Another day, another movement inspired post but there is so much to say. Since Michael Brown died over 100 days ago, people have compared and contrasting this latest wave of resistance to the work of our elder back in the 60s and 70s. While I defer to my elders and appreciate their sacrifices, I hate the idea of this movement following the model of what we know as the Civil Rights movement. We can and should learn from the triumphs from that movement but we should also learn from its mistakes and there were plenty despite what some oldheads would like for us to believe. Let them tell it and the movement was perfect. Martin had a dream, Rosa sat down and freedom was one. Oh and they would be remiss to remind us that they didn’t sag their pants, listen to hippity hop and wear Jordans while they did their movement work so we’re doing it wrong, y’all.
Romanticizing history is just as bad as not knowing it because either way, you’re working with fraudulent information. The Civil Rights and Black Power movements were not perfect and neither was the people leading them. They were fraught with sexism, misogyny and respectability politics. Several first-hand accounts from women in the movement mention male leaders trying to silence their voices and relegate them to menial tasks that were supposedly appropriate for women. Women were expected to fight for the liberation of the race, wait their turn and MAYBE the community would address the gender stuff. Women that refused to wait and decided to enter and create feminist spaces were deemed traitors. Liberating the men meant liberating the race and that believe is still rampant in 21st century organizing. The face of Black victimhood is still Black cisgender men and everyone else is still expected to wait for trickle down liberation. Black women have been on the frontlines of protests, penning thinkpieces to mourn brothers and working in other capacities to ensure everyone survives. Whenever someone brings this up, they’re ignored or insulted for being divisive or my favorite, bitter. Black women are attacked viciously by this white supremacist system but no one is marching for and mourning us and they never have.
Dr. Martin Luther King has become synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement but few people know of Bayard Rustin, his mentor and instrumental organizer of the March on Washington and that isn’t an accident. Rustin was a gay man and like gender issues, LGBTQ* concerns weren’t on the Black liberation agenda. Black queer and trans people doing movement work isn’t a recent development. Marcia P. Johnson, Miss Major and other Black and colored transwomen popped off the Stonewall Riots. The Harlem Renaissance was full of Black queer and trans magic. Audre Lorde was infiltrating white feminist and lesbian spaces to tell them about themselves. Black queer and trans folk have always been there but have been relegated to the margins of history because their narratives weren’t appropriate. They’re still trying to get out of those margins because last thing we need in our movement is “that gay shit.” Transwomen are being abused and murdered at alarming rates but let someone bring them up and people want to raise ten types of hell.
It ain’t right, y’all. I’m tired of having to wait for someone to get around to me, my sisters, brothers and siblings. Movement work isn’t supposed to replace one hierarchy with another. If one Black person is marginalized, none of us are safe. People shouldn’t have to keep branching off into subgroups because Black movement work refuses to become intersectional. The current movement’s cry is BLACK LIVES MATTER but honestly, it holds little weight. It sounds cute but it isn’t practiced.
When we say Black lives matter, it should mean male lives, female lives, queer lives, trans lives, poor lives and disabled lives. It should mean every life. We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of our elders. There is so much more to unpack here but I can do that in another blog post. I haven’t ended a blog post like this in ages but I want to hear your thoughts so please, leave a comment.