Black Lives Matter Must Include Black LGBTQ+

By David J. Johns
Executive Director
National Black Justice Coalition

The epidemics of white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and police brutality have plagued our country for far too long. As we recognize the opportunity to push toward a more radically inclusive sense of social justice in America it’s essential that that push include every member of the beautifully diverse Black community.

In a 1984 interview with journalist Richard Goldstein, James Baldwin said, “Long before the question of sexuality comes into it,” a Black gay person is already “menaced and marked because he’s Black.” What Baldwin is trying to help our siblings appreciate is that Black queer people face two wars (at least) in America. One for being Black and the other, for being Queer. Uncle Jimmy was trying then to help us appreciate in 1984 that Black Lives Matter Must Mean ALL Black Lives Matter. Period. Full stop!

The lives and legacies of Black LGBTQ/SGL people rarely garner the public support of our heteronormative siblings. This is not to compare. This is to bring attention to the twin challenges of racism and homophobia (and its cousins transphobia, bi-phobia, and transmisogyny) that impact the lives of Black LGBTQ/SGL people, families, and communities in unique ways.

When you hear the term Black Lives Matter, don’t forget ALL Black Lives Matter! We are and have always been in this together. By every measure, Black American families consistently trail white families on quality of life indicators.

* Majority white schools spend $733 dollars more per student than schools that are mainly non-white.

* White people have 10 times the income of Black families. Black families consistently earn less than white families and are more likely to work in the service industry.

* The majority of white Americans own homes. The converse is not true for Black people. Among Black people who own homes the value of their home is typically under-valued by virtue of their occupancy (a reflection of how racism and anti-Blackness works in America).

* Black American adults are 72% more likely to have diabetes; 44% more likely to die from a stroke, 3 times more likely to die from asthma, and more than 3 times more likely to be hospitalized due to the COVID-19.

* We rarely collect data or even consider how the lives and needs of Black LGBTQ/SGL people are hidden within data that reflects our shared struggles. What we do know is that most Black LGBTQ/SGL people live with other Black people.

Black LGBTQ/SGL people, families, and communities are concentrated in the south—we live in places where it’s acceptable to discriminate against us because we’re Black. We live in places where it’s also legal to discriminate against us because of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender orientation, and gender expression. These dual battles are struggles that too many of us endure alone, in shadows, and sometimes, sadly, at the hands of members of our own community. This must end. None of us can be free unless and until all of us are free—Fannie Lou Hamer taught us this so long ago.

We hope the protests of today reflect a new, shared-commitment to radically inclusive social justice. Social justice that holds space for Black LGBTQ/SGL people, communities, and families. Social justice that supports Black LGBTQ/SGL businesses, organizations, and elected officials. Social justice that includes understanding and celebrating the significant contributions made by Black LGBTQ/SGL people. Social justice that includes policy changes that respond to the needs of Black LGBTQ/SGL people, communities, and families. NBJC is honored to remain committed to advancing the types of programs and politics that ensure the needs of Black LGBTQ/SGL people are centered as we ALL move forward together.

We thank you for your investment in our work and invite you to continue working with us for equal justice under the law.

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