Reparations Payments at Black Pride Events Should Be Embraced, Not Condemned

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.”

Sigh.

And this is why we fight.

Before you go! 99.9% of our readers don't support Autostraddle. Still, it takes funding to keep this indie queer publication running every day. And the majority of our funding comes from readers like you. That's less than 1% of our readers who keep Autostraddle around for EVERYBODY. Will you join them?
Related:

Aimée-Josiane is a professional trainer and coach for social justice organizations. They serve as the President of the National LGBTQ Workers Center, which fights against sexual and gender discrimination in the workplace and a co-founder of Queer The Land, a collaborative housing justice project grounded in the self-determination of queer, trans, and two spirit Black/ indigenous/ people of color. Aimée-Josiane lives in East Point, Georgia, with their writer-bae wife and diva cat. They have a degree in Sociology from Georgia State University, are a Certified Professional Coach and completed the OpEd Project’s Public Voices South Fellowship.

aimee has written 2 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. To be honest as a white person I usually don’t go to black-centered events because I can never figure out whether I’m welcome or intruding. I hope this initiative works the way it’s intended though!

  2. Thank you for this amazing and truthful article Aimee! More people, (white conservatives and even white queer people.) need to understand the contributions that people of color have had on the movement and all the disadvantages that are still out there. It’s brilliant that more black and brown led coalitions are taking back more power in these ways, especially at a time when “pride” seems so corporate, white, cis, and male centered.
    Also, reverse racism is NOT a thing. Let’s pass that message around.
    All power to all the people! (But especially those who are being constantly denied it!)

    • To me it seems reasonable to ask white attendees for a voluntary admission fee, though I think that “reparations “ seems a little pompous. I would pitch this fee thusly: Black (BIPOC) Pride doesn’t attract large corporate sponsors , unlike white-dominated Pride. Black Pride is a community funded effort, in a community that has many poor members, and the goal is to be accessible to all in the community. Be a good citizen and help out as you can, especially if you are not from the BIPOC community and haven’t supported the community financially or with labor during the rest of the year. Help keep our doors open!

      Perhaps also list some of the expenses (site rental, security, sound stage rental, performers’ expenses and fees, booths for community organizations, etc). Many people don’t realize that it is expensive to run even a small, volunteer-run event.

      This approach is very concrete, unlike merely asking for reparations without other comment. I suspect that more people would willingly open their wallets .

  3. From what I gathered, white people are being asked to pay a fee to attend black centered events. A fee that black people do not have to pay?
    Along with what someone else pointed out, white people usually don’t go to black centered spaces because of whatever reasons. This would seem like an open invitation.
    And considering event organizers should have the freedom to charge however they want…think of it as a sliding scale.

    I am confused about calling it reparations.
    It seems to veer more along the lines of gate-keeping. Which, I have no problem with people paying to participate in events considering the history of people just imposing themselves and taking from people without compensation.

    As far as farmers are concerned, there is a difference in the scenario. The white attendees to black events are volunteering their money.
    For farmers, it’s the idea that the government is supposed to do the will of the people and there are American tax payers that are not willing. There are farmers who are not willing.
    Because there is also the “post racial” idea that if the government is going to offer something, they should offer it to everyone…again, they tend to forget centuries of the government’s contradictory practices.

    I guess for me, this form of reparations is letting some people off easy.
    Sort of having white people or the government throwing money at a problem without really digging into it and reckoning with it.

    I’d like people to demand “say their names” in terms of economic justice.
    I’d really like to see reparations come in the form of individual and class action lawsuits against specific actors who exploited and discriminated against people.

    Those lawsuits require in depth investigation on exactly who and how, Creating a more cohesive historical/legal record.
    The only thing I would ask is for law firms to handle all reparation cases pro bono. Courts would not charge fees to the plaintiffs

    So, if the government, instead of giving 4 billion to random black farmers, actually dug in and gathered the evidence that named all the individual farmers they discriminated against, and then paid them and their descendants with interest, I think it would mean more.
    I don’t think other farmers would have a leg to stand on.

    True atonement for me, is more than just apologizing and being like the abusive father who just gives his children gifts thinking they will make up for the abuse…couldn’t think of a More straight forward way to say that.
    Atonement is actual soul searching and being held fully accountable and acknowledging exactly what was done and the consequences of those actions, and ensuring it never happens again.

  4. I would pay if I could afford to, but I can’t, so I can only wish the best from a distance… [Just hope Seattle—and the rest of the PNW—cools down to something approaching normal!]

  5. I am pressed to understand how much of this is real or what Seligman called learned helplessness.

    So you posit that the solution to being marginalized is to self-marginalize? Your answer to being “othered” is to become “self-othered”?

    I’m not sure this strategy worked well, ever, in human history to create understanding.

    But hell, it is your party.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!