Racism vs. prejudice

Posted on 10 Feb 2017 at 7:45am

Prejudice exists in our LGBT community, about race and more

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Buster-SpillerRecently, while making deliveries for a popular millennial start-up to supplement my income (legal pimping ain’t easy but it’s honest), I came across one of many Dallas Voice news stands in the Oak Lawn area. Star Trek star and LGBTQ icon George Takei’s handsome mug was prominently displayed on the cover so, as a self-professed “Takei groupie,” I picked up a copy.

As I waited for my customer’s order to be filled, I immediately flipped to the Community Voices section, as it is my habit to read that first, followed by the main feature story, local/national/world/wire news, and then flip to the back to see all of the happy “rainbow” faces of club-goers from the previous weekend on The Strip (We’re such a GOOD-looking community!).

So I turned to Page 13, and I saw the face of my friend, Dallas Voice managing editor Tammye Nash, and I smiled. Then I read the column title — “I am a racist” — and I immediately frowned.

There was something about seeing Tammye’s image and name under the word racist that didn’t seem quite right. Actually, it was very OFFENSIVE to me, and I became very agitated.

Why? Because I’ve known Tammye since 2003 when I made a bid for elected office and I can say EMPHATICALLY this woman doesn’t have a racist bone in her body. The same holds for her Voice colleague, David Taffet. Even though David is the cutest Jewish dude you will ever meet, he reminds me of my spouse, Gregory. in that he will read your ass with the finesse of a black homosexual, only nicer!

So no, even though I felt like I knew where Tammye was going with this, Spiller wasn’t buying what she was selling. Not. At. All.

In regards to social and political issues, we are often in strong agreement on the root causes of the problem, the need for accountability by all participating parties, and potential conciliatory solutions that are in the best interest of everyone. This includes issues facing the collective black community and the black same-gender-loving/gay community.

With that said, Tammye is a strong supporter of black issues as well as those of other marginalized communities. She doesn’t sugarcoat shit if she feels strongly about something (even though like David, she articulates her point of view much more nicely than I do). And Tammye is a staunch advocate/ally of our collective trans community, which makes her A-OK in my book!

So I wasn’t feeling Sista Tammye’s chosen platform to discuss her self-perceived racist leanings, white privilege and other issues we discuss from time to time. But I decided to wait until I was finished with my deliveries for the day so I could sit down in the comfort of my home with a stiff shot of Canadian whiskey to absorb this self-deprecating shit my friend had written.

Later than evening as I read Tammye’s column, I not only laughed at her words but I also breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. Per my take, Tammye was describing what I would like to call “situational prejudice,” prejudice based on a very specific event, but NOT racism.

Prejudice is a negative perception, a thought, or unsavory view towards an individual based on their social group (gender, race, cultural, sexual orientation, educational level, socio-economic class, religious status, disability, etc.).

Institutional racism occurs when a group of like-minded individuals are able to collectively engage in some type of discriminatory behavior based on their negative perceptions, thoughts, and views towards another group in a manner to control and exploit.

A great example of this occurred on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 when a significant percentage of white people felt strongly enough that they were being left out of the American dream because of “others” from different cultures that they used their collective vote to send a very strong, nationalist message. The daily dismantling of specific gains by the new presidential administration in the name of “whiteness” confirms my explanation of the difference between prejudice and racism.

In the LGBTQ community, we all have various prejudices and ours are very pronounced: racial, gender-based, sexual identity and orientation, sexual role (i.e., butch, femme, lipstick, diesel dyke, top, bottom and versatile — which still means bottom). Bear for some means kinky, sweaty sex. Bi means you’re a confused, greedy motherfucker who simply won’t pick sides. I could go on and on.

The racial prejudice in our local Dallas LGBT community was once previously displayed quite prominently. For those readers born well after the 1970s and early ’80s (which preceded my pre-coming out period), there was a time on The Strip where black gays and lesbians could not get into a nightclub without presenting two or three forms of picture identification. And even then, weren’t assured access to just have some damn fun and party.

As a result, the black same-gender-loving/gay community developed its own outlets for socialization and entertainment, similar to what the black community in American society overall has done in response to such overt racism.

Whites may complain, especially in the LGBTQ community, that we’re all the same because we’re fighting the same fight. But that not-so-distant past still has roots so deeply embedded in this dysfunction that it is hard to overcome.

One example is our annual gay Pride celebrations. You will see black participants at the larger event as spectators, but not many are actively involved in the planning and execution of those events. That energy is reserved for annual Black Gay Pride events where we know we’re not going to be neglected.

Yours truly recently received city funding to produce a Pre-Pride month play festival focusing on minority stories. Why? I didn’t want us to get left out of the festivities as is traditionally done, albeit subconsciously.

For the record, every human being harbors some prejudice, and it is normal behavior, even if it isn’t right. And prejudice isn’t limited to encounters with others outside of your specific circle; it can be internal as well.

As a black person who grew up in a racial community with specific biases against white people based on white privilege and institutional racism in this country, we also have prejudices internally against others within our community with the largest culprits being skin color and tone, hair texture, and facial features. Even in 2016, we are prejudiced against each other because of this.

BUT we lack the power to systematically have power over those WITHIN our community because their skin is too light, their hair is too nappy, they’re too educated, they’re not educated enough, their lips are too big, they’re not ‘conscious enough, they’re TOO woke ….

No, all we can do is bully the shit out of them and make their lives a living hell on social media. But at the end of the day, they can still get a job, purchase a home and avoid our ass if they want.

THAT, my LGBTQ community, is the difference between prejudice and racism.

So Tammye, GOOD TRY, but I can’t and won’t accept this.

Still, I really admire your conviction in trying to force everyone to talk about these issues. John Lennon once sang in the hit song “Imagine,” “You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will be as one.”

I wish every white person had your courage and would just speak up. But it usually starts with “one,” so thank you my friend.     

Buster Spiller is a happily married, longtime activist, and award-winning playwright from Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2017.

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