By Emily-Rose Njonde
Posted on October 22, 2021
TW: This article contains descriptions of racism, police violence, sexual assault, and homophobia.
Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by a police officer in her home in March 2020. As I am writing this, in August of 2021, almost a year and a half later, her family still has not seen any justice. The renaissance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the hypervisibility of police brutality and white violence is critical to our advancement as a people, but it is also equally important to acknowledge the biases within the movement to ensure that all Black people are being valued equally.
If you are Black and a woman
Black women are strong, right? That’s the stereotype. That Black women do not need help, protection, and can do it all alone. The myth of the strong Black woman has contributed to us being brutalized and discarded for years. Studies found that “Black females were murdered by men at a rate of 2.19 per 100 thousand, more than twice the rate of 0.97 per 100 thousand for white women murdered by men.” Women of colour in general are more susceptible to domestic violence. A 2009 Statistics Canada study found that 15 percent of Indigenous women reported having been abused by a current or former spouse, compared to six percent of non-Indigenous women. Black women are not protected, even though they constantly seek to protect those around them.
A prime example of this is Oluwatoyin Salau. She was a 19-year-old prominent Black Lives Matter activist in Florida before she was found murdered in June 2020. Her killer, a Black man, sexually assaulted her before murdering her. When Black women are sexually harassed, victimized, and attacked by Black men it feels like our lives don’t matter. Patriarchs, and famous figures continue to be praised and allowed in community spaces despite women making their discomfort clear. Many Black men are aware of their friends’ behaviors and yet continue to align with them. Violence against women is not taken seriously within the Black community, and yet we are supposedly all united based on the colour of our skin. Intersectionality matters. The plight of the Black woman is hardly ever acknowledged in society, because aspects of our identity in conversations from the female and Black communities tend to be erased.
If you are Black and LGBTQ2SIA+
Homophobia in the Black community
Many Black people from all cultures and backgrounds are homophobic. As a child of first-generation African immigrants, I have had a firsthand experience witnessing the homophobia within these communities. Homophobia in Black families typically stems from internalised white supremacy. There is a fear of feminizing Black men. It has been ingrained into our brains that the Black man is meant to be strong, a provider, a hypermasculine man, the protector of households. Any type of man that differs from the norm is perceived as bizarre. This idea that the Black man needs to be “tough” or else he is not a good man is one that affects many areas of Black life. It causes emotional unavailability and mental health struggles among Black men. It also leads to homophobia. In many West African cultures, there are roles for men and roles for women. Thus, it is viewed as “unnatural” for men to be attracted to men or for women to be attracted to women. Religion is also a large source for homophobia within the community.
Many Black people partake in organised religions such as Christianity or Islam. Both of these religions have sacred texts with passages that many have interpreted in a way that has led to rampant homophobia within the Black community.
Why it doesn’t make sense
You cannot be pro-Black and homophobic. Many Black people don’t even consider themselves homophobic despite displaying and endorsing the derogatory behaviors. Saying “I don’t mind gay people, just keep that away from me” or “They’re cool, they just do too much sometimes” is not any less homophobic because you don’t outright say you’re against it. Homophobia never makes sense, even less so as a member of a marginalized group. While their struggles differ, members of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community and Black people do experience some of the same negative treatment. To hate someone for being gay is eerily similar to the hatred some whites have toward Black people, simply for being Black. From a religious standpoint, God is about love. To openly incite such hatred towards a group who is not harming anyone is the opposite of what is preached in sacred texts. To be homophobic is to say that a large portion of Black lives do not matter. Why do they deserve persecution and hate simply because of who they love?
Black people in the LGBTQ2SIA+ community also constantly face extreme violence. In Canada, “in the last five years, nearly three in four respondents said they were verbally harassed, and one in three trans Canadians of colour report being sexually assaulted. Almost one in four said they experienced physical violence.” If we are standing up for violence against straight Black men, we must also stand up for violence against LGBTQ2SIA+ Black people. Black trans women are prominent targets of violence and yet are hardly ever represented in the mainstream media. In fact, most studies about violence against women, do not include transgender women. From 2019 to 2020 there was a 6 percent increase in worldwide violence against transgender and gender diverse people. 98 percent of them were trans women. Often times, the violence inflicted on Black trans women is also inflicted by Black cis men. Black trans women are unprotected because not only are they women, but because they are in the LGBTQ2SIA+ community. If the Black community keeps ignoring intersectionality, we will never truly be free.
How can one say that Black lives matter when they support rapists and hate gay and trans people? How can Black lives matter if the lives of straight Black men are constantly prioritised over those of other Black people? All Black lives matter. Black women suffer, Black LGBTQ2SIA+ people suffer. In the fight for racial equality, homogenizing Blackness to simply be represented by straight, cisgender, Black men is to the detriment of many people within the community. You cannot say Black lives matter if you are not working towards the betterment of all Black lives.