This is PRIDE 2020, Athens, where Black lives matter, Black trans lives matter, Black queer lives matter and all Black lives matter.
The LGBTQ community has so much to be proud of as we celebrate 51 years since the Stonewall Riots, where Black trans women decided enough is enough when it came to police brutality and unwarranted police raids targeting our community.
We won the right to marry who we love in 2015. The Supreme Court recently ruled that people cannot be fired for being gay or transgender. The Georgia State Legislature passed an overdue hate crime bill. And, locally, the Athens-Clarke County Commission just voted to fund the Rainbow Crosswalk initiative after receiving 6,500 queer and ally signatures. This initiative was started after the 2019 Athens Pride Street Festival, which expanded one block and had record attendance.
This Pride is different. I want to remind each of you that we still have work left to do as a community — work we must urge our leaders and our families to address. We must commit to ending racism and discrimination in the Black and LGBTQ communities in America by changing hearts and laws and challenging ourselves to do better.
This Pride, we are also confronted with an overarching reminder that the LGBTQ community must stand with our Black brothers, sisters and friends who are being consistently targeted and killed by police. The numbers are alarming. According to a 2014 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs on hate violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, Black survivors of hate violence were 1.8 times more likely to experience police violence than their non-Black counterparts. Black survivors were also twice as likely to experience physical violence, twice as likely to experience discrimination and 1.4 times more likely to experience threats and intimidation during acts of hate violence.
Additionally, Black transgender women face the highest levels of fatal violence within the LGBTQ community and are less likely to turn to police for help for fear of revictimization by law enforcement personnel. According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 38% of Black transgender people who interacted with police reported harassment, 15% reported physical assault from police and 7% reported sexual assault due to bias. Such high rates of revictimization by police are a major barrier to dealing with anti-transgender violence. Make no mistake: these numbers are not the result of choice, but of years of systemic oppression that have been ingrained into the fabric of who we are as a country. It is up to us to change it, and we are seeing the response of millions all across this country.
I want to take this opportunity to ask my fellow white queer folks — are you doing your part to stand with your fellow Black LGBTQ people?
Are you uplifting Black voices? Are you taking a stand against police brutality and excessive force? Are you working to bring justice in policing, in our economy, in our legal system, in education?
This Pride, remember that being LGBTQ-identifying does not mean you are immune to being part of the problem when it comes to fighting racism and standing up to people in power. It is simply not enough to be a part of a marginalized community. Because remember: within marginalized communities, there are always those who are even further marginalized because of their race or gender identity. LGBTQ Athens, let me ask — are you doing the work?
I speak to myself here, too. I must be better and more serious about doing the work. So, this Pride, let’s commit to doing the work to end racism and discrimination in America by challenging ourselves to put in the work and do better.
Again I say, Black Lives Matter.