Monday, October 31, 2011

The (Perceived) Threat of Homosexuality

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of diagnosed mental disorders.

My mother and I were watching a (old) movie one day and during one of the previews Rosie O’Donnell came across the screen. “I used to like Rosie,” she says to me. “But I do not like her anymore. She married a woman. She is no good.” A hundred thoughts were running through my mind at that moment. I was enraged and disgusted that my own mother (who had given birth to such a liberal thinker) had such a negative, narrow, ignorant viewpoint of homosexuals. I wanted to know what Rosie marrying a woman had to do with her being “good” (here “good” is pertaining to morals). Did her character count for nothing? And I wanted to ask her what she would think of me (and do to me) if I told her I was a lesbian or a bisexual. I kept all of these thoughts to myself though. Talking with my mother and getting her to let go (for a few minutes) of her constricting viewpoints courtesy of a strict Christian upbringing in a Caribbean culture is equivalent to teaching a rock how to talk (it just ain’t gone happen).

My mother shares the same negative sentiments on homosexuality like most people who think that it is either a sin or inappropriate, especially Christian African-Americans. In the African-American community, homosexuality is not at all accepted; it is unnatural; it is a “white” disease (Corvino, 1997; Collins, 2004). Homosexuality carries such a negative stigma that one would be better off being a woman-beater instead (no, I am not joking). You would think that homosexuals were practicing bestiality or something. How many times have you heard the phrase, “God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve”? Who was the great mind behind that contribution to society? This clever reference to the Bible is tired and does not hold up if one is not going to follow other admonitions from the text. The Bible clearly condemns eating pork and coming into contact at all with the flesh of pigs...yet pork remains a popular meat on American dinner tables (Leviticus 11:7-8; Corvino, 1997). Pick what works for you and forget about the rest.

African American and our attitudes towards homosexuality (Gay, bisexual, and lesbians persons)

“I’d rather have a pedophile teach my child than a homosexual. Something about it is just wrong.”

-A former classmate at Bethune Cookman Univeristy

One of my most influential professors held open class discussions about whatever taboo topics he found would purposely spark controversy. At my small and tight nit University those topics could be anything from defining gender duties, to homosexuality. Because we had all been forewarned about the topic and to come to class prepared to discuss it some students purposely missed class (Some of whom had never missed class prior).

I remember sitting eagerly up front in class looking up from my textbook when the quoted comment above was said. My right eye began to involuntarily twitch. Did this young man understand the gravity of what he was saying? Did he understand that he was perpetuating ignorance? What I had heard must have been a mistake. Furthermore my eyes were surely deceiving me as my classmate slapped high fives with his neighbors in class. I waited until his ignorant tirade justifying his words ended and I laid into him like a brick worker lays down brick. However, at the end of the day I knew my words were not enough to get him to want to enlighten himself, nor were they enough to challenge these ignorant notions that our people (As well as numerous others) seem to want to embrace.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Interracial Friendship among Black Women and White Women

As a child growing up in St. Peters, St. Maarten (St. Martin), I was never aware of race among the girls in my neighborhood or my girlfriends at school. I suppose all children are usually unaware of race and racism, but I honestly have no recollection of race being as big of an issue as it is here in the United States. However, as I reflect on my childhood, I realized that my mother never had any white friends. Even the relationships with the Hispanics in my neighborhood, with whom my mother was always friendly, never went beyond being just neighbors. My mother worked as a housekeeper for a wealthy, white couple and on weekends she would take me to work with her. These "trips" with my mom were the only times I saw her interacting with a white woman...and she was in the position of a subservient servant.

I noticed that even after we moved to the states, my mother never had any white female friends or white friends in general. As a matter of fact, none of the adult females in my family have white girlfriends or girlfriends of any other race/culture. Of course, this could be due to cultural barriers like language and the fact that Haitians do not often form bonds of friendship outside of their family (the older Haitians in my family anyway). But if these deterrents did not exist, I doubt the situation would be any different. If I were in my mother’s shoes I probably would not be too open about embracing white women into my circle of friends either. It would be a constant reminder of my reprisal of the role of the quintessential “mammi”: hair tied, oversized flowered dress, always sweaty, overweight, taking care of “good ole white folk” (no disrespect intended). Without realizing it, I was subconciously internalizing this behavior from my mother.

"Why Can't You Be White?"

“Don’t you trust them, not a one [White people]. They will smile in your face all day and go on and have a lynchin party in your honor that same night they smiled in your face. There aint a friend you can make in a white person, something deep down in them won’t let nothing like that happen.”

-My mother Lovie Bell Brown (Who grew up in a small town in Georgia and used to picked cotton as a child, with welts on her hands to prove it)

I recall entering Kindergarten at a predominately white school and how my aunties stayed at the door of my class until halfway through the day. I recall especially looking for other Black persons in the class to at least make me feel at ease, since no one in my class seemed to look like me. They all had pale faces but different colored hair. And I remember sitting down with my overalls on in anticipation of learning. That year I learned more than academics. One day I was headed out of class and one of my “friends” at the time asked me an odd question that still sticks with me today. She said “Why can’t you be white so you can come over to my house and play?” After telling my family this they were outraged but eerily seemed to know that this incident or something of this nature would occur.

Fast forward nine years later and I’m entering ninth grade at a school that was predominately Black. This school though predominately Black was classist and had it’s own form of racism, i.e. Caribbean Students versus the rest of the student population. This go round because of the discrimination in that manner and discrimination via class, I found myself with white American friends as well as Black American friends. (With a few Caribbean students as well who didn’t care to discriminate) My white male friends and I tended to hang out quite a bit, and I was around my white female friends in school but outside of school not so much. I always kept in the back of my mind what had happened to me when I was in Kindergarten and while I was friends with them, I kept my distance for the most part as far as going over to their houses or spending time with them outside of school and extracurricular activities.