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)?
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.