Cut the crap. Before you clench your teeth (or your pearls) and run to your Facebook wall to exclaim that we’re self-hating, listen to us please! One of us is white and the other Latino. Both of us have white privilege, albeit through complicated lenses, we are well aware of that privilege. So, listen to us because after so many letters from people of color explaining to you how oppressive, insulting, and ignorant you might be there still seems to be something in your mind that is telling you that you’re right and they’re wrong. As two gay men who look like you and have a similar enough world experience to you: stop it. As gay men with white privilege, we want to explain to you how oppressive and embarrassing you are. And this could apply to any of you that are non-heterosexual white men, so listen up.
Racism isn’t exclusively a heterosexual phenomenon. You don’t get a race card for being gay. As one oppressed identity to another, you aren’t automatically absolved of ever being oppressive, even when, frankly, you are. See, that’s the thing, we are all oppressed in certain ways, and we all occupy the position of the oppressor in other ways, but in some attempt to reconcile that contradiction, we want to believe that victimhood gives us carte blanche, that we are automatically on the more inclusive, aware, and equitable side of the curve. And arguably that’s the most dangerous position to occupy.
Let us be really clear about this: Our white skin crawls from the embarrassment you bring to our identity.
Here’s what you can do about it:
Stop thinking you’re a strong black woman. Maybe you’ve co-opted what you perceive to be racially encoded black language to be funny. Perhaps you even feel like there’s just a diva, an Aretha / Nina / some modern archetype inside you “dying to get out.” Well, there’s not. Do you have the right to be sassy? Sure. Do you have the right to switch into diva mode? Absolutely. Do you get to racialize it in the process? No. Imagine the tables are turned. Imagine someone straight who occasionally has a limp wrist or likes to sashay about once in a while. Can they do that? Sure, in fact we hope they do. Do they get to call themselves a gay person inside a straight person? No, because they haven’t lived your life. They haven’t lived our lives. And it becomes something different when you attach your behavior to an identity.
Stop feeling personally attacked when a person of color tells you to stop. Again, your actions become different when you attach them to identity. And if someone who has that identity tells you it’s not okay, who are you to protest? Do you perhaps think that you might have some unchecked privilege? When a co-worker at the office posts a picture of her husband without thinking twice, but you feel less comfortable doing so, do you think they realize that? No, of course not, they aren’t living your life. So they should listen. And so should you.
Stop feeling the need to add your voice. That’s right, believe it or not the world can operate without having your opinion heard every ten seconds. Take time to listen to what others have to say. Learn about their feelings, experiences, and emotions. Active listening requires taking time to digest the information they’re sharing with you. Stop thinking of how it relates to your life or what you’re going to say next. Just hit the pause button and let it set in. This is how we gain perspective. This is how we engage in dialogue.
Stop acting like you are using your white privilege for good. We are sorry to break it to you, but what is more likely is that your privilege means you’re oppressing someone, and that it’s causing myopia. You can’t just use your white male privilege as a gay man to lift up other oppressed people. The best thing you can do with your privilege is to check-it, to investigate it, to see it, and then to share it with others. The power of your privilege is that you can more easily turn to another white person and say “hey, that’s not okay” than a person of color can.
And while we’re here, stop eroticising black bodies. They’re not sexual toys for you to play with and then stuff away when you return home. Drop the chocolate-seeking profile tags. Their sole purpose in life isn’t to please you with their “ethnic” bodies. In fact, that entire dichotomy normalizes your own white body as the standard and their non-white bodies as the other. It doesn’t matter if you’re receiving or giving either, just meet people and take it from there. Can you prefer some people over others? Sure, but what you don’t realize is the way that your fetishizing of black bodies, of black women figuratively inside you or black men actually inside you, is reinforcing your privilege because it’s not taking that person seriously. How often do you see a profile seeking pale white people only? Or Euro-Caucasians only? What would you think about that person?
Welcome to what it feels like to be told you can’t have something because of the color of your skin. That’s something that doesn’t happen to you much because of your privilege, and that’s okay. You aren’t to blame for your privilege, and no one is telling you you’re wrong or you’re less than because you’re white, male, and gay. What is wrong, and what you are to blame for is not seeing the way that gives you more freedom or movement in this world, more social capital. And because this is about identity, it matters that even just one person sees your act as reinforcing oppression and not okay. You might personally know one, two, or ten people who are not white who say it is okay with them. But remember that it’s not okay to someone. You don’t get legitimacy for reinforcing oppression through anecdotal interviews.
Conversations about race in the LGBTQ community are happening daily and, more often than not, you’re not in the room. People who don’t look like you feel race at every single turn. Every time they wake up, they leave the house, they enter a space, or they need to think about any social situation, race is there. It’s okay that it’s not always been there for you, our society was designed that way. But perhaps now is a good time to realize that there are just some things you don’t know, can’t claim, and won’t understand.
The gay, male, and white privileged (Christian Fuscarino and Guido Sanchez)