“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter which group is most oppressed or whether they are identically oppressed. What matters is that no group be oppressed.”
This quote by Kevin Boykin, President of the National Black Justice Coalition, resonated with me from the moment that I read it as I began thinking of the bridge between the LGBT community and the African-American community. The bridge between the struggles of African Americans and the LGBT community has always been a touchy subject, and that connection has been mentioned a lot lately during the controversy over HB2, the bill passed by the State Legislature preventing Charlotte from enacting an ordinance that, among other things, required bathrooms to accommodate transgender people. Many in the LBGT community say the Legislature’s actions are discriminatory, similar to the prejudice suffered by African Americans.
Throughout the history of the United States, African Americans have endured a whirlwind of obstacles, in large part due to bigotry. As a female, African-American college student, the topic of race and equality has always been something that I’ve felt very strongly about.
While I belong to a generation that has benefitted from tremendous progress over the years, this violence still hasn’t escaped us. The most recent racist acts, including police brutality, have shown that the value of our lives is still, to some people, worthless.
The experience and daily struggles of being an African American in the United States is something that only African Americans can fully understand. On the other hand, the experiences of the LGBT community are something that only members of that community can fully understand.
But our shared experience of discrimination can serve as a bridge. The pain that African Americans have endured throughout history because of the color of our skin is despicable. The act of denying something to someone based on his or her sexual preference is also despicable.
While I feel there’s still a lot left needed to be done for my own race in terms of equality, I’d never want to minimize what the LGBT community goes through. Oppression of minorities has been an underlying characteristic of the United States from its inception. The thought of anything different frightens many members of the predominant American culture who lack understanding.
It’s so easy to judge someone based on assumptions but the act of having a conversation with people and truly understanding their experiences can do a world of good – whether the “different” person is African American or transgender.
— By Monica Pittman