Race: The Growing Chasm

By Gomez, Jewelle | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), October 14, 1997 | Go to article overview

Race: The Growing Chasm


Gomez, Jewelle, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


Thirty years from now I'll be old, arthritic, and just as annoyed at still having to discuss race discrimination for white gay readers as I am at continually explaining lesbianism to heterosexual black readers. Those on all sides seem determined to cling to what feels to me like disingenuous, willful ignorance. Although I believe it's ultimately the class struggle that will create the next significant changes in our society, race relations remain the noisiest of our social issues.

Race is only modestly better addressed in the queer community than in the community at large. We do have a history of challenging racial discrimination in our community organizations, primarily because the gay movement developed out of the civil rights and women's liberation movements. Bars that have arbitrarily triple-carded prospective nonwhite patrons have found a "multicultural" picket line obstructing their front door quicker than they could say "NAACP."

Historically, groups living on the margins have always experienced more interracial socializing and personal relationships. The queer community is no exception. Groups like Black and White Men Together and Salsa Soul Sisters (recently renamed African Ancestral Lesbians for Social Change) were created to help facilitate cross-cultural friendships. But even so, most of us do what's easiest. We seek out folks who look and think just like us.

Did we think that gay men and lesbians would bond together more strongly as we became more visible, more accepted in the world? It hasn't worked out that way. And I imagine that as white queers get closer and closer to assimilation with middle-class heterosexual society, they will be even more resentful tomorrow than they are today at being asked to be actively inclusive.

A study conducted this year shows that black people see less hope now than they did after the Civil War. And 30 years from now people of color will feel at least as defeated and resentful of unacknowledged white-skin privilege.

"If I can't get into an apartment, should I be happy just because the building's owner is a white gay man?" Variations on this rhetorical question are repeated in black communities all the time. …

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