Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Black Folks


So, racial theory, queer theory and whiteness theory
are all rather meaningless if we can’t use them to help liberate us,
or even just better understand how the ‘isms function
in our day to day lives.

Last week, I was in Whole Foods, in Oakland, with my momma
and she says to me, “Hmmp, that girl doesn’t know
if she wants to be a man or a woman.” The woman was
a mid twenties, and had what could be read as a
masculine woman’s self presentation.

Now, having done both disability theory, and queer theory
as well, and also being a Black woman, and this being
my momma I knew I had to tread lightly and firmly.

So I said, “Momma, come on now, let her be.”

Then I looked her dead and her face and said,
“Everyone has a right to be who they are.”

She kept going.

I responded, “Momma, you know I Love coming to this
place with you, but I will walk out of here. Serious
as a heart attack.”

I told her that I felt that way that I did, because
as Black folks, who have been mistreated by Whites
for three centuries, we of all people should know
what it feels like to be oppressed by a dominant group.

Her response was, “Well, White folks ain’t never bothered
me.” “Well there was the one time on that one job….”? and
she starts trailing off.

So then I KNEW I had to change my unit of analysis,
and “take it to the body” as the Black women feminists
say.

I was like, “Momma, she has a right to be who she is.
Saying stuff about who she is is like treating her the way
White folks treated grandmomma.”

My momma got it then.

My grandmomma was a dark skinned, “shoot you if you run
cut ‘chu if you still” kind Black woman.

At a time when Black women were seen is silent pillars of
the community or wenches or doormats, my grandmum
always asserted her humanity, whether or not
other folks understood it was none of her business.

She took nothing from NO one, White police included.

And because of this they messed with her from Richmond
to Dallas and back.

She is my namesake.

It was awesome to take relational thinking about
queer and racial theory and be able to get my momma to
see where I was coming from.

Then peep game. She turned around and stood up for me.

I have an Uncle who is type homophobic. I Love him, but
the combo of rage and homophobia, I ain’t built for that.

So, he was insistent on seeing me last week.

And she told him, listen, “Your really homophobic,
and Renina don’t like being around that, really none
of us do, you gon’ alienate people.”

I was like, wow. She spoke my truth, but dang, it seemed
kinda harsh when she told me what she said.
The other side of the coin is that he now knows where
I stand.

Fast forward last night, I am on a date of sorts.

The guy, a Black man, Mr. Fresh and Clean, I met at a dance
party recently, and the subject of me being touched
without consent came up.

On the dance floor, at one point he reached for me.

The material issue was that I concluded that his intentions
weren’t malicious, he came across as shy and it was a benign
touch, but still I am big on consent.

So, I bring it up to him last night and said that I don’t care
for it.

I want to be able to walk the street the way Black men do,
with autonomy.

He responded, “So you want to be treated like a man.”

I said no, “I want to be treated like a human.”

“You want me to give you a pound.”

“No, if you are a stranger, then don’t touch me,
or ask if you can hug me.”

Then came my relational one two punch analysis.

“Listen, I understand that they police have job to do,
police are human too. BUT, I have huge problem with the
ways in which Black men are surveilled and treated in
the streets. Furthermore, I don’t want you all to turn
around and treat us the same way. Its not cool.”

He sat there silent. Stared at the nachos on his plate.
Then turned and looked at me and said, “Wow, I never
thought of it like that, us treating you the way the police
treat us.”

I was like yeah man.

That’s the truth.

Thoughts?

Have to deal with homophobia, or racism or sexism
recently in a relationship?

How do you decide when to say something or when to
shut up?

Comments

  1. I think there is a difference between being gay and being black I feel there are some similarities to a certain degree. There is nothing more offensive than to have someone compare the two the oppression is not the same especially considering that the oppression of gays if there is one is done to all gays not just one specific race. I don’t agree with how some people are just homophobic to wear its just ignorant but as a male its kind of getting to the point were you have to say something and put your foot down. I don’t want your gayness being shoved down my throat, I’m not going to throw my sexuality down yours. And as a black male it bothers me when I young black women dressed up like dudes so I can feel where your mom is coming from. I think it has alot to do with either people not knowing who they are or maybe its the other way around.But, our society is confused enough about who we are and what we stand for.

  2. Hi John,

    Its brave of you to speak your piece.
    I hope you take my comments in the spirit in which they are intended, which is to get you to reflect on your statments.

    I have a few questions for you, as we may different basic assumptions about human beings which means we are prolly going to have different conclusions as well.

    1. What is your personal investment in this statement, “there is nothing more offensive than having someone compare the two oppressions that are not the same.”

    Later in the post I talked about how
    White men Police oppress Black men and how Black men turn around and oppress Black women, YOU had nothing to say about that, yet they are different and similar. Why?

    What is it about queer Black women that is so scary? We don’t have the power that white people have in society, you would think queer Black women ran wall street, NASA, the Police, Harvard, the IMF, France, The Skulls and Bones, Congress, the Senate, Madison Avenue, The World Bank, Goldman Sachs, Mosanto, The Courts, Probation offices etc… They don’t. White men do.

    2.What power do queer Black women have to shove anything down your throat?

    3.Or, is that by simply being themselves, they are shoving something down your throat?

    4. Where does them being themselves end and your throat begin?

    5. Do you believe that everyone has a right to be who they are?

    ~Renina

  3. Answer #1 It’s offensive because looking back and know what our people went through and are currently going through and say that it’s the same as being gay I don’t see the correlation.(I have no problem with gay people more so that statement.) But even some of the subtle things that I see and experience on a day to day basis I feel because of my skin for instance when I get on the elevator and a white person comes into the building they will take the stair rather than come on the elevator(and they stay on the 4th floor or higher)or things I used to go through as a kid living in MISS. At certain times in my life I wish could have changed the color of my skin at least for that moment in time but I can’t, there’s no cloaking it, hiding it,roughing it up, or denying it I am black. But, then you have gays and its like you can cover that up if you want to at anytime, am I saying you should have to NO! but the fact is you can of all the Oppression (and i say that loseli) that is no way in comparison the suffering of all people.
    Regarding gay black women, I am not scared of gay black women lol. What I was saying and not just black women but women as a whole is that as a man. I honestly think I can accept you more if you can maintain your feminisim why is it that alot of women who are gay take on this masculine persona and I think that bothers me cause if I were gay (which I never will be) I wouldn’t want to take on the role of a woman.Because you are lesbian shouldn’t mean you lose a part of who you are as a woman I would think it would enhance it. But regardless of their sexuality I love all black women for what they are. And I wish all those different societies and organizations were if not ran had a black woman at the top of its organization I support condolezza Rice lol.
    2. I was not meaning to say black women were shoving anything down my throat I just specifically used them because thats what the topic was on. But it does seem as of lately the gay rhetoric has been pushing to the forefront as of late and I see nothing wrong with being who you are but at the same time don’t push who you are or your agenda on me and say I have to accept it. I am a christian but I wouldnt push my religion on you either you accept it or you don’t GOD gave us free will.Blacks have been pushing to be accepted for years and there still are millions of whites among other races who dont accept us. But, you keep going and do what you need to do to show them that you are not beneath them but beside them force feeding someone will always cause them to spit the food back at you.

    I have a question does it bother you to see gay black men and if so why if yes why?
    This is kind of personal but I’ll ask anyway are you a christian?
    Why is it when someone seemingly goes against what society wants to consider as normal they have to be practicing some form of hate whether it be self or against or people.

    And as stated above I Love all black women you are the Diamonds of the earth!

  4. John Bear…You going there with me today hunh?

    Lols.

    I am going to try and answer as best as possible.I just got back from a date, and I am tired and happy. So.

    I don’t do Oppression Olympics.

    1.I am not saying there is a correlation between being Black and queer per se, I am saying that everyone has a right to be who they are.

    My point is that the oppression against these two groups of folks, and the folks who are BOTH queer and Black operate IN the same way.

    They are marginalized, stereotyped, defined by the dominant group, violence against them is justified, a few Minorities rise to the top, but for the most part folks are scrambling just to get by.

    2. I honestly think I can accept you more if you can maintain your feminisim why is it that alot of women who are gay take on this masculine persona and I think that bothers me cause if I were gay (which I never will be) I wouldn?t want to take on the role of a woman.
    =============
    What does your desire to take on a masculine self presentation HAVE TO DO WITH queer women how want to present themselves? Why do they have to do what YOU would do? Can they Live?

    Queer Black women’s self presentation is none of your business in the same way that YOUR Black male self presentation is non of the Police’s business, or the business of the White lady on the elevator.

    To answer your questions.
    I have a question does it bother you to see gay black men and if so why if yes why?
    ========
    No. So long as they are not being violent or oppressive towards each other, everyone has a right to be who they are.

    This is kind of personal but I?ll ask anyway are you a christian?
    ========
    You coming for me tonight hunh boo?
    Last week I was in Cali, and I saw my old Pastor @ Glide. I Love Jesus. However, I am troubled about the ways in which the messages of Love, Tolerance, and Forgiveness get lost in the sauce in Black fellowships.

    Why is it when someone seemingly goes against what society wants to consider as normal they have to be practicing some form of hate whether it be self or against or people.
    =========
    I can’t call that one Love. As I would say, “Thats between you and Jesus.”

    What I will say, is that normal is typically defined by the majority.

    I was told today that this blog impacts more people than I know. I have a feeling that this exchange may move the needle on a conversation between Black folks on gender, self presentation and sexuality. Awesome.

  5. i agree love your site and the fact that you responded

  6. Thank You. I am glad that you responded as well.

  7. Foolio_Iglesias says:

    I still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there’s a Whole Foods in Oakland….not East Oakland,right?

  8. Its near the Lake by the 7/11 off Harrison.

  9. You have a beautiful way of explaining things. Thank you for all your examples of how these things intersect. You must have an amazing amount of empathy in order to see things from the other person’s point of view so that you can use an example that resonates with their personal experience.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog. This is my first time here (followed link from womanist-musings).

  10. @Ahimsa

    I am glad you appreciate the post.

    Intersectional analysis is my job…luls, I am glad it came through.

    I have empathy b/c I pray for it.
    Not always there, but I try.