The Queer Issue: You're Doing It Wrong
Yes, being gay makes you an oppressed minority. Now that we have that established, I would like to point out that you are white. This may seem confusing for you, but you have a dual life. You're a minority who also enjoys white privilege. I know this is a lot to take in, and I know that you feel frustrated anytime anyone accuses you of being racist, and I know that there are a lot of things you want to say to defend yourself, and let me guess—all of them get you in more trouble. That's because you're doing it wrong. Here are the most common reactions people like you throw at people like me when I point out that something you've said or done is racist.
"I'm gay, how could I be racist?"
Homosexuality is not a race. I am black. I am also gay. I am not gayack or blagay. Being in one minority group doesn't excuse being insensitive to another minority group. If I were to walk around dressed in a kimono with my eyes taped back for a slantlike effect, it should not come as a surprise if any and all Asian persons took offense to it. I promise you, none of them would stop and think to themselves, "Oh wait, he's black. It's totally cool."
"I have a good friend that is [insert ethnicity]."
Categorizing your friends based on ethnicity is a racist act in itself: There is no quota to fill when it comes to the diversity of your group of friends, and constantly announcing their ethnicity causes them to be more of a novelty than the individual people they are. Also, your friends should definitely not be your first line of defense when someone calls you out on being racially insensitive. Your "friend" doesn't represent an entire race. Last I checked, we don't elect representatives for each race to confirm what is and what isn't considered racist. As a matter of fact, each race has millions of people who have their own experience with racism and how they respond to it.
I am an African immigrant; my experience with racism is different than someone who is black American, even though we have similar skin color. Because of my background and upbringing, there are some things that I would not immediately acknowledge as racist. For example, I know all the lyrics to the song "Pick a Bale of Cotton." If you're not familiar, it's a jovial song about the joys of picking a bale of cotton. There is a lot of jumping, turning around, and exclaiming, "Oh Lordy!" I was taught this song by my white music teacher while I was part of a predominantly black fifth-grade class in Fresno, California. I am not upset at said music teacher, because she was genuinely a nice woman who taught in inner-city schools and probably just loved that repugnant slave song without thinking too deeply about the lyrics. However, I would hold no qualms if a fellow classmate decided to call her out for subjecting descendants of slavery to the Uncle Tom of Negro spirituals.
However, there are also some things that come off as blatantly racist to me (e.g., Disney's The Lion King, Popeyes chicken commercials, and everything Tyler Perry) that others may just brush off.
"But I voted for Obama."
Are you admitting to voting for the president based on his race?! Please, from now on, vote for our leaders based on merit and experience. You got lucky this last time, but I can't promise that the next black president you blindly vote for won't start a "beheading all white people" initiative the moment he or she steps into office.
Or are you trying to tell me that because you voted for Obama, a supposedly nonracist action, everything you do/say from that point on could not be deemed as racist?! Have you not been paying attention the last three years? Obama has been on the receiving end of some of the most finely executed subtle racism I have ever witnessed (seriously, medals should be given out for excellence in the artistry of subtle racism, and winners should be shot afterward). And some of these practitioners of subtle racism are former/current Obama supporters. If I had a nickel for every time the phrase "he's one of the good ones" was uttered with regard to Obama by the population of this country over the last few years, I would send a thank-you note to the magic nickel machine that made me a gajillionaire. The most annoying part is that Obama, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, can't do anything about these comments except take them in stride.
"Get over it."
I will give you a moment to collect your teeth now that I've punched you in the mouth. You got them all? Good. Now sit.
Exactly what do you mean by "Get over it"? Am I getting over your racist actions? Am I getting over my own personal history with racism? Am I getting over the centuries (yes, CENTURIES!) of oppression that my ancestors endured? "Get over it" is something you say to a 13-year-old who is angry at his parents for not allowing him to have an unlimited texting plan. "Get over it" is not something you say to an adult who has suffered a lifetime (yes, a LIFETIME!) of being victimized by racism.
"Okay, I'm out of excuses. What should I really do?"
Apologize. Yes, it's that easy. I know you're upset and you believe you had good intentions. Unfortunately, intentions are not visible. I know it sucks being called racist when you feel you're not, but I promise you that it is far worse being on the receiving end of racism.
Just remember that the person upset with you is projecting from a place of suffering and endless frustration. Take a moment to listen, let them vent, and apologize. I know it's not fun to deal with misdirected anger, but sometimes proving that you are not racist is hearing people out and letting them have their moment to release that anger. It's something we should all do in these circumstances, because that's what grown-ups are supposed to do.
"What if the person accusing me of being racist is white, too?"
You lucky bastard! You know another white person who is in tune enough to stop you from looking like a jackass in front of a group of minorities. You should stop reading this right now and go hug this person.
"Seriously? I know I'm not racist. There are just too many overly sensitive bleeding hearts in the world."
Oh, well in that case... GO FUCK YOURSELF, YOU RACIST PIECE OF SHIT!
Solomon Georgio is a comedian and a member of the comedy production group Children of the Atom (www.childrenoftheatom.net).