Gay white men complain, “No one owns culture! We’ve been oppressed too!”

Chief Esparza July 20, 2014 0
Gay white men complain, “No one owns culture! We’ve been oppressed too!”

Black woman tells gay white men, “Stop stealing our culture.” In response, gay white men complain, “No one owns culture! We’ve been oppressed too! We’re all the same!” But then they also call her “ratchet”, and say “well Black people maintain those stereotypes in rap music!” The absolute defensiveness of white males, and gay white males in this case, demonstrates that no matter how often they vote Democratic, they are still very much unaware of their place in America, blind to the offense taken by any minority group, and very quick to resort to defensive attacks that put the feelings of white males above the feelings of anyone else. Here, a gay black male addresses the controversy:

“In standing in solidarity with groups in which one doesn’t inherently belong, one must comprehend that allyship isn’t spoken but acted upon, maintained, and nurtured. When a person screams “I’m an ally, I’m your friend,” that is usually the quickest way of knowing who is not an ally.

I’ve actually grown to dislike the word “ally” because those voices often trump those who face the same oppression people claim to dislike. I was reminded of this very concept when I read your piece “Dear Black Women: White Gays Are Your Allies, So Don’t Push Us Away” in TIME last week.

Your article is the epitome of a person not understanding how structural oppression works for those who exist at the intersection of multiple identities.

Your article also presumes that black women and white gay men are similar because they have both experienced some aspect of oppression for their marginalizations, and that neither is innately privileged.

But here’s the thing: Privilege is not necessarily about individual characteristics or attributes, but rather, institutional advantages that occur over a period of time. And although “checking your privilege” seems like a cliché catchphrase, it is the most realistic one we should keep in mind when writing articles about alleged allyship.

I am not a black woman or a white gay man, but two things are pretty clear: First, I am privileged by my manhood, and second, I am simultaneously oppressed by my sexuality. However, my sexuality does not create a privilege-free cloud around my manhood.

And, Steve, I recognize that being a man holds more weight than being a woman, and I also know that being white is more beneficial than being black—and yes I admit these are generalizations. This could only mean one thing: Being black and being a woman is doubly ostracizing.

You hated Sierra Mannie’s article, “Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture,” and I get it. It must have been difficult to stomach all 800 words of a person, a black woman no less, asking you to understand the difference between cultural appreciation and outright appropriation.

But, Steve, it is obvious that many black women don’t see you as their ally.

This may be hard to believe, but you can’t force your version of allyship onto someone. And you certainly are in no position to tell someone that you are their ally if they don’t feel you are. This is pretty counterintuitive, counterproductive, and gets solidarity all wrong.”

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