By teaching children and teenagers that equality already exists, we are actively blinding the group that most benefits from inequality – straight white men – to the prospect that it doesn’t. Privilege to them feels indistinguishable from equality, because they’ve been raised to believe that this is how the world behaves for everyone. And because the majority of our popular culture is straight-white-male-dominated, stories that should be windows into empathy for other, less privileged experiences have instead become mirrors, reflecting back at them the one thing they already know: that their lives both are important and free from discrimination — Foz Meadows
Recently, Amber Hikes, director of Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs, approved a motion adding two more stripes, black and brown, to the current 6-tone rainbow flag, as a part of the city's More Color More Pride initiative, an initiative that "strives to create an even more inclusive community", while also seeking to "celebrate the stories of those who have been typically left out of the LGBTQ experience, including people of color and people of the transgender/gender nonconforming experience".
Enter the white, gay men...
On my Facebook wall, and on the walls of several of my friends, I've seen countless conversations about how the addition of these two colors make the Pride flag symbolic of something it was "never meant to represent": race.
I came across another image of a redesigned Pride flag that is meant to give credence to the intersection of race and sexuality, and that seeks to empower queer persons of color (hereafter, QPOC) and recognize how far we have to go when it comes to matters of race and sexuality/gender.
Admittedly, given the presence of many other types of Pride flags, I really appreciate this one, in particular because of the symbology of power combined with the shades of skin tones. While I understand the addition of the two stripes to Philadelphia's flag, I think this flag signifies the both the separation and the intersection of race and sexuality without detracting from the original color symbology of the first Pride flags, which have changed over the years.
During seminary, I engaged in countless conversations around notions of privilege. I'd worn this chip on my shoulder for a long time, thinking that my sexual orientation made me a victim of oppression. While this was not altogether inaccurate, I had to own the fact that I have far more experiences of privilege than I do experiences of oppression or marginalization. I am a white, cisgender, upper middle class, college educated male. Privilege: 5. Marginalization: 1.
Part of these conversations about privilege included learning that, when it comes to speaking about experiences of oppression, disadvantages, and marginalization, most of the time, I need to sit back and shut up. I cannot speak on what it is like to be a female, a trans person, a person of color, a homeless person, or a person never afforded the opportunity to get an education. I can only speak to my own experience, and while that experience has included moments of oppression or prejudice, for the most part, my life has been pretty damn good.
Since mankind's dawn, a handful of oppressors have accepted the responsibility over our lives that we should have accepted for ourselves. By doing so, they took our power. By doing nothing, we gave it away. We've seen where their way leads, through camps and wars, towards the slaughterhouse ― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta
Here's the thing: while some might like to think or contest that there is such a thing as a unified queer community, there still exists rampant racism, sexism, misogyny, and countless other forms of oppression and prejudice within said community. We see phrases like "No fats. No fems. No Asians. No blacks. No latinos. No _____" all the damn time. We block people on dating/hookup sites and apps just because we think "Well, if I don't find myself wanting to have sex with you, then I might as well not treat you like a human being deserving of dignity, value, or respect. BLOCK." I've been guilty of it, but I'm trying to change.
What's most troublesome about this "controversy" is how white gay men seem to think that they have the right to say the addition of these stripes takes away from the "true meaning of Pride." They talk about how the original Pride celebrations had nothing to do with race, so why are we trying to turn Pride into something it wasn't ever supposed to be? Remember this: Pride didn't start as a celebration. It started as a riot. It started as a war against the police brutality that ran rampant in the 60's against the queer community.
For now, I'm going to leave it at this. If you're a white male who happens to be gay, before you go ranting against the idea of a new flag that gives credence and hopefully increased visibility to QPOC within our community, ask yourself, "Why am I so upset about this?" Take a good long hard look in the mirror, and before you decide to pipe up, make sure you've asked someone whose skin color is darker than yours what these two stripes might mean to and for them. Take a moment to breathe, shut up, and listen to someone's story other than your own...
Oh, and Happy Pride!