A lot of people had strong words for me after last week’s post about how some of the discussion around homophobic artist Elephant Man was racist, but it’s a sentiment that is unfortunately all too prevalent at this time of year, and I think it needs to be addressed.
There’s a longstanding urban legend/joke in Toronto that Caribana is scheduled on the August long weekend because all the white people will be at the cottage and the gays will be in Montreal, so there’s no one to feel scared of all the Black people gathered together. It’s a shitty attitude that’s held by a lot of Torontonians and unfortunately, within the gay community in particular. It casts us all in a negative light and perpetuates divides that should be long gone.
Over the weekend, I tried to be aware of the casual racism I was overhearing in the community (and on the facebook-o-sphere) about Caribana, and I was shocked at how much of it is out there. Yes, people, it is racist to say that Yonge St looks like “the jungle” during Caribana, and so is comparing the revellers to monkeys at a circus. We get enough shit in the community from outsiders about what Pride looks like. You’d think we could be a little sensitive to how other cultural communities celebrate their pride.
As to the charges that Caribana and its party goers are all homophobic – well that’s just patently absurd. There are queer events running alongside Caribana (if not in the official program). There are queer and queer-friendly Black and Caribbean people who celebrate Caribana.
When we respond to perceived — or real homophobia — with racism, we build walls when we should be building bridges. It alienates Black people, including queer Black people, from our community and it puts Black queer people at risk from a community that is increasingly leant the perception that queer people are outsiders. It’s not just about acknowledging the overlap between the gay and Black communities; the only way to end prejudice on both sides is to build links.
It been a common refrain since November that Obama’s Black supporters are the reason Prop 8 passed in California. But what effort has the queer community made to reach out to and include Black people? What effort have you made?
Normal service on this blog returns this week. Congrats to everyone who participated in this year’s Bike Rally in support of the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation! I hope you all had fun!