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Smith: The myth of gay being the new black

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While each have their own problems, the prejudice the LGBTQIA+ community face will never match the systemic racism people of color face every day.

By Wylliam Smith           

wylliam-smith@uiowa.edu

When I was in high school, my school put on the play To Kill a Mockingbird. Regardless of my school’s lack of actual black students in a play that focused heavily on racism, the performance was quite good. Because my school had a heavy majority of white students, the play felt the need to include a questionnaire afterward to open the discussion of racism for the students and their parents.

That was the first time I heard the notion of “gay being the new black.” Of course, my entire family erupted in laughter, thinking the idea was a joke at best, but what I noticed was that other people in the audience were calmly nodding their heads in agreement.

At first I dismissed it, chalking it up to my school just being blind to racism, something that I realized it was prone to do quite a bit. But recently, I have been hearing this idea of “gay being the new black” more and more.

There is no way being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community could ever be compared to being black in America.

Both are two completely separate circumstances that come complete with their own problems. Yes, both are under attack from prejudice, but the situations are in no way the same.

RELATED: Smith: I am more than just a black man

The systemic racism that has been a part of this country since its foundation has caused problems from slavery to unjust shootings of black men to stereotypes as simple as the assumption of amazing athletic ability.

African Americans are still dealing with racism to this day, and it exists on a systemic level. The very play To Kill A Mockingbird, and the book it’s based on, is about the unjust legal system convicting an obviously innocent black man of a crime he didn’t commit.

One thing that separates the two is one cannot hide that he or she is black. You cannot come out as black. You receive racism from the day you’re born and most likely to the day you draw your last breath.

I’m not condoning that some people hide their sexual orientation, but people in the LGBTQIA+ community have a choice to mark the day they start telling people about who they really are. They can wait until they know who they are inside before revealing that to the world. You can’t wait till you’re ready to be black. In most cases, it’s the first thing people notice about me.

As a bisexual black man, I can definitely state that I can see the problems that arise in both situations. I have dealt with racism and with bigots against gay rights. I am not saying that one is easier to handle than the other. But the fact remains is that one problem does not equal the other.

Non-black people of the LGBTQIA+ community don’t face the problems of inherently being seen as delinquents. They don’t have to code switch or learn to “talk white.” They will never struggle with the thought of their names being “ghetto.” And while they do suffer many hate crimes, when police notice them, their defining feature won’t be black male.

Gay is not the new black. Nothing will ever be “the new black.” Being black is the new black.

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