In 2016, re­solve to be less racist

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

By DAR­IAN AARON

I’m out­spo­ken, but not as much as peo­ple be­lieve. To be hon­est, I’m much more com­fort­able ex­press­ing my­self through the writ­ten word than I am in sit­u­a­tions where peo­ple have cer­tain expectations about who I am be­fore I even open my mouth to speak. Yet, I can’t fully re­late to the fear that most peo­ple have of pub­lic speak­ing and I’m still work­ing to understand the dis­ap­point­ment some peo­ple feel when the “an­gry” and “de­fi­ant” “me­dia ac­tivist” they ex­pect is more quiet and ob­ser­vant in pub­lic set­tings. As a rule, I speak up only when I feel I have some­thing mean­ing­ful to con­trib­ute to a con­ver­sa­tion or a cause.

For in­stance, this is at least my third at­tempt at writ­ing this ed­i­to­rial. It was orig­i­nally sup­posed to be pub­lished in the last is­sue of 2015, but it wasn’t ready. The con­tent was su­per­fi­cial, and if it didn’t res­onate with me at my core, then I’m al­most cer­tain it wouldn’t have res­onated with you.

And then on De­cem­ber 28, 2015, I learned that Ti­mothy Loehmann, the Cleve­land, Ohio of­fi­cer who pulled the trig­ger on the gun that ended the life of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, would not be in­dicted for his crime. I in­stantly be­came numb.

Here’s a heads-up: This is not a feel good ed­i­to­rial to get you pumped about your New Year’s res­o­lu­tions and in­evitable trip to the near­est gym to fi­nally shed that ex­tra weight you’ve been telling your­self and any­one who will lis­ten that you’re go­ing to lose. We’ve ded­i­cated other pages in this is­sue to that. This ed­i­to­rial is about a con­ver­sa­tion we need to have as hu­man beings and as a com­mu­nity.

As the pop­u­lar so­cial me­dia hash­tag #Leaveitin2015 sug­gests, with some all too com­mon in­equal­i­ties, we need to do just that. The daily in­jus­tices faced by peo­ple of color in this coun­try must no longer be ig­nored by peo­ple of priv­i­lege, who never have to won­der whether a rou­tine po­lice stop will re­sult in their last mo­ments; or whether a lit­tle boy play­ing with a toy gun in a neigh­bor­hood park like mil­lions of his peers is tak­ing a chance with his life if he’s the wrong color.

You’re prob­a­bly ask­ing your­self how this is­sue af­fects the LGBT com­mu­nity, or whether it’s even ap­pro­pri­ate to be dis­cussed in the pages of Ge­or­gia Voice. Or maybe this is your great­est fear re­al­ized about the ap­point­ment of an African-Amer­i­can ed­i­tor to a pub­li­ca­tion you’ve come to ex­pect to re­flect only your is­sues and con­cerns. Trust me, I understand. This is not a com­fort­able dis­cus­sion to have, but it’s a com­ing-out of sorts that we must ad­dress with the same vigor as we do our own per­sonal ad­mis­sions. I also understand that there are peo­ple of color who iden­tify as LGBT and live with the real fear of be­com­ing the next Tamir Rice or Laquan McDon­ald or Trayvon Martin or Ren­isha McBride or Jor­dan Davis or Mike Brown; I’m one of them. Our shiny suits, fancy de­grees, and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion will not save us. Th­ese are not just black is­sues. Th­ese are peo­ple is­sues. We’re all af­fected; even those of us who will­fully turn a blind eye as more black lives are pre­ma­turely stolen or more sur­vivors speak out about struc­tural racism and po­lice bru­tal­ity, only to be re­buffed by claims of “he de­served it,” or “he should have just com­plied with po­lice or­ders,” or “he shouldn’t have worn a hoodie,” as if any of th­ese things guar­an­teed our safety.

I fear that many of us in the LGBT com­mu­nity be­lieve the war was won on June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled in fa­vor of mar­riage equal­ity. Em­pire State Pride Agenda, a long-stand­ing New York LGBT or­ga­ni­za­tion, all but said so when it de­cided to con­clude ma­jor oper­a­tions and trans­fer its pol­icy work to part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tions in 2016. Nev­er­mind an on­go­ing HIV/AIDS cri­sis, the lack of LGBT em­ploy­ment pro­tec­tions, a rash of trans­gen­der mur­ders, racism, po­lice bru­tal­ity and an LGBT youth home­less cri­sis, all of which af­fect the most vul­ner­a­ble within our com­mu­nity. Make no mis­take about it: the war has not been won. Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Colum­bus) is days away from re­mind­ing us how pissed off the op­po­si­tion is that their cul­ture war and decades-long cru­sade to si­lence LGBT folks and push us into the pe­riph­ery has failed.

Don’t al­low your­self to be­come McKoon in 2016, blind to your own priv­i­lege and ac­tively work­ing to op­press oth­ers, whether it’s through leg­is­la­tion, hate­ful rhetoric or com­plicit si­lence in the face of in­jus­tice. The onus shouldn’t just fall on the op­pressed to dis­man­tle struc­tural racism and a cor­rupt crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. This is your fight too. None of us are free un­til we’re all free.

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