At the Intersection of Black and Queer, Part 1
As a black man in America, I am cautiously heartened that, due to mass protests and louder cries that “black lives matter,” we finally appear to be ready to have the long overdue conversation about the pervasiveness of systemic racism in this country. As a member of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, I wanted to make sure that our organization participated in this conversation in a meaningful way, by lifting up and making space for black voices to be heard.
This is the first installment in a series of conversations I am having with black members of TCGMC. My goal is simply to provide a small window into what it is like to be us – provide insight on what it is like to live at the intersection of being both black and queer.
Dion Grace has been a member of TCGMC for 4 years. He identifies as a gay-black (biracial)-male and uses he/him pronouns. This is part one of our two-part conversation, where we discuss what this current historical moment feels like for him.
DANIEL: So, Black Lives Matter started seven years ago. We’ve had these murders and killings of black men and women for so many years. We’ve had video evidence and photo evidence of it for so many years. But this time feels different for so many people. What has this particular moment in time brought up for you emotionally and mentally as a black man?
DION: It has brought up feels of inadequacy. It doesn’t matter what I do or what I say, at the end of the day my life fundamentally does not matter as much as much as a white person’s. I’m feeling sadness. I’m feeling patience, in that this is a marathon not a sprint. Having to deal with being an emotional rock and/or this sense of doing the right thing for white people has been tough. The amount of people that are checking on me or the way that they check in sometimes makes me feel like I’m their check mark for the day of like, “I did what I needed to do and now I’m done.” They’re like, “How are you are doing?” Then it’s done.
DANIEL: Yeah, like. What are the next steps? What’s beyond how am I doing?
DION: Right. I don’t know where that’s coming from, if they just wanted to check the check box or if they don’t know what comes after that or they don’t know how to respond. So, I’m trying to have patience through that.
DANIEL: And that’s conflicting, right? Because you question if you’re being unfair to them with how you’re responding to it, but what you are feeling is very real.
DION: Yeah, absolutely. Also, I’m feeling emptiness just from having to pour out thank you. As a white person, thank you for listening. You as a white person, thank you for showing up. You as a white person, thank you for doing this. And just like pouring out so much that I just don’t have enough for myself. I am having to relearn self-care.
It’s not a balanced relationship between me and my white partner.
DANIEL: We talked about that before about how to be fair to your partner in the midst of all of this?
DION: I think Taylor’s (Dion’s partner) done a really good job but there’s also been my tough conversations. But trying to make sure Taylor feels loved and taken care of and validated as my partner while still being true to myself and what I’m feeling has been tough, but we are getting there.
I also obviously have that feeling of rage, like here we are again. What is it going to take for people to listen? People are getting killed. People are being recorded. What else do you need to show that the system does not work? It clearly doesn’t matter what you see on TV. It clearly doesn’t matter when people talk about it. What is it going to take for you to realize that this system is against black men and black people and always has been? We need to actively take it down. People say our generation is the most liberal generation. It doesn’t matter if you are the most liberal generation if you’re still racist.
DANIEL: I firmly believe the system is broken in a general sense, but in a lot of ways it’s working exactly how it was meant to work.
DION: Yes. Yes.
DANIEL: It was always meant to work to make sure black people stay in their place or be viewed as the enemy of white people. Hopefully, what is broken now is our idealized notion of what these institutions, like the police, were created to do. It’s just not going to work anymore.
DION: Yeah. So that ties into another thing I’m feeling, which is bittersweet. It’s bitter because we’ve lost another member of our community. But it’s bittersweet because I’m feeling a weird sense of hope. You know, our white friends who say that they are allies, for the most part now, are starting to wake up.
They’re starting to actively go out and watch and recommend documentaries like 13th. They’re learning about the prison industrial complex. They’re learning about disparities in education. They’re learning about disparities in the health care system. They’re learning about disparities in housing. White allies are starting to learn about when black people were redlined, they couldn’t get homes, but at the same time they weren’t allowed to rent. Black people didn’t get that 200-year 300-year head-start of building generational wealth through property that white people got, which allowed them to then live in their houses and get primo educations be able to be food secure or be able to be health secure.
I want that learning to continue. So, I’m continuing to nurture that flame for my “all-in” white allies. Continue to learn. Continue to call out racist family, your racist friends, your racist workplace, and your racist ideals – like the things that you think that aren’t racist and actually are. So, it’s bittersweet that I see them starting to wake up, but that it took another life for that to happen.
DANIEL: Yes. All of that.
In part-two, Dion and I have a very honest conversation about the double-bind of being both black and gay. Read that HERE.