March On?

LGBT activists have called for another National Pride March in Washington, D.C., this time to protest all things Trump. But alas, so far it “is following the same racially problematic script as the Women’s March” to protest all things Trump, writes Anika Simpson, an associate professor at Morgan State University, as well as coordinator of MSU’s Women’s and Gender Studies program and co-chair of the National Black Justice Coalition’s HBCU LGBTQ-Equality Initiative Advisory Council.

“Unfortunately, it’s a familiar script: white organizers plan an event on behalf of an entire community and then invite input from people of color after key decisions have been made,” said Simpson, in a Washington Blade column titled Pride march must include people of color in key roles.

“The damage of this marginalization [to the Women’s March] was not overcome when the dynamic trio of feminists of color joined as National Co-Chairs,” opines she who will not be placated by efforts too little, too late. “As a queer black feminist displaced within mainstream feminist and LGBTQIA movements, I will lend my suggestions to the chorus of QPOC advocating for equity within the proposed march.”

(LGBTQIA is lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer intersex and asexual, although it’s not spelled out by Simpson, as anyone who doesn’t know should apparently check their privilege; QPOC is queer people of color.)

Simpson concludes along these lines:

Decentering whiteness is the first step toward rectifying our alienation. Our shared belonging within the LGBTQIA community is not a singularly unifying factor. We are not immune from the racism and xenophobia that runs rampant in this country. From our vantage point, the mainstream queer community offers no safe haven to the racially marginalized. This is a pivotal moment for non-QPOC to check their white privilege and commence the hard work of addressing their positionality within white supremacy.

But, as might have been suspected:

One cannot guarantee that this necessary shift will compel QPOC en masse to participate in the march. Centuries of institutional racism cannot be redressed in a few months of planning, or even by a few hours of hand holding on the National Mall.


Here are my thoughts from a January 2000 post that looked at similar planning battles over the then-upcoming 2000 Millennial March on Washington (MMOW), in a piece I titled An Uninspiring March on Washington:

…in spring 1998, the Ad Hoc Committee for An Open Process was formed. The network of anti-MMOW grassroots activists charged that the organizers of the march were top-down authoritarians who blithely ignored the supposedly “democratic” organizing principles that had buttressed previous gay marches in the nation’s capital. “The way the Millennium March was conceived, articulated, promoted and put out there has really been an insult and a slap in the face to our own history as an l/g/b/t movement,” said Leslie Cagan, a long-time New York City-based lesbian activist and member of the Ad Hoc Committee. Of course, others pointed out that what the Committee seemed angriest about was that its cadre of long-time activists, many on the political far left, hadn’t been in control of the process this time round.

That’s not to say that those activists who did wind up in control of the board of directors for the MMOW have done any kind of a rational job. In fact, they quickly caved into the radical critics and jettisoned the Faith and Family theme. And, as with previous marches, they have taken the admirable goal of racial diversity to an extreme, resorting to race- and gender-based quotas that border on the absurd—a requirement that their governing board be at least 50 percent people of color, regardless of who actually shows up willing to do the work. Is it churlish to note that all non-white minorities together are well under half the U.S. population (which is still 73 percent non-Hispanic white)?

I continued:

Before concluding, let’s look back at the previous March on Washington for gay rights in 1993, which the Ad Hoc Committee has been holding up as a model of democratic organization. In fact, march organizers had mandated 50-percent minority quotas [and gender equity] on state organizing committees. Again, if anything less than representation reflecting actual demographics constitutes discrimination (as affirmative action advocates maintain), then gay white men were discriminated against by their own rights march.

Moreover, the ’93 event had come under fire for extraordinary poor execution: Due to a complicated march route thousands spent the day waiting to step off the green, and many had still not done so at the end of the day as the rally on the Mall across town was ending. Writing in the liberal “New Republic” magazine, Jacob Weisberg noted that the ’93 march “was appallingly organized, failed to coordinate even a single time for a photo-op on the Mall and had as its most memorable quote a lesbian comedian’s remark that Hillary Clinton was ‘at last a first lady I could fuck.'”

The PC quotient at the ’93 event, broadcast live on C-SPAN, was taken to bizarre extremes. The march platform made opposition to welfare reform one of its key planks. Not one speaker who wasn’t squarely on the gay left was allowed to address the rally, and the scarcity of gay white male speakers at the all-day event (you could count them on one hand, literally) didn’t go unnoticed by the crowd.

In the world of progressive LGBT activism, nothing ever changes.

22 Comments for “March On?”

  1. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    In the world of progressive LGBT activism, nothing ever changes.

    Yeah, well, I’m certain that however the march turns out, if it turns out at all, you’ll find something to outrage you. That, at least, won’t ever change.

    Reply
    • posted by TJ on

      1. I’d imagine that MOST large scale political marches probably have lots of things go wrong. Some it is stuff beyond the organizers control. Some aint.

      Bayard Rustin is an underappreciated man in American history. His homosexuality and his anti-authoritarian, Social Democratic politics have kept him from getting his historical recognition.

      Rustin was Very Good at doing the un-glamours nuts and bolts stuff for the 1963 mach. Very few people can do what he did.

      I imagine that the national gay rights marches in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s were probably organized by well meaning people who had lots of people eager to complain from the sidelines.

      How many gay Republicans (in these past years) actually wanted to get involved in the boring nuts and bolts stuff…as opposed to simply complainig from the sidelines?

      The people who felt that planning stage didnt involve sufficen rural people, or disabled people or people of color

      Reply
    • posted by TJ on

      I have said – here and elsewhere – that more time and money should be spent on local coalition building.

      The problem is that quite a few Homocons and homolibs (if that is a term) have little to no interest in what happens to LGBT folk outside the urbane, trendy cities.

      Now I’m not saying that discrimination or harassment doesn’t happen in the cities. But, their is probably a community center, visible community and strong, bipartisan support for dealing with the problems.

      Reply
  2. posted by Jim Michaud on

    I think any march should be done at the state level. Have LGBT people in Alabama, for example, organize an event in Montgomery. If the past National marches are any indication, it would be wiser to have them more locally and with more grassroots work done.

    Reply
    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      I think that the women’s demonstrations last month provide a good organizational model — multiple local demonstrations across the country, in every state, all occurring in unison, particularly with respect to protesting anti-equality legislation.

      The battles over anti-equality legislation is being fought out in the states, and it follows that the demonstrations should be in the states as well. The reason I think that having contemporaneous demonstrations across the country is a good idea is that it is likely to draw media attention in a way that individual state-level demonstrations won’t.

      I’ve never thought much of “The ABC March on Washington” model — it seems to me that the last effective national march was in 1963, and that march had to be staged in Washington for a reason.

      Reply
      • posted by Jim Michaud on

        Thanks Tom! That’s exactly what I meant, but fell short. The up side to following the women’s march model is these demonstrations will put a human face on the issue. A far greater impact will occur rather than everybody gathering in DC. So, yeah, Mr. Miller is right on this one. Hey, a broken clock is correct twice a day.

        Reply
    • posted by Houndentenor on

      Agreed. We focused on Washington while the right focused locally and look who’s running the show now. We need to focus on local politics. There are plenty of national organizations already. What we need is to build a coalition in every Congressional district, every town, every place that has representatives. The Beltway strategy has failed and it’s not like people weren’t saying it would 20 years ago. We need to elect people to state and local office and not just worry about the White House.

      Reply
  3. posted by Jorge on

    QPOC is queer people of color.

    It’s rather unfortunate that it rhymes with Tupac.

    Reply
    • posted by Houndentenor on

      I think it sounds like the name of a SciFi character. A Klingon maybe.

      Reply
  4. posted by Jorge on

    Agreed. We focused on Washington while the right focused locally and look who’s running the show now.

    As much as I want the idea of going to a Washington march to appeal to me, I’m quite frankly worried it’s not safe for a pro-Trump Republican to go to a rally organized by the anti-Trump left in an all but strange city. Better to be silent and alive to vote and give money again than loud and dead. There’s reasons to go, but they all apply better to other things.

    I think it sounds like the name of a SciFi character. A Klingon maybe.

    Tuvok? He’s a Vulcan.

    Reply
  5. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    As much as I want the idea of going to a Washington march to appeal to me, I’m quite frankly worried it’s not safe for a pro-Trump Republican to go to a rally organized by the anti-Trump left in an all but strange city.

    Why in the world would a “pro-Trump Republican” to a rally organized to protest Republican-proposed religious freedom exemptions to non-discrimination laws, bans/limitations on adoption and foster care, state preemption of local non-discrimination laws, birth-gender bathroom mandates, and all the rest, protesting legislation proposed by their own party?

    If “pro-Trump Republicans” want to organize counter-protests supporting Republican-proposed legislation, that is their right and privilege in a free society, but they should get their own permits and do their own organizing.

    Reply
  6. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Related to the change in tactics by anti-equality Republicans from national legislation to state legislation (68 bills and counting in 2017), anti-equality Republicans are simultaneously moving to preempt local non-discrimination ordinances, consolidating power into Republican-dominated state governments.

    What we need is to build a coalition in every Congressional district, every town, every place that has representatives.

    That is particularly true since the Trump administration wiped out the Obama administration guidelines on transgender students. In many states, that fight will be fought at the school district level.

    The local model works.

    In Wisconsin, a flyover state that attracts little attention from national LGBT groups, faced with the reality that Governor Walker and our Republican-majority legislature would never move the ball on transgender non-discrimination, our statewide LGBT advocacy group (Fair Wisconsin) started moving at the local level several years ago. At this point, most of the state’s mid-level cities (50,000 +) have adopted local non-discrimination ordinances protecting transgenders.

    We will probably have to fight off a state-level preemption effort sooner or later, but that fight will come when it comes.

    Reply
  7. posted by JohnInCA on

    You know, I’m sort of with Miller here. I’m skeptical that this march, or any march, does much good.

    But on the other hand, left-leaning LGBT groups have a much better track record of actually getting things done then right-leaning LGBT groups. Even if you don’t like their accomplishments, be they non-discrimination laws/ordinances, marriage equality, or putting pressure on this company or that, you can’t really deny that they’ve got a fair number of wins next to their losses.

    Right-leaning LGBT groups? Don’t have a whole lot of wins or losses because, broadly speaking, they don’t want to try.

    So while I don’t think this march -or any other march- will do much good, I won’t fault them for trying. After all, something they’ve been doing is working. Which is more then their right-leaning counterparts can claim.

    Reply
  8. posted by Jorge on

    Why in the world would a “pro-Trump Republican” to a rally organized to protest Republican-proposed religious freedom exemptions to non-discrimination laws, bans/limitations on adoption and foster care, state preemption of local non-discrimination laws, birth-gender bathroom mandates, and all the rest, protesting legislation proposed by their own party?

    For the same reason a QPOC would go to an event organized by a QWASP. I think that is a very stupid question.

    Reply
    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      I think that is a very stupid question.

      As far as I am concerned, that just shows you don’t understand the question.

      For the same reason a QPOC would go to an event organized by a QWASP.

      And this confirms it.

      Reply
  9. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    I hope that this report isn’t accurate.

    Whatever the President has to say tonight in his speech, if the audio of his remarks comes out and the remarks reported in Buzzfeed are accurate reported, he’s toast in the Jewish community.

    Reply
    • posted by TJ on

      I am not sure why he aint already toast. His advisor didnt want his kids to go to school with Jews. He (advisor) is an avowed white supremacist.

      Reply
    • posted by Jorge on

      There have been false reports of anti-gay, anti-black, and anti-Muslim incidents (though not necessarily crimes) over the past two years. Pointing that out when talking about anti-Jewish hate crimes is far beneath the dignity of the President of the United States, but otherwise not as bad as all that. And this is a president who eschews dignity and accuracy for plain-spokenness.

      But I am not convinced the subject was anti-Jewish hate crimes. I think he was probably throwing cold water on a shrill and overly broad progressive talking point.

      Reply
    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      But I am not convinced the subject was anti-Jewish hate crimes. I think he was probably throwing cold water on a shrill and overly broad progressive talking point.

      Anything is possible, I suppose. The President’s response, according to the news reports, was a response to a direct question about the recent rash of anti-Semitic acts around the country, so it would seem logical that the President’s response was, well, a response to the question.

      But the President has a track record of deflecting when asked about the subject, so your apologetic is quite possibly on target.

      I imagine that we’ll learn more about the President’s comments.

      Reply
    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Well, it turns out that yesterday’s remarks were not the first time the President has argued that his political opponents were responsible:

      He went on to insist anti-Semitism was coming from his political opponents, who were doing it to generate anger: “Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or live Donald Trump. They’re put up by the other side, and you think it’s like playing it straight? No. But you have some of those signs, and some of that anger is caused by the other side. They’ll do signs and they’ll do drawings that are inappropriate. It won’t be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you.”

      But not to worry, Jorge.

      Reply
      • posted by Jorge on

        But not to worry, Jorge.

        I suppose everyone has a different way of keeping their guard up.

        This is all just one incident of Trump grumpiness.

        Reply
  10. posted by TJ on

    Again. the sitting President has no problem giving a tremendous amount of power to someeone who expresses some of the most viciois sort of racial, ethnic and religious hatred.

    Reply

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