There Can Be No ‘Pride’ Without Racial Justice
Editor’s Note: This article on Pride Month amidst the fight for racial justice was penned by Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, an NGO that addresses human rights violations and abuses against LGBTQ people.
June is Pride Month. It’s usually a time filled with parades, protests, film festivals and activities celebrating the dignity, equality and human rights of LGBTIQ people. It is a month when we reject the shame society tells us to feel and express pride in exactly who we are.
Pride Month has looked very different this year. Due to COVID-19, in-person events are impossible. Instead, our movements have held virtual festivals, digital marches, social media campaigns and other virtual expressions of our existence.
But Pride also needs to be different in light of the brutal murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, which led to an eruption of transformative protests against anti-Blackness across the United States and the world.
The momentum these inspiring protests have taken on inevitably makes me think back to the beginning of our movement. Pride, too, was born of protest. Pride, too, was a riot. Pride, too, was about fighting systematic police brutality.
While racism is completely different from homophobia and transphobia, both forms of discrimination share a history of oppression dating back to colonialism. Just as the slave trade was established by European colonial powers exporting racism across the world, European colonists also created the legal apparatus for homophobia and transphobia. The vast majority of laws criminalizing same-sex conduct were introduced by the same colonial powers that led the slave trade.
Hundreds of years of parallels intertwine our movements.
Yet, we also honor the places where our movements diverge. The LGBTIQ movement globally has benefited from the leadership of Black and Brown movements against racism. From the examples of civil rights marches to the transformative power of civil rights laws, we honor the ways that the LGBTIQ movement has grown on a foundation of knowledge and impact created by racial justice movements and specifically movements against anti-Blackness.
The LGBTIQ movement owes a debt of gratitude to those movements, which we must always strive to repay through substantive, committed solidarity.
And, of course, we are never just one thing. We all have multiple and intersecting elements of our identities. Some members of our community are both Black and queer, and they need to be seen as whole. We owe a debt of gratitude to Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin and many others who stood firmly astride both movements for liberation. We learned from them and again now: there can be no Pride without racial justice.
Let this Pride Month be about honoring queer Black activists, artists, scholars and leaders; about fighting oppression and police brutality in all forms; and about standing in solidarity with struggles against racism. Let it be about loudly and proudly calling for transformative action to prevent future victims of police brutality, supporting the movement for reparations for centuries of racism, and standing in solidarity with the struggle for full human rights for Black people everywhere.
I hope you have a powerful Pride month!
How will you continue the fight for racial justice this Pride Month and the rest of the year?
Photo at top of Bayard Rustin courtesy of AP