June may be Pride Month, but it isn’t official anymore. Not since Donald Trump became the president. He has never issued an official proclamation declaring June Pride month.
But this year is different. Not different in the way that the Trump Administration has treated LGBTQ people. I’m sorry if this is a shock to anyone reading this, but Trump does not care about you. At all.
What’s different, of course, is that across the country, Americans are taking to the streets to protest racism and police brutality. Also different is a highly contagious virus spreading across the country. The novel coronavirus is, of course, the reason cited for canceling Pride celebrations across the country. A wise decision, even after we’ve seen the spread slowing in previous hot spots like New York and Michigan.
And yet there are crowds of hundreds and thousands out protesting together, often with no social distancing and sometimes without masks.
That has led to some folks coming to the conclusion that “Huh, I guess social distancing either isn’t that important and/or COVID-19 was all a big hoax.”
Let me be clear, those people are dumb.
The presence of protesters in the street demanding that police not murder Black people is not evidence that COVID-19 was a hoax, it is evidence that people are willing to risk their lives to fight against injustice and racism. They shouldn’t have to, of course, but that’s where we are.
We’ve seen law enforcement out there, too, often inciting violence and abusing their power. We’ve seen police departments that resemble the military using force against peaceful protesters.
Have we seen some protesters rioting and looting? Yes. But the vast majority of protesters are peaceful. The protesters that Trump had pepper-sprayed and pelted with rubber bullets in Washington, D.C. so that he could walk across the street to St. John’s Episcopal Church and hold up a Bible like he’d never actually held a physical book before were peaceful. Included in the attacked protesters? Clergy members from St. John’s who were out supporting protesters who were handing out snacks and water.
Over and over we’re seeing images of violence at these protests. And over and over again these acts of violence are being done by the police. To quote Alexandra Erin, who I highly recommend following on Twitter @AlexandraErin, “What is happening across this country is that the police are rioting in response to attempts to hold them accountable.”
It should, truly, terrify all of us. We’re seeing what is happening when the police KNOW that they have cameras on them and the whole world is watching. This is not a problem we can blame on a few “bad apples.” This is systemic violence and unchecked power. And the man in the White House? He loves it. White supremacists love it. What looks like fascism to most of us actually looks quite comforting to those whose power will be protected by said fascists. It’s important to remember that there are people who are not disgusted by a video of a police officer shooting a Black man in the back as he retreats.
To my fellow white people who are experiencing discomfort right now: good. That’s the least you can do. But you need to do more. As Ahmed Ali (@MrAhmednurAli) put it, “It’s a privilege to learn about racism instead of experiencing it your whole life.”
Use that privilege wisely.
As for the LGBTQ community, we use the word “community” pretty loosely. There is actually a lot of division among LGBTQ folks, and a significant part of that division falls along racial lines. It is a sad reality that racism exists in a community that supposedly should know better, having faced discrimination ourselves.
There are LGBTQ people supporting Trump. The Log Cabin Republicans love him. In response to Ivanka Trump’s June 1, “Less hate, more love” Tweet, LCR retweeted with the comment, “We’re proud of your dad’s work towards LGBTQ equality and happy to count you as a strong ally in our movement!”
Clearly they don’t live on the same planet as the rest of us. But for those of us who inhabit reality, especially white people, we need to take a good hard look at our own bias, whether implicit or explicit. It’s not enough to say, “Oh that’s too bad” when you see Black people being killed and persecuted and harassed. White people must stop voting for racists. Racism has got to be a deal-breaker, no matter what else a candidate supposedly stands for. If you support Trump, you are a racist. Full stop. If that makes you feel defensive, good. If that makes you think about who you are and what the f–k you’re doing, even better.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.