  1. Oh please! Too BLACK? And from The Bilerico Project that does You Tube Catchups with a very gay white (TOO WHITE) guy? It is probably one of the most balanced LGTB blogs around.

    Love yours, and love that too.

    PS I have blogrolled you.

  2. Did you read Sara Whitman’s article about “gay privilege”? (I thought she addressed something close to what you’re talking about. And a couple of weeks ago Alex Blaze wrote something I thought was really insightful in the context of Clinton vs Obama.

    At the end of the day we’ll all have to live together, and maybe that’ll be easier if we start off by loving one another.

%d bloggers like this: