When GLBT Groups Advocate for Bashers…

Most of you have probably heard of the Lawrence King shooting. If you haven’t the rundown is that Lawrence King is a 15-year-old POC child that was shot twice in the head by one of his bullies McInerney after turning the tables on him. McInerney’s defense seems to be that old “gay panic” classic, you know that King flirting with him drove him to do it. The defense completely disregards the fact that King flirting with him was an attempt to get McInerney and others to stop bullying him and leave him alone. We’ve seen the old gay panic defense work over and over however and the child may well get off but that isn’t even what I want to talk about.

The DA in this case has decided to try McInerney as an adult but there is a coalition of GLBT groups that are agitating to have him tried as a juvenile. When I first saw this information a couple of weeks ago something about it bothered me but I couldn’t put a voice to it.

Well here it is, Lawrence King was a Person of Color and McInerney is White and none of that is being interrogated or taken into account anywhere that I’ve seen. Many of you who know me know my issues with a lot of the mainstream GLBT groups (which are similar to mainstream feminist organizations) in that they purport to advance the causes of all GLBT folks but are overwhelmingly White and focused on issues, such as marriage, that have more of an effect on and interest from White middle class GLBT folks than anyone else.  I point you to a wonderful essay written a few years ago by Kenyon Farrow – Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black

Now the coalition that is calling for McInerney to be tried as a juvenile holds a lot of overlap with the groups that are at the forefront of the push for gay marriage. Many of these are groups that have specifically have been called out before for ignoring issues that queer POC, differently-abled folks & Folks of Lower Socio-Economic levels. Basically they’ve been accused of ignoring the same groups that the mainstream tends to ignore.

In light of this history of alienation what does it look like when they stridently advocate that a white boy who has killed a POC be tried as a juvenile? Well, it sure ain’t pretty.

Now I’m not saying that I want McInerney to fry. In fact I’m attempting to be really objective and leave my personal feelings on the case out of this. What I’m saying is that if we want to show mercy, we show it equally to everyone. Where are these groups when the victims are White and the perpetrators of queer bashings POC? Are they out advocating that those underage youths be tried as juvenile? I haven’t heard anything like that but I don’t know every queer bashing case that happens in the world. So if they do happen to do this sort of thing for every queer bashing involving underage kids (and I’ve somehow just never heard of it), please let me know and I’ll be happy to let go of this knot of anger in my gut and write an apology.

But my guess…my guess is that I won’t get any replies with a case of a single or group of POC youths that killed a White queer child having this huge coalition of GLBT organizations pushing for them to be tried as juveniles. I’m not saying the organizations are doing this consciously but when we realize that we live in a White patriarchial society that automatically values the life of its White citizens over anyone else. When we think about the fact that any POC child who commits a crime gets the book thrown at them while White youths are generally given a slap on the wrist. Everyone remember in Texas last year when the white girl who burned down her family home got probation while the black girl who shoved a hall monitor got 7 years in prison? (Note: Shaquanda was finally released after more than a year in prison though the harshness of her sentence and the reasons behind it were never really addressed.) We could also talk about the ongoing Jena 6 problems and who got charged in mutual fights (hint: it wasn’t the White kids).

These are just a couple of examples of it but this happens all the time. White teens who commit crimes are constantly excused on the fact that “They’re young, they have their whole life ahead of them.” POC youth are rarely (if ever) given the same consideration. We’re considered bad from birth on virtue of our skin, so the thinking becomes “Why not lock them up for a good long while so they can’t get into trouble?”

I’m all for mercy for people who make mistakes, because we all make mistakes. And I’m not saying these coalitions should stop pushing for McInerney to be tried as a juvenile. I just hope that when this happens and it’s the reverse, when it’s a POC child whose queer bashed a White child that I’ll see all these same organizations advocating that that kid be tried as a juvenile.

And until I do see that this whole thing is just another case where our pain and our anger and our bodies and our lives mean nothing when compared to white folks.





6 responses to “When GLBT Groups Advocate for Bashers…

  1. *sigh* Yeah… the LGBT stuff is something I’m actually doing a bit of research on right now. It’s funny, I wish I’d read this post of yours three months ago. I’m looking at the subject of queering teacher education classrooms, and out of 50+ articles I’ve read on the problems of homophobia, almost none of them mention intersections with race.

    But when I first started looking into it, I was only looking at what was on the page, not at what was *missing* from the articles. Finally it hit me that there was an implicit assumption of whiteness. That categorizing sexuality as an issue separate from race and gender did the same thing to queer people of color that mainstream feminism does to women of color. It ignores/eliminates intersections of oppression and perpetuates the structures of privilege that are in place, homogenizing heterosexism into this essentially white issue. And it seems like the LGBT movement as a whole does this. Battling heterosexism first — not recognizing that racism and sexism are intertwined with it and that you can’t compartmentalize oppression or ignore the effects of other sorts of privilege in a movement. Because then you have that “all the women are [straight] white[s], all the blacks are [straight] men,” all the gays are white (men) sort of thing going on.

    … and then stuff like this happens.

    But, when people have a very narrow focus (for example: say professors exploring homophobia), how do you convince them that racism/sexism/etc *are* LGBT issues? That it’s not just a side problem — that you can’t separate your race from your queerness or only look at one type of privilege at a time?

    Just thinking/wondering aloud…

  2. It reminds me of when I was involved in a transgender group and the leader told us (while looking at me), “But there are only white people in this group!”

    Nothing like a little lip service from your fellow transfolk.

  3. Nowhere to the same level, but this is what bugs me about animal rights activists- I never see them standing up for human rights at the same time.

    My good friend Les just sent me an article about someone hunting pigeons with a blowgun up in Seattle- theres a $2000 reward. How often do these same people put up rewards when one of our kids goes missing?

    Oh, that’s right, sky shitters are worth more than POC.

  4. For the record — I’m an animal rights activist. ^^ And the campus group I worked with did lend cages (for demos) and sometimes office space to the campus Amnesty International group; there was some crossover. This was even more true at my sister’s school, where the animal rights group is the same group that also worked on sweatshop issues (they just had one activist group and tried to address everything they could).

    I’ll definitely agree with you, though, that racism is a problem in the movement (along with classism, sexism, and a lot of other things — actually there’s a post on this over at Vegans of Color): http://vegansofcolor.wordpress.com/2008/05/07/the-cult-of-veganism-or-sit-down-shut-up-little-brown-girl/

  5. Hey, thanks for the link and quotes to my Not Proud of Being White Piece.

    This is a good post. It seems more and more that this type of intersectionality between and among oppressed groups is being ignored. The whole Seal Press/brownfemipower debacle is a great example, but one which I won’t even get into because I’ll be here all night.

  6. Ico:
    You bring up really good points and a lot of these issues are why I think intersectionality gets blown off a lot because it is hard to trace all the impacts and get people to open to the idea that all oppressions intersect. It’s easier for these groups to focus on the mainstream and the best way to do so is to ignore anyone who doesn’t fit into a narrow view of the world.

    Wow…I’ve had similar interactions in groups where race is simply brushed off as not mattering when there are POC in the group. It’s just so completely disrespectful that I find it so amazing that the same organizations will turn around a second later and expect you to toe the party line. It’s a sign that just because people are activists for one cause doesn’t mean they’re safe.

    That’s a issue I’ve had with some animal rights groups as well. I agree with a lot of their politics and stances but the blase attitude towards human rights bothers me. And in PETA’s case their use of sexism and racisl propoganda to promote their cause while ignoring the grops their exploiting makes them even more heinous in my eyes.

    Less Lee:
    No problem I really enjoyed your post and the breakdown.
    Yeah, the whole Seal Press/BrownfemiPower/Marcotte could make a book on it’s own.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s