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Pet Sins September 2007

People of color working across color lines in the gay community

The idea has been going around that minorities should not be 'helping' other minorities because their first priority should be solving the problems of their own community. I've heard this idea bandied about by queer folk of color too. I do agree that one should spend energy helping one's immediate community first, but I am also concerned about the 'us vs them' mentality among some people who hold to this way of thinking. I have observed that some individuals who are most vocal about 'we should help ourselves before we help others' are NOT even doing anything in their personal lives to help their own 'community'. They don't donate their time or money to the betterment of our communities, even when asked to do so. And some of them turned out to be closet bigots whose resentment towards non-black people of color in general comes to the surface when they are less guarded. These take the form of blanket statements about a group and personal attacks motivated by someone's 'race'.

I am NOT saying that everyone who believes we should put the interests of our own community first is a bigot or is someone who talks and does nothing. In fact, I do believe that people should put serving the needs of the communities they live in first. But some individuals believe that to do this, we should disengage from coalition-building or even dialogue with other communities of color because it would take attention away from 'African American/Asian/Latino issues' and we would end up 'helping' someone else instead of ourselves. But have they ever thought of how we could get other people to serve our goals too? That it does not have to be a zero-sum game; we do not have to be losers in an exchange between communities of color. Instead of a one-way street of us giving our brains and energy to other people, that we can also get other people to give us their time and resources.

For example, there is a South Asian on the executive board of the Seattle Black Pride, an organization which puts together events for queer black folk in the Puget Sound Area. The secretary Harnik Gulati had been involved with organizing Seattle Black Pride from the beginning of the movement in 2005 as both a facilitator and community organizer. He is a HIV/AIDS educator and had worked in numerous health research projects, organizations, and grassroots organizing efforts within various communities of color. Gulati also serves on the Board of Trikone NW, a South Asian LGBT organization. (Which shows that someone volunteering for another community does not necessarily neglects his/her own community)

There are many organizations and projects in existence which specifically connect queer people of color across ethnic lines, some examples being:

American Medical Students' Association's Advocacy and Support Group for Queer People of Color

The QPOC Liberation Project - a group of Seattle-based artists, organizers, and activists who have come together to create a series of theatre productions and discussion series. The year long project focuses on the lives, issues and perspectives of queer, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and gay People of Color

OUTFEST's Fusion Film Festival - the LGBT people of color film festival

R.