The Rainbow Flag Isn’t Racist

Point:


Counterpoint:

Meanwhile, the Washington Blade reports that at the Equality March:

Javier Cifuentes, HRC’s Youth Ambassador, and Thomas Tonatiuh Lopez Jr. of the Indigenous Youth Council gave rousing speeches that captured the theme and tone of what leaders of the Equality March said was one of their key messages—that the LGBT rights movement must work in solidarity with the nation’s other progressive movements and social causes such as immigrant rights, racial justice, transgender rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, and women’s and reproductive rights.

Left-progressives only, please. So much for “unity.”

24 Comments for “The Rainbow Flag Isn’t Racist”

  1. posted by TJ 3rd on

    1. The rainbow flag has many different variations. No one owns a rainbow. Not you or me or even the president of the Untied States.

    2. Each color – at least on the “official” one- represents an idea important to LGBT people. Based on one mans opinion.

    It is not the only rainbow flag. Many various modifications have existed. My bf has one from the 1990s that is similar to the design US flag, and includes the color black and a pink triangle.

    Reply
  2. posted by TJ 3rd on

    The Log Cabin Republicans have events that are only for Republicans. I went to one and get invites for more.

    So. tell me again how the centrist Human Rights Campaign should invite conervatives to all it’s events…..

    Reply
  3. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    The Pride flag morphed over time, again and again.

    The original Pride flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in the late 1970’s, had eight colors: hot pink (sexuality), red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sun), green (nature), turquoise (art), indigo (harmony) and violet (spirit).

    Baker recalled the first time the flag was flown, at the 1978 “Gay Freedom Day” parade in San Francisco: “It all goes back to the first moment of the first flag back in 1978 for me. Raising it up and seeing it there blowing in the wind for everyone to see. It completely astounded me that people just got it, in an instant like a bolt of lightening – that this was their flag. It belonged to all of us. It was the most thrilling moment of my life. Because I knew right then that this was the most important thing I would ever do – that my whole life was going to be about the Rainbow Flag.”

    The pink and turquoise stripes were shortly dropped for practical reasons. Baker contracted with Paramont Flag Company to mass produce the flags, but Paramont could not obtain fushia flag fabric. The company did, however, have a large surplus stock of six-stripe rainbow flags that had originally been made for the International Order of Rainbow for Girls, a Masonic organization for young women, and those flags were deemed good enough, not to mention cheap, and were purchased in quantity.

    The six-stripe design was quickly adopted around the country and became the ubiquitous symbol of LGBT pride.

    Over the years, variations on the six-stripe flag have been used by various groups. A black stripe was added to commemorate those who died of AIDS, and that flag was used in Pride celebrations in various cities for a few years. Leathermen designed a flag that substituted a black stripe for the violet stripe, but the design went nowhere fast. Bears added black and brown stripes to the basic six-striper for a short period of time, but moved on to a seven-stripe flag browns and gray-black monochromes with a bear claw. Variations on the basic six-stripe design float around — knock offs of the American flag in rainbow colors, designs with an embedded triangle to incorporate the pink triangle symbol, and so on, are used for a bit, and die off.

    The “Philadelphia Pride” version (designed “to highlight black and brown LGBTQIA members within [the city’s] community”) might have an afterlife or it might not. My guess is that it won’t. The six-stripe design — and the rainbow colors in the design — have become the universal symbol of gay pride at this point, effectively replacing most other LGBT symbols, including the Greek letter lambda and the pink triangle, and is likely to remain the universal standard.

    I don’t know, frankly, what the fuss is about. The six-stripe rainbow flag, unlike the American flag, was not personally designed by God and is not a sacred symbol.

    Perhaps homocons should adopt their own variation — the six-stripe white flag with a tassel-loafer overprinted.

    Reply
  4. posted by Jorge on

    “The Rainbow Flag Isn’t Racist.”

    Yes it is. That’s a little like saying the Confederate Flag isn’t racist.

    After all, isn’t the latter often called out as originally being nothing but a battle flag? And don’t a lot of the people who display it disavow any claim of racism, saying it’s only a form of pride or acknowledgement of southern history?

    Where the Confederacy is heavily associated with the racism by slavery, the Gay Pride Movement is mildly associated with racism by social stereotype. How much of the taint of racism is carried into each succeeding degree of separation (the organization, the flag…) is probably an exponential relationship based on the severity of the initial offense. But you have to remember that nonwhite people experience the racism more keenly (duh). Once you reach the question of how people perceive the flag, you have a situation where some “black and brown” people can immediately associate the flag as racist, while other people who can immediately see the Pride movement as racist cannot.

    So like I often say, it’s racist, get over it. Not terribly left-progressive of me.

    The original Pride flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in the late 1970’s, had eight colors: hot pink (sexuality), red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sun), green (nature), turquoise (art), indigo (harmony) and violet (spirit).

    I’m glad they took out the pink, regardless of the motivation.

    You know since we’re talking about flags, I looked up photos of Pride marches in Japan to see if they fly the same rainbow flag. They do. I did this as part of my research for a display at work about Power Rangers episodes with gay themes (of which I know of only two in 23 seasons). This is the year of the Power Rangers movie, after all, and the media is saying the movie’s Yellow Ranger is the first LGBT Power Ranger’s character (nope, Power Rangers Turbo had a gay wedding).

    The second gay reference, in Power Rangers Super Megaforce, is an episode that makes very prominent use of a kite with the six colors of the pride flag, just in a different pattern. The episode’s plot is that the villain steals happiness to cure the enemy leader’s cold. Change “happy” into its archaic synonym “gay” and you can almost literally say the villain is taking away the gay to cure a sickness, see where that allusion’s going? Now, Power Rangers is adapted from a long-running Japanese series, and I learned that this episode’s basic plot is exactly the same in the original Japanese version the episode was adapted from. But the Japanese episode doesn’t have the gay pride kite, even though they do recognize the gay pride flag in Japan. That’s probably because the Japanese language doesn’t have any association between the words happy and gay. So the English-speaking producers added a lot of camera shots to create an intentional symbolism instead of an inadvertent one. Even on the very first viewing, it’s a powerful episode. They both are (and I saw the Turbo one well before I identified as gay).

    Reply
    • posted by TJ 3rd on

      Your Power Ranger….um “research” needs episode names/season.

      Reply
      • posted by Jorge on

        Well if you’re interested…

        “Shadow Rangers” in Power Rangers Turbo (1997). This one is allegorical nearly from start to finish on the villains’ side.

        “United As One” in Power Rangers Super Megaforce (2014). You will notice if you watch it that the title has nothing to do with the plot. The Japanese episode it is based on is “The Abare Quick-Changing New Combination” in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger.

        Reply
    • posted by Jtowery on

      Please explain to this poor unenlightened person how the rainbow flag is racist. (I truly never know if you are simply being contrarian, satirical, or serious in your comments.) I have been accused by friends of taking comments too literally and being a little too gullible in my interpretation. In other words, I find your comments and your point of view to be at the least difficult to comprehend, and at the most incomprehensible.

      Reply
    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      You know since we’re talking about flags, I looked up photos of Pride marches in Japan to see if they fly the same rainbow flag. They do. I did this as part of my research for a display at work about Power Rangers episodes with gay themes (of which I know of only two in 23 seasons). This is the year of the Power Rangers movie, after all, and the media is saying the movie’s Yellow Ranger is the first LGBT Power Ranger’s character (nope, Power Rangers Turbo had a gay wedding).

      You dig into the strangest things, Jorge.

      Reply
  5. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Somewhat off topic, Gilbert Baker died in March, at the age of 65.

    Reply
    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      And, from the NYT obituary, this photo, showing the original eight-stripe design.

      Reply
    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      I also note that Gilbert Baker himself, close to the end of his life, created some flags that added yet another stripe to the original eight-stripe flag. Again from the NYT obituary: “In recent weeks he had finished creating 39 nine-color flags — the eight original colors, plus lavender to represent diversity — to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the first rainbow flag.

      A Time obituary shows another example of the original eight-stripe flag, this one from 2003.

      Again, I just don’t understand the fuss. If the city of Philadelphia, which has a typical urban racial composition, wants to honor the constitution of black and brown gays and lesbians by adding a couple of stripes to the flag used this year, God bless them.

      The larger question for me is why traditionalists are in such an uproar about it.

      Reply
  6. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    I ran across this opinion piece in the Sunday NYT, and thought that it was an interesting perspective on the issues surrounding Pride this year.

    An excerpt:

    The first Pride was the Stonewall rebellion on June 28, 1969. It was an uprising of furious queers, led by trans women of color, against police harassment. The protests continued for several nights, and the butch dykes and drag queens won.

    Within weeks, activist groups formed, and from the activist groups came the protests and lobbying and laws that help protect my lil’ half-shaved lesbian head.

    You don’t hear much about Stonewall at Pride events. At my first Pride, in 2003, there wasn’t a hint of anger that I could see. Righteous fury had been replaced by corporate-sponsored floats; nearly naked gay men threw glitter sunscreen into the crowd while Nelly’s “Hot in Here” blared. Small children with rainbows painted on their cheeks shrieked with sticky cotton candy pleasure. Everywhere I looked: gay people holding hands, kissing.

    Drag queens waved from vintage cars, their sequins glinting in the sun and their hair heroically refusing to fall flat in the heat. Dykes on Bikes roared past. The riders were topless, and I was thrilled on my deepest, gayest level. Pride was a party, a huge gay party, and I had never been so excited to be invited, or felt so instantly welcome, anywhere.

    That’s where Pride succeeds. It gets more inclusive and welcoming every year, and as the queers become less threatening, more straight people come, and more minds are opened to the possibility that we gays might just be regular people, after all. (Albeit with better decorating sense and the sass to pull off chaps that leave little to the imagination.)

    This inclusiveness is also where Pride fails, for lots of us. Who is Pride really for these days? Queers who are proud to be queers, of course. But it’s yet another place that straight white people now feel 100 percent welcome, even though they feel perfectly at home in any public space.

    Having allies is wonderful, but sometimes I wish they could be allies every other day of the year, and let us have a party as gay and naked and radical and un-family-friendly as we queers might like.

    I’m old enough to have participated when Pride events had an “angry protest” cast to them, and I’ve lived long enough to see Pride transformed into family-safe corporate-sponsored events with the “queer” more or less washed out.

    In my opinion, we’ve come to the point where Pride is no longer about fighting to secure our birthright as American citizens to be treated as all other American citizens, but instead fighting amongst ourselves over who should be invited to the party. That is (in the words of The Greatest President Ever Just Ask His Cabinet), well, “SAD!”

    We’ve accomplished a great deal in the last 45+ years, but we still have a hard fight ahead as conservative Christians and their Republican allies (think Texas most recently) continue to work to marginalize us as American citizens and write government-sanctioned special discrimination into law. I think that hard fact is getting lost in all the bickering.

    Reply
  7. posted by TJ 3rd on

    If people have time to get upset over the colors on a rainbow flag, especially when said flag has gone through many variations, they may need to get a hobby….

    Reply
  8. posted by TJ 3rd on

    The original Blue Ranger left the show because of anti-gay harassment from the producer.

    I think that their was also complaints from actors about racial stereotyping and sexual harassment. This would have been in the 1990s. Although this behind-the-scenes stuff came out later.

    Afterwards, the Power Rangers franchise may have wanted to handle diversity issues better. The publicity wasn’t good for a kids show – that likes to paint itself as diverse and in touch with the kids, yo.

    Granted, its a unusual series, because most Japanese TV shows that got adapted for English consumers, have lots of content that gets edited, censored or radically alterned. Power Rangers is rarely censored.

    LGBT content in Japanese TV is often cut or heavily towned down when made for Americans. Especially with anime. Video games made in Japan generally did the same thing.

    When Battle of The Planets anime was adapted – right after Star Wars was released – they took a transgender character and made her into two seperate characters.

    Reply
  9. posted by Jorge on

    Power Rangers is rarely censored.

    LGBT content in Japanese TV is often cut or heavily towned down when made for Americans…

    Hmm! While in “United We Stand” the Pink Ranger goes into disguise to stop the villain (a rare adaptation of a longstanding tradition in the Japanese series), it doesn’t include the scene where she sticks a giant needle in his rectum.

    Reply
  10. posted by Kosh III on

    The rainbow flag has never supported legal, constitutional racism and slavery unlike the flag flown by Traitors, oath-breakers, insurrectionists and their current spawn.

    Reply
  11. posted by Lori Heine on

    I’ve been getting such an education here about the Power Rangers. I knew little nothing about them until I read this commentary thread.

    Perhaps someday I will realize that my life has been enriched by this experience.

    Reply
    • posted by JohnInCA on

      “Perhaps someday I will realize that my life has been enriched by this experience.”
      You could say it was a powerful experience!

      Eh? Eh?

      … tough crowd.

      Reply
  12. posted by Throbert McGee on

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the sentiment behind this Philly variant on the rainbow flag. It’s perfectly reasonable to complain that white people — but especially “photogenic” white gay males — are overrepresented as symbols of the LGBT movement. That said, I think it was a poor design decision to represent the African-American LGBT community by simply tacking two more horizontal stripes — one black, one brown — onto the existing six-stripe flag.

    To me, it’s metaphorically confusing; are they saying that colors like green, blue, and purple (colors that don’t exist as natural skin/hair pigments among humans or any other mammals!) are somehow representative of whites and perhaps light-skinned Asians, while somehow excluding black folks?

    Furthermore, horizontal black and brown stripes may give some observers the impression of a rainbow flag merging with the “bear” flag (a seven-stripe design in “Crayola earth tones” with black and brown at the top).

    I think it might’ve worked better if the black and brown stripes had been placed vertically, at right angles to the other stripes. Or possibly they could’ve used a black-and-brown circle or square or star or power-fist or whatever, superimposed over the rainbow stripes.

    Reply
  13. posted by Throbert McGee on

    On the other hand, you could make a case for adding four more stripes to the 8-color Philly design: white, gray, silver lamé, and gold lamé. This would give you a really fabulous 12-stripe flag based on the “Resistor Code” used by electrical engineers — and as we all know, anything with “Resist” in the name is super-trendy now, and bound to fly off the shelves.

    Then we could all wave the Resistor flag while singing the “Ωhm Shanty” (lyrics TBD, but obviously it would be to the tune of “Popeye the Sailorman”).

    Reply
  14. posted by Jorge on

    That said, I think it was a poor design decision to represent the African-American LGBT community by simply tacking two more horizontal stripes — one black, one brown — onto the existing six-stripe flag.

    Perhaps.

    But I think all of your ideas express either a hyperdominance or hyperseparatism, both of which are rather sensitive subjects when talking about race relations. Placing black and brown parallel on top suggests both unity and strength.

    Reply
  15. posted by JohnInCA on

    Okay, I don’t really have strong feelings on this, but I do have a question/statement. For good or ill, the six-stripe rainbow flag had taken over as a “gay pride” symbol. Not just in America, but worldwide. It’s *already* used by people in every color of the human rainbow.

    The six-stripe version is used in Israel, Uganda, Nigeria, Mexico, Japan, India, Russia, Australia… Off the top of my head, it’s the only flag I can think of used all around the world as a symbol of “me and my tribe”. I mean, some people have tried to make that Christian flag a thing, but it doesn’t really seem to have ever taken off (probably because they already have widely recognised symbols that fill the same purpose).

    So I guess what I’m saying is that I can understand the feeling that American gays marginalize other parts of the tribe, but the flag is bigger then America at this point. And adding these stripes because of an *American* problem tables away from that. It makes this world-wide symbol so very local and distances it from others.

    That said, I still don’t have strong feelings on the matter. I’m happy with our little six-stripe flag we picked up a few years back, but if the husband came home with this eight-stripe version I wouldn’t have a problem either. Symbols only mean what they mean to you.

    And *that* said, I’ll try to remember to ask the husband how he feels about it later. He’s Hispanic (while I’m aggressively white. Like seriously, if I go to the beach, others are in danger of going blind) so his perspective is probably different.

    Reply

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