Thursday, July 07, 2016

BLM-To and Pride: Thoughts

Matt Hayday has already said much of what I could say regarding the BLM-TO protest at Pride and its demands. His post is here:

I should, of course, that there are things that I can't say. I can't say I'm gay. I can't say I've ever come out. I can't say I'm in my 30s. I can say I've led a privileged life and I'd like to believe that I recognize that privilege but ... of course ... so what? Stating that one recognizes one's privilege is pretty easy.

I should also say that I don't post on Black Lives Matter (BLM) and perhaps should. My reasons are not a lack of interest or a failure to support their aims. They are dealing with an issue of the highest importance. I've rejected (in exchange with other people) the idea that BLM is doing something wrong because, as one of its critics said "all lives matter". And, I rejected this idea because it entirely missed the point of BLM. Of course all lives matter. Who said they didn't (and don't give me some anecdotal heat of the moment tweet to tell me differently)? The sad and unfortunate truth is that some people's lives matter more than others in the societies in which we live. There are lines of inequality that product horrible consequences and I've tried to point those out over and over and over again.

I have tended to avoid commenting on BLM, then, not because I think they are "on the wrong page" but because their goals seemed so straightforwardly self evident to me ... that the only thing I could do is say "yes, I agree." I had, in other words, little to offer that would have been constructive in this blog that could not also have been addressed in a tweet. And, for me at least, that is not a good enough reason to write a blog.

The recent issues with regard to Pride and BLM-TO's request that police not be allowed to march or participate is something I don't like. Now, someone, rightly, might say "so what. Andrew, you're a straight white middle-class guy. What have you got to say to this issue?"

That is a good question and it is fair to ask. IOW, if someone were to ask it, they would be doing nothing wrong. And, they would be right in their characterization of me. Some people might even say "you have no right to speak to this issue" ... and they would have a point to which others should listen. I'd ultimately disagree with them (and, perhaps, sometime I should explain why). Some of my disagreement ultimately comes down to the type of society in which we want to live, how we conceptualize identity, and what we think about our abilities to communicate with others and speak into their lives. Said differently, it is not a discussion that we can have quickly as a preface to this blog. I'll ask you to take what I said on faith, then, allowing that there is an argument on which it is based.

Finally, I might also say that I am aware that BLM-TO has been roundly criticized for their actions in Pride and for their platform already. I don't mean to pile on and I don't think we need to be pretty worried about the politics of that criticism. It is a way to marginalize BLM-TO's demands and legitimate concerns. It is a way to avoid talking about the reason that the movement exists in the first place. Those are the important issues and the ones that should not be lost sight of.

This said, I like police participation in Pride for many of the same reasons Matthew Hayday does. It signifies some sort of historical change. There is no doubt that the police were a mechanism of regulation that marginalized and harmed LGBTQ people. This is not old history. Its recent and that, too, is one of Hayday's points. When I see police involved in Pride, when I see them openly supporting LGBTQ citizens, I think of the conservative politicians in Steinbeck who ran for cover rather than participating in a local pride parade.

In other words, I think that those police officers had a choice. They chose to be in Pride; they chose to support LGBTQ equality, and they chose to make that support visible and manifest, knowing that there are other people who do not support equality and who were quite happy with the repressions of the past.

Having the police participate in pride says a number of things but one of the things it  says is that even the most bigoted institutions can change. To cast aspersions over anyone who happens to be a police officer is to generalize about their lives on the basis of a lack of knowledge of it. Like Hayday, I, too, have students who became police officers. They were good people, aghast at repression and marginalization who were trying to do the right thing and trying to protect citizens equally. I don't think they should be rejected because other people -- perhaps even acting in their name -- were repressive and violent. I think we should take pride in the distance Canada has traveled and in the visibility of the symbols that mark that distance.

Does this mean that BLM-TO is wrong to protest or in their platform or demands?  ... I'd be really reluctant to say that. In place of that kind of binary and easily politicized statement -- a statement that we don't need politicized -- I'll step back and just urge what BLM-TO and Pride both want: discussion. Pride has become something different over the years. For anyone who wants to doubt its current political importance, however, think of Steinbeck.  It has become a very public celebration and a broad range of different voices are now looking to contribute to its politics and its celebration. That is, in my view, both inevitable and good. There are important intersections of racialization, repression, marginalization and orientation that can and should be articulated  and in the process ... not everyone is going to agree. That is the character and nature of democracy and both Pride and BLM-TO strike me as concerned with nothing less than democracy.

But, I also feel that the celebration itself -- its upbeat, diversity and inclusiveness -- is important in itself.  I am not certain we should stop and say this group or that group cannot participate because of who they are or because of what they represent. To say that would be to say that there can be no change; that we are frozen in time. And, if that were the case ... well ... we wouldn't have Pride.
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