feature image by Chloe Collyer Photography
Pride month is coming to a close, but over the past few days, FOX News, the NY Post, and NY Daily News have all reported about Taking B(l)ack Pride Seattle, an event taking place this weekend, that centers Black and Brown trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer people (TLGBQ+). It is worth noting that this event is co-organized by Queer The Land, an organization that I, a Black non-binary queer immigrant, helped found to promote cooperative land ownership for queer and trans Black, Indigenous, People of Color (QTBIPOC) facing displacement in Seattle, along with other organizing collectives that I have relationships with and admiration for, like the Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, and Alphabet Alliance of Color in Seattle. The FOX News and other reports have sensationalized the fact that (for the second year in a row) event organizers have asked white attendees to honor the Black-centered space by paying reparations via an attendance fee. But here’s the thing, in the absence of reparations for African descendants of slaves and other survivors of white supremacist and colonial violence — Taking B(l)ack Pride is giving us another model for grassroots reparations that should be embraced— not condemned.
Critics of Taking B(l)ack Pride have called the event and the reparations policy in particular, a promotion of “reverse racism” but it is really past time to put that argument to bed. Writer Petiri Ira offers a short and thorough explanation as to why that is — which I’ll just summarize with this quote “If reverse racism were an issue, it would mean that we live in a world where all racial groups have equal, institutional, social, and systemic power. We don’t.” A quick look at the US economy reveals an ever-growing racial wealth gap that has Black and Latina households holding only 12 and 21 cents, respectively, for every dollar in white wealth. True “reverse racism” would necessitate our institutions, like banks and universities, routinely denying white Americans loans and admissions — but in reality, the opposite actually occurs.
Taking B(l)ack Pride is part of the converging legacies of BIPOC trans-led resistance to harassment and criminal profiling, and the movement to win reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans. Black people make up only 7.3% of Seattle’s population of over 750,00 people, and one year ago, only 4 in 10 Black renters could afford to pay rent, compared to 9 out of 10 white renters, according to a report by the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development. Another report published by Public Health Seattle – King County assessed conditions of the LGBTQ+ population in 2018/2019, and found that LGBTQ+ people in Seattle-King County are more likely to be homeless than their heterosexual counterparts.
So what is the harm in QTBIPOC, who are especially vulnerable to homelessness and poverty, asking white beneficiaries of generational race and/or class privilege to voluntarily donate to organizations that actively disrupt Black and Brown poverty?
The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America defines reparations as “a process of repairing, healing and restoring a people injured because of their group identity and in violation of their fundamental human rights by governments, corporations, institutions and families” and also as a “demand for justice”. As a group, Black people of African descent in the US have yet to receive cash payments, land nor any other forms of reparations for centuries of chattel-slavery, mass incarceration and economic disinvestment. And even minimal attempts at reparative policies are met with challenges. Earlier this year Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act, which includes a $4 billion loan forgiveness program for Black farmers who have been historically discriminated against by federal loan programs. This program is already being challenged in court by white farmers across the country who claim the program is discriminatory, despite the program’s purpose to fix over 100 years of discriminatory economic practices that have shrunk the number and wealth of Black farmers.
So again I ask — what is the harm of QTBIPOC finding a way to generate grassroots reparations payments from willing white beneficiaries of generational race and/or class privilege? Especially when other efforts for reparations have been fraught with legal and political challenges.
I took time to read through some of the comments posted on articles about Taking B(l)ack Pride, below one article, a reader commented “It just shows how twisted a mind set these people have. Always victims, always trying to make someone else’s life uncomfortable, always justice signaling!!”
I wonder if this reader would feel the same way about Resource Generation, a multiracial group that organizes people with wealth and/or class privilege to equitably redistribute their wealth, land, and power. Resource Generation describes their work as “part of a coordinated strategy to systemically redistribute private wealth and repair the harm created by wealth extraction.” In 2020 they raised over $68 million from 812 signers who are committed to redistributing their inherited wealth to social justice movements.
It’s expected that there would be controversy about reparations, this fight has been long fought by Black Americans. The response to Taking B(l)ack Pride also accented, to nobody’s surprise, the US’s transphobia & heterosexim problem — one that has led to 2020 being the deadliest year on record for transgender people. Today, trans people, particularly BIPOC, are constantly subjected to hate-violence, workplace and housing discrimination, in addition to being targeted by over 100 bills aiming to limit the rights of trans people across the country.
Fighting for the right to thrive and be free from harm is exactly what motivated me and other QTBIPOC to form the groups behind Taking B(l)ack Pride. We understand that our bodies move through this world as though walking across minefields. So when we gather, and claim space for ourselves, it is sacred, joyful and inherently political. Reparations is an opportunity for white folks to honor these truths, in full awareness that their presence is also political. I don’t expect that everyone will agree, but those on the fence, particularly other TLGBQ+ folks, should not lose sight of the significance of this month in the first place. Even though the real stories behind Pride Month are being brought to the mainstream, while reading over comments on the articles about this event, I saw another reader commented “Name ONE ‘important contribution’ black transgender women have made to our society.”
And this is why we fight.