Time Magazine recently published an opinion piece (either online or in the magazine, who can tell these days?) by Sierra Mannie, a senior at the University of Mississippi. The title read, “Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture.” Clearly published to cause a reaction (which obviously it has from me), the piece goes on to describe how gay white men, because of inherent privilege in our society, should stop talking, acting, pretending, or remotely aligning ourselves with black women. This is assuming that every gay white man that talks, acts, pretends to be or aligns himself with just one black woman, because all black women are exactly the same, right?
That was snark, I apologize. Allow me to explain.
Mannie goes on to talk about the very true hardships and disparities black Americans face in this country (I’ve written about it before for Thought Catalog). She’s right, it is very hard to be a person of color in this country, and as a white man — a very gay white man — I have absolutely no true understanding of what that must be like. But what I do have is a very real understanding of generalizations, as all minorities do.
Mannie writes about white males appreciation of Beyoncé (because only black women can like her), or a use of a certain vernacular that apparently belongs exclusively to black women (what about black gay men, can they use it?). She writes that black people don’t have access to everything white people do, and she’s right. That they often must worry about their physical safety, and she’s right. That there aren’t enough venues for black voices to be heard, she’s still right.
I mean, gay white men are everywhere, and everyone loves them. They’ve never, ever been murdered for being gay, or denied housing, or medical care. They’ve never been arrested for being gay, or have had to have the Supreme Court rule that their sex was finally legal, definitely not in 2003. Nope, none of these things are true for gay white men, because they do rule the world (oops, did I just go all Beyoncé on her, my bad, I’ll stick with Madonna, or will I piss off Italians?! FUCK!).
That was more snark, I can’t help myself.
Seriously though, this isn’t a game of, “My minority is worse off than yours,” or, “more of my people have been killed than yours,” because that’s not the point. The point is that recognizing the things that she thinks belongs only to black women is the very thing that causes the separation and hate in our society. There’s a reason why this country is called a “melting pot,” because eventually, once you lose the bullshit separation and start appreciating what makes us all amazing, you start realizing that, “Wow, we’re not all that different after all.”
A while back, Time did a cover story on transgendered people and the greater acceptance they’re receiving. This, that kind of change, is what we should be talking about. What does it mean to be a woman in 2014? What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be gay, or straight? Must I, as a gay white man, only like and act in a certain way because I’m a gay white man? Must a person born into the wrong body live with that incorrect sex? Must that black woman pretend to like Beyonce when maybe, just maybe, she likes Katy Perry?
It’s all bullshit. You can be whomever you want to be, and you shouldn’t be belittled, black or white, gay or straight, for who you are, gesticulations and all.
It’s opinion pieces like Mannie’s that get published in reputable outlets only for the sake of a reaction, not an actual conversation. Yes, this piece is also reactionary, but in a very different sense. Just imagine if more people wrote of what made us similar, what brings us together, the internet would be a much happier place.
Mannie ended her piece with, “Check your privilege. Try to strengthen the people around you.” Instead, I’ll end with….
Check your privilege. Try to recognize the good in everybody around you.