“Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor–let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.” –Psalms 10: 1-2
“I swear your pride will be the death of us all/Beware, it goeth before the fall.”
—Aaron Burr, Hamilton
I was in high school when I became aware of White Pride as a thing. I heard reports on the news of a group of teenage boys claiming to be part of a White Pride group who had taunted and assaulted a student during and after school. Interestingly, and confusingly, the student they attacked was also white…but he was also perceived to be “gay.” This was my first introduction to a conversation that would not become clear to me until college…but mainly after college, well into adulthood: There’s a lot more to being “white” than just skin color. In college I learned that there was a time when Italian and Irish immigrants to our country were not considered white. Gay men are still seen as not really white…even if that’s the color of their skin, they are seen as…not quite right and not quite white. I would then come to find out that males who identified as Feminists–males like myself–were also not really considered White Men…apparently because of faulty programming that made us “weak” and unwilling to take our “rightful” place as dominators and ultimate controllers of the household. I began taking trips with my church to places like the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where they showed us modern Ku Klux Klan literature which, sure enough, accuse all kinds of people–including women, Jews, and Catholics–of being threats to straight, white men. Eventually, I began hearing echoes of these White Pride thoughts in many conversations shared among white men. It’s not very often you hear white men declaring loudly and clearly what White Pride groups declare….but in many conversations, if you listen carefully, you can hear the faint notes, the implicit attitudes and beliefs, which are the little seeds that, if given proper attention, grow into forests of White Pride. Whenever there’s a joke about women being considered equal to men. Whenever there is gentle ribbing about “who really wears the pants in your family.” Whenever a male who exhibits “feminine” characteristics is derided or ignored. Whenever a young woman is seen solely as a sex object, “asking for” the negative attention she receives. Whenever there are vague comments about “them” taking “our” jobs or “invading” “our” country. Whenever the fear of who might enter “our” bathrooms becomes more important than the violence that is already happening in our bathrooms.
What became most obvious to me was that if you shared in such pride, you were fine…otherwise, you were ashamed. As a straight white man who did not delight in demeaning women or people of color, a person who wants more diversity in his life rather than less, I found myself excluded from the White Pride club. And by the nature of my being born a straight white man…I was naturally seen as suspect by all other groups. Where does a young straight white male go to find pride when it’s naturally denied? Well…I went to church. Christianity, strangely–given how many forms of Christianity in our country are regularly used to promotes and defend White Pride–gave me an identity beyond my sexuality, my skin, and my gender. We read in Galatians 3: 26-28 “In Christ…there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, no longer man or woman, for all are one in Christ Jesus.” And that was that. That’s how I was liberated from my shame as a white man with no allegiance to–yet all the benefits of–White Pride…by taking pride in a life lived in love and service of All God’s People…and it has shaped the entire course of my life. Liberating our pride is where our lives truly begin.
At 1:20a.m. on Saturday June 28, 1969 there was a raid on a gay bar called Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village. Raids were not uncommon on gay bars in that time and place, they happened pretty much once a month. If men were found dressed as women, they would be taken to the bathroom to have their birth gender confirmed, and then they would be arrested. Gay men and women could be arrested for a host of reasons, and their mugshots could be released to newspapers and posted in public, “outing” them as gay, at which time they would face any number of punishments from society ranging from physical attacks to losing their jobs or being evicted from their homes. These were all details of a completely formalized system of oppression and shame, to discourage “gay” behavior and encourage “deviants” to get in line and support a well ordered, “straight” society. On that particular night, however, the folks who had been raided and degraded for their entire lives saw their numbers, they decided together they were tired of simply putting up with what the larger society had declared to be “life” for them, and they began the Stonewall Riots. A year later, on June 28, 1970, a group of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered Queer and other Precious People gathered in the Village to walk peacefully through the streets, to declare that they were not going anywhere, they were not going to hide in the shadows any more, they were out and they were PROUD. June has since been declared Pride Month.
Well…around 2:00a.m. on Sunday, June 12, 2016 a lone gunman named Omar Mateen walked into a gay club in Orlando, Florida and killed at least 50 precious people. The gunman declared himself a member of Isis, or at least “allegiant” to the Islamic Fundamentalist group. The FBI is, as far as I can tell at this point, not actually convinced he had any actual ties to them. Just a hateful guy who easily purchased an assault rifle a few days ago, and then walked in during Pride Month to remind these members of the GLBTQ community that they are still not wanted, even though our laws have changed. Just wanted to remind them that they are hated, they deserve to be killed..they should not be proud.
I’m slow to post this because..as is the case with violent tragedy in America…a lot of people are talking right now..and it seems like we might be missing something important. In many ways, this is a disaster like so many others we’ve seen in recent years…a lonely, angry man buys some guns and goes out to take his hate out on innocent people. But in some very important ways…this is a totally different thing. The same way that when Dylann Roof shot 9 innocent people in Emanuel African Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina last year on June 17…just a couple weeks after Black Lives Matter protests in Baltimore…just two days before Juneteenth, an important anniversary of Black Freedom in America…that was also importantly different. Roof identified as part of a White Pride movement..he did what he did specifically to try to liberate his own sense of Pride. Mateen declared his allegiance to a Islamic Fundamentalist group…which is a group that also gains members by offering to liberate their Pride…encouraging their followers to defend their pride against all who threaten it by violent means. Meanwhile…there is a major party nominee for President of the United States whose entire agenda for his presidency has to do with “winning” the War on Terror, defeating Isis, by any means necessary, including killing their families, demonizing and outlawing Muslim immigrants, and shaming people into agreeing with him. He promises to bring pride back to people, to “Make America Great Again,” but his entire plan for how to do this seems to hinge on shaming, belittling, and obliterating anyone who threatens that pride.
So we find ourselves in a moment that is almost too complex for words, and yet…the intersection of so many things illuminates a particular windy path: We are a Proud People…and the way American Pride has been shaped in its first 200-something years is fragile and utterly dependent upon shaming those who threaten our pride…which is everyone.
It’s a path where Americans who hate and disapprove of the GLBTQIA community find themselves walking in allegiance with a potential “Muslim Terrorist.”
Conversely, it’s a path when those who hate and fear “Muslim Terrorists” have to decide whether or not to stand against them in solidarity with their GLBTQIA sisters and brothers.
It’s a path where people who are offended by the actions and words of other people come into direct conflict with people who are offended by them. It’s been said that “a good defense is the best offense.” We are on a path paved by offenses defended by yet greater offenses.
It’s a path that comes directly out of the history of systemic violence and oppression against not White Males in America, and causes us to truly question: What is a terrorist, anyway? In a country full of people who have, for centuries, killed men, women, and children who are not straight white males with nigh impunity–including the Native Peoples of North America–what do we really mean by terrorism?
It’s a path that points toward an inconclusive future…and we have to wonder if we are willing to take action, to promote love and justice, to create a future that we can truly take Pride in.
So…if you need me this week…that’s where I’m going to be. Walking that narrow path that is only visible for the chaotic forrest in which we find ourselves, where the intersection of so much hate and violence seems to hinge on how we liberate our Pride…and what kind of lives we choose to be Proud of.
I’m a Queer Heterosexual American Feminist Christian Child of God with white skin and pretty blue eyes…and I’m walking here…and I invite you to walk with me. We shall overcome.